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.
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.
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
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.