Runners in the upcoming Twin Cities Marathon will be participating in an annual rite that takes hard work, persistence, vision and even grit.
Some hope to set professional or personal records; others will be content to finish somewhere in the respectable middle. And a few others -- like my best friend, Pete Quinn -- won't be anywhere near the start or finish lines. Instead, they'll be pushing their bodies as hard as any marathon runner with one important difference: instead of winning or even finishing a race, they will be striving merely to take a simple step.
Whenever I start to lose perspective over a business frustration, I think about Pete and my head straightens out immediately. Pete is an extremely talented sales guy. He's smart, hilarious and makes others feel instantly at ease. Despite all the challenges he faces, he never quits striving, believing and being thankful. I've been lucky to be his best friend since we met 25 years ago as freshman at the College of St. Thomas.
Pete is paralyzed from the waist down due to a tragic accident involving an irresponsible driver a year ago. An avid runner, Pete was struck while training for a marathon near his home in suburban Chicago. The driver ran a red light, struck Pete and sent him flying 30 feet before he crashed into concrete pavement. The impact was devastating, leaving Pete with a broken leg and ribs, a partially severed spinal cord and badly damaged internal organs.
Pete was between jobs when this happened. He had just accepted an employment offer and was enjoying one week at home with his kids -- Katie, Henry and Andy -- and wife, Rita, before beginning the new job. Pete's youngest son, Andy, is our godchild. He is a beautiful child with autism.
Before Pete's injury, the family was almost exclusively focused on Andy's improvement with twice-per-day therapy managed by Rita. The tragic accident meant the family's sole breadwinner was no longer able to work and, most significantly, they were without health or disability insurance while their medical costs skyrocketed.
My wife and I decided that we would do everything we could to help them. We are lucky to have our health, ample financial resources and the blessing of Pete and his family in our lives. Our commitment, along with that of others, is allowing Pete to focus on what's most important: recovering and realizing his dream to walk again.
While the doctors have counseled modest expectations (most people with these types of devastating injuries never walk again), Pete simply won't accept it. He has endured nearly a dozen surgeries, months away from his family at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and months of hard work. I watched him during weekly visits for the first 12 weeks of his rehabilitation. His ability to make the therapy team cheer, laugh and cry with his progress, gratitude and good humor was (and is) beyond inspiring.
Witnessing Pete's strength and courage, along with my Dad's sudden and unexpected accidental death two years ago, reminds me that life is fragile and fleeting. I believe -- more than ever -- that it makes sense to take smart business risks, while simultaneously focusing on important personal endeavors. I'm also as committed as I have ever been to making sure my employees have excellent insurance options -- in my book, that's just a basic minimum requirement of any responsible business owner.
In a nutshell, I'm learning to let running a business "give life" versus "take it." I have hired more help and have more sanity in my day-to-day routine than ever before. And I'm learning what the word "Daddy" means in real and highly personal ways. (Nothing beats a peanut butter and jelly kiss from a happy toddler.)
We're told in business that commitment, persistence, believing in yourself and having a positive mental attitude make all the difference. Watching a determined individual like my friend Pete, who is winning his own personal marathon, is the best testament to that truth.
Pete also has taught me the importance of taking time for what matters most, and I am forever in his debt. I hope everyone running in the Twin Cities Marathon next Sunday pauses for a few moments as they pass through our glorious cities and just look around. All they need to do is look and they'll appreciate why ours is the most beautiful marathon in the country. I'll be on the sidelines with my family and dog, cheering them on.