It’s been an exciting couple of weeks, capping several busy months of an intense writing project with 94-year-old David T. Barry (not to be confused with the comedian who is 30 years younger!)
Dave’s book You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play has finally been published. In a series of stories and what he calls “cases,” Dave gives powerful messages about life as well as intriguing historical insights across almost a century of time. The stories about his life provide anecdotal glimpses into the history of the U.S. from Dave’s birth in 1917 through to today: growing up during the Depression, serving in World War II, working in business, venturing into entrepreneurship, and settling the family into the suburbs that were just beginning to sprout up all over the United States.
And his cases are full of words of advice on how to live a full, prosperous and meaningful life from caring for and inspiring others, to managing life’s ups and downs, to staying curious and adventurous, whether it’s hitchhiking across the US in 1938 or finding a second love in your 80’s.
Our work together has greatly strengthened my appreciation for Dave, his family, his generation, and the span of history in which he lived and worked, from World War I to the present. This work has also deepened my understanding of the importance of relationships, both personal and professional, of family, of fun, and of finding the joy in life’s journey. I’ve even learned techniques for greater creativity. But I don’t want to spoil the stories for you, and I urge you to read the book which is currently available at www.managementgrowth.com or at http://bit.ly/LRrzko .
I do want to tell you about how we came up with the title, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Dave first heard that adage when he arrived on board the USS Flaherty in early 1945, and it has stayed a fundamental principle in his life ever since. Of course, he did manage to add his own twist.
When Dave says, “You can’t win, if you don’t play,” financial gain is not the only thing that drives him although he certainly managed to live a comfortable life. He built a successful business and is well known in a variety of industries. He has published and has seen much of the world. Against many standards, he has “won.”
But, what Dave sees as “winning” involves making and keeping friends and strong relationships and being in a position to give, inspire, and challenge himself and others to reach as high as possible. And “playing,” for Dave, consists of laughing, having fun, finding joy in life, and causing others to smile with harmless pranks, clever repartee, or just a Dave Barry smile. It also includes playing with new ideas, taking risks, enjoying new adventures, experimenting, and learning from mistakes.
And those creative experiments led to entrepreneurial success. Dave started a business in 1961 that in 2012 is still going strong and still adding value to small businesses. His unusual insights about the market and demographic trends contributed to the growth of his business. His ability to synthesize ideas across many disciplines also helped. His capacity to find adjacencies to extend what worked before is a valuable lesson in entrepreneurship.
My experience working with Dave to assemble these stories has had quite an impact on me. I have learned a great deal from Dave—about running a consulting business, about life, and perhaps even about how to age. And it’s deepened my appreciation for Dave’s generation, what Tom Brokaw calls “the Greatest Generation.” It also heightened my understanding of how many lessons about life and leadership we can learn from men and women who don’t get lots of media attention!