My YPO Graduation Remarks – Giving Thanks

YPO Graduation - J Smoke Wallin

Last week, I chose to graduate a bit early from YPO “Young Presidents Organization” into WPO “World Presidents Organization” its sister organization for the over 49 crowd.  While I will remain active in WPO and the Food & Beverage Network and Deal Network in particular, the past twelve years in YPO have enriched my life greatly and its a good moment to reflect on that. Also I’d like to give special thanks to Todd Maurer for his remarks introducing me.  These are my remarks giving thanks at the graduation ceremony.

Todd Maurer giving remarks on Smoke Wallin at YPO graduation 2015

YPO GRADUATION – J. Smoke Wallin

Thanks Todd, I really appreciate your kind words!  Speaking of giving thanks, today is the anniversary of DDay 1944.

In 2003 when I joined YPO and “Forum Unplugged” my kids were 13, 11, 8 and 3, today they are 26, 24, 21 and 16… wow nothing like kids to express the passing of time.

Since then I’ve been blessed with a lifetimes worth of experiences professionally and personally as a direct result of YPO.   This was not an accident.  It did not just happen to me.  You see, I don’t believe in doing things part way.  Either you commit or you do not.  When I joined YPO I made a commitment to give and get as much as I possibly could.

Henry David Thoreau said “True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.”  This is YPO.

From Australia to India to the UK to cities throughout the US, YPO members have been welcoming and helpful to my family and me.  I know this because I dined at their homes, visited their businesses, attended their events and engaged with them in business.  I know the last 12 years of my life have been greatly enhanced by this commitment.

I will express my gratitude by sharing a couple of stories and mention a few people.

First, I met my wife Anitra on a YPO trip and that changed my life forever.  Thanks Darling.

YPO George HW Bush Event - Smoke & Anitra 2004

YPO George HW Bush Event – Smoke & Anitra 2004

I could stop there, but I won’t.

I joined Forum Unplugged and have had 12 years of deep relationships, friendships and confidences with 22 Forum mates.  They include:

  • Scott Webber
  • Don Palmer
  • Brent Eckhart
  • Mark Jackson
  • Bill McCarthy
  • Allen Furrer
  • Dan Horner
  • Chris Hilger
  • Richard Horn
  • Mike Bosway
  • Matthew Claymon
  • Gregg Schorr
  • Nelson Reyes
  • Jim Rapp
  • Brian Acton
  • Kent Morris
  • Todd Maurer
  • Anthony Brown
  • John Ryan
  • Bryan Brenner
  • Dave Foellinger
  • Dan Filby
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YPO Forum Unplugged

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Aspen_-_YPO

These are some of the finest individuals I’ve ever come to know and I am grateful for all they have done for me in my journey.

Some of our very best friends today are members we met through YPO including Bryan and Lara Sperber in Phoenix and Lesley Berglund in Napa

Through Networks, I’ve expanded my industry network tenfold.  Engagement in networks has been the single most important business and professional development aspect of YPO for me.  Fortunately, I’m excited to be able to continue through WPO as I Chair the 2016 Food & Beverage Roundtable in Napa, CA.

Looking back, I’ve lived so much life over the past 12 years it’s hard to summarize in a couple of minutes.   I’m not alone when I say it has come with great successes and great loss.  I’ve lost partners, friends and employees to both accidents and suicide.  I’ve had incredible business ups and downs and started numerous new ones along the way.  Throughout all of it, I’ve had YPO people to help me be better or simply to be there when I have needed it most.

To all of us, but especially those newer members… I’d like to remind you of some things that did not exist when I joined:

  • starting in my industry – there are 1,000s of new breweries, wineries and spirits brands available today that did not exist
  • There was no iPod or iPhone or iPad
  • There was no Facebook or Twitter
  • No AirBnB or Uber
  • no Freedom Tower
  • no Lucas Oil Stadium

All of these things that are now a part of the world and our every day lives.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

– A. Einstein

Looking forward, what will the next 12 years bring?  I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s next in brands, but I won’t try and answer that question here.  There is one thing that I do know…. I am confident many YPO people will be involved in changing both the world and my life for the better.

Thanks for everything you have given me.

Giving Memorial Day Thanks – “Build Me A Son”

Giving Thanks - Memorial Day 2015

On this Memorial Day weekend I am thinking about all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Freedom. The world we live in is a dangerous one, fraught with men with evil intentions. But for the sacrifice of a brave few, those men would have their way on all. We can see it in places near and far, from the evil men who brutally tortured and killed a YPO family in Washington DC (Savvas Savopoulos) to the evil being inflicted on whole countries in the Middle East. Left unchecked evil prevails. We live in a the greatest country, a place where an individual, no matter if they were born into poverty and extreme disadvantage can do and be anything they set out to achieve. A country where the world’s people, seek out more than any other, to take refuge from evil, to build a better life for their family, to live free. We are all privileged and I give thanks to those who have made it possible.

This poem, by General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific during the great struggle against evil in World War II, has hung on my wall for 26 years. I can think of no better message to all of my children (sons and daughters) than that contained herein.MacArthur on Time

“Build me a son, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee-and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

After all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”

– General Douglas MacArthur

 

As we all enjoy the holiday weekend, including the many who come to town for the Indy 500 Sunday, let’s all take a moment and reflect on these words. Happy Memorial Day Weekend.

