Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard

I want to end by sharing a story of a ‘C’ high school student. The son of a factory worker and his Welcome Wagon hostess mom. Their home was modest at best. From the time he could remember, his parents encouraged him and his brothers to be the first in their family to go to college so they would not have to work in a factory for a living.

JP Final FFT 1This kid’s writing skills were so poor that he recruited a college friend to write his essay on why he wanted to go to college. It worked, and he managed to finish his freshman year at Hamline University with a whopping 2.0 GPA. He dropped out of college and hitchhiked across the country before returning to Hamline – first for the social life, and second for the education.

This is not someone you expect to become a steel salesperson, open three companies, create a new steel publication at the age of 57, and sell it to an international corporation.

This is a story about life, and how it shapes and molds us. It’s a story about disappointments that led to opportunities. It is a story about perseverance.

It has been a long and at times hard road for him. He was fired from four jobs. Each time, he bounced back and became stronger. Two of those jobs were within the steel industry. Even so, he maintained positive relationships with the people who took his job, and the companies they represented.

After 45 years he looks around at what his life has become. He is fortunate to have made friends in the industry he loves. This son of a factory worker and Welcome Wagon hostess mom got to rub shoulders with titans of industry as well as those on the shop floor and to be able to call them by name and to be recognized in kind.

He is now in his 70s, and his eyes are blurry from too much or too little moisture. His hands are scarred from surgeries to repair his fingers, probably from hitting the keys on the computer too hard and too often. Sometimes his back hurts when he twists it just so. The curly locks which once crowned the top of his head have retreated to his back. He is carrying a little more weight and wonders to himself, “What ever happened to that 30-inch waist?”

He thinks about those who befriended him along the way – Seymour Waldman, Gray Worthington, Mike Dunn, Steve Leebow, Earl Goode, Keith Hanzi, Tom Cullen, Steve Arlo, Joel Mazur, Lisa Gordon, Nick Morgan, John Ball, Nicky Coslett, John & Jill Waldman, Mike Rhoads, Patrick Hectorne, Betty Jo Buro, and the hundreds of others who prompted the stories and helped him to find his voice.

He thinks about his parents, Ray and Rhoda, whose love and faith gave him the foundation to build on. He thinks about his children, Ryan and Erika, and wonders what obstacles they will encounter on their life paths.

People like his stories because they remind them of their own. We all get a shot at life, and the cards we are dealt can be radically different from one another – but the individual stories are what binds them together.

What has time taught him?

Praise was not something he was ever comfortable with. It was something to share with his peers. This took time for him to learn. This was not instantaneous. Life lessons taught him to listen, and then talk. Life lessons taught him that it is not about “him” and more about “they”. He wishes he had learned that earlier in his life.

He learned to not ignore what others do not see. Opportunity rarely shouts and is easily overlooked.

He learned that it feels good to give a piece of you away without asking for anything in return.

He was able to do life “his way” with no regrets.

He figured out right from wrong, and fact from fiction.

He loves to tell stories.

Tomorrow he will be telling golf tales…


Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to bring my stories to life.

John Packard, Founder, Steel Market Update

Photo credit: Josh Spoores, CRU

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