With Gratitude,

Smoke

May 23, 2015

Savvas Savopoulos YPO Member

Savvas Savopoulos YPO Member

On my wall since 1989

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The Wallin Children May 2015

Remembering Louis J. Conti Cornell University Class of 1941, US Marine

I just received this from the Cornell Athletics dept (and my old wrestling coach, Andy Noel, our athletic director)… and all I could think was wow, what an amazing life.  I thought I’d share it here.    Thanks Andy for sharing. Remembering Louis J. Conti Cornell University Class of 1941, US Marine  Conti HOF Lou Conti was a two-way single wing pocket guard on Cornell’s 1939 and 1940 teams that beat Ohio State in Columbus and Ithaca. The 1939 team was undefeated and voted national champions. The 1940 team played in the famous 5th down game at Dartmouth. Lou was AP All-East in 1940 and played in the 1941 East-West Shrine game. In recognition of his athletic prowess, he was inducted into the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981. Lou died on February 14, just two weeks after his beloved wife Dottie passed. In 1942, as a Marine Corps Lieutenant, Lou flew dive bombers in World War II’s Pacific theater. He was assigned to Marine Scout Bombing Squadrons and flew many missions in the Central and South Pacific from Palmyra, Guadal Canal, Munda, Bougainville, and Green Island in the Solomon Islands. In 1945 he was assigned as Commanding Officer of the photo recon detachment on Okinawa in support of that operation and flew photo missions over Japan in preparation for the U.S. invasion (that fortunately never happened). In 1949, he joined the football coaching staff at Cornell as an assistant and was concurrently commissioned as a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve. He was recalled to active duty in 1952 and served as Operations and Executive Officer of the Marine Photographic squadron of the 1st Marine Air Craft Wing in Korea. He flew 102 combat missions in Korea. After a second tenure as an assistant coach with the Big Red, he began his business career in 1956 with General American Transportation Corporation’s (GATX) Tank Storage Division. There, he was instrumental in making it the largest company of its kind in the world and increased sales in a 10-year period from $10 million to $250 million annually. He went on to become the Chairman and CEO of Marine Transport Lines, a public company spun off from GATX. Lou served as a director for Emerson Electric Company. At the time, Chuck Knight was the Chairman, President, and CEO; Al Suter was the COO, and Bob Staley the Vice Chairman. All were Cornell `57, Knight and Suter football players and Staley a world champion oarsman for the Big Red. Dick Loynd `50 was also on the Emerson board, and also a former football player. The five were great friends and provided the bulk of the funding for the construction of “Friends Hall” and named so in honor of their friendship.  (I got to know Chuck when I was Co-Chair of the Owen Distinguished Lecture Series at Vanderbilt and with my Cornell connection I was his host for the visit and I had the privilege of introducing him to the school). While furthering his civilian career, Lou continued to be active in the USMC Reserve before retiring as a Major General. As a civilian, he was appointed by the Secretary of Defense to Chair the Reserve Forces Policy Board. He served in that capacity for eight years and upon his retirement was named Chairman Emeritus. For his service with the Department of Defense, he was awarded the Distinguished Public Service Medal. For his military service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, and five Air Medals. photo_2169268_1_photo1_cropped_20140220.jpgx Lou was a devoted family man, a great athlete, served his country with distinction and was a generous benefactor of Big Red Football and a friend to all Cornell athletes. He and Dotty had six children, one of whom lost his life as a Marine in combat in Viet Nam. Lou and Dottie lived in Inverness, IL.

On behalf of the entire Cornell community, we send heartfelt condolences to Lou’s family and friends. The Cornell Football Association very appropriately named its most prestigious award the “Lou Conti Lifetime Achievement Award.” It recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the program over many years. Lou will be missed, but never forgotten. A life well lived…rest in peace dear friend.

Also as posted in the Chicago Tribune here… A memorial Mass will be held, February 24, at 9:30 at Saint Theresa Catholic Church , 455 Benton Street, Palantine, Il 60067.

Rules to Live By and Hills to Climb

Rules to Live By and Hills to Climb

Two recent things friends have shared with me, some changes on the business front and spending time with my family this week have given me cause to reflect on what is important.  In my posts on Being Grateful earlier this year, I address many things for which I am immensely thankful. [ Being Grateful  & On Being Grateful II ]  Here, I’m thinking about the many challenges we all face from time to time or more frequently.  These can be considered road blocks to one’s path forward, things that get in the way and stop us.  I prefer to consider them “Hills to Climb” as Charles M. Blow put so well in his New York Times piece today. Thanks to my friend Michael R. Burcham for sharing.

What Charles does not address is the HOW, although he touches on it.  The HOW is really important to understand.  Just deciding to overcome an obstacle and to climb that hill is essential but inadequate.  Many may decide but upon encountering further impediments, delays or little progress become discouraged.  Nothing ever goes according to “Plan”.  There will be setbacks, naysayers and failures along the way.  Growing up in a family of educators, musicians and self made individuals, I learned early on how important hard work is to achieving anything worthwhile.  But hard work, coupled with incredible never ending PERSISTENCE is what determines success.  My Cornell classmate and fellow wrestler, Nick Whitcombe shared this inspiring video highlighting Kyle Dake’s incredible 4 NCAA National Championships at 4 DIFFERENT weight classes – a feat never before accomplished making Kyle the Sports Illustrated College Athlete of the Year.  It is narrated by The Arnold, who despite his flaws (as all of us have), has always be an inspiration to me.  I don’t think there are a better set of Rules to Live By if one wants to achieve a goal, attain greatness, or Climb a Hill.

1. Trust Yourself

2. Break Some Rules

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

4. Ignore the Naysayers

5. Work like Hell

6. Give something Back

I’m interested in your thoughts on this or anything you might like to add. Post here or send me a note.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Smoke

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