I had the honor of staffing a PSI Basic under Paul Skok a number of times in the past decade.
The first time I ever staffed with him, he reared up and asked me with a certain level of frustration and definitely a level of challenge, “WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? BECAUSE RIGHT NOW I CAN’T TELL.”
Out of context, that probably sounds pretty harsh.
IN context, it was an amazing gift. It was an elder man asking a young man to stand up. Figure out what he’s about and be willing to give everything for it. It’s something that men don’t do enough of today – challenge other men to be better men.
Back then I didn’t have an answer. And it kind of scared me to not have an answer. But I went home and asked myself that question and dug deep. And it took me some time to find an answer I could stand on. But when it came it was really simple.
I stand for my people. My family. My friends.
My Grandfather was a simple man. And he was one of my childhood heros. My family had a small farm in Texas and my Grandfather literally taught me how to shoot a gun, drive a tractor, ride a horse, wrangle the cattle for auction. But one of things that I remember most about my Grandpa is that he just wanted to make you a friend. If he could do something for you, he’d do it. Nothing frustrated him more than when people didn’t want to be friendly.
My Dad is very much the same way. He’s retired, and was a career bartender & owned a restaurant with my brother. If I came home a 2am tonight, my Dad would be up. He’d insist on making me a steak. And of course there’s rice we can heat up too. My Dad just wants to make sure you’re good.
The connection may seem thin at first. It’s because it’s so simple. My Dad, my Grandfather .. they stand for their people. They want to make sure you’re good. And if they can do something for you, they’ll do it.
In my tribe of friends and family – if I can help out, there’s no question in my mind that’ll I’ll do it. Would I give my life for my tribe? Any of them. If I’m going to stand for something in this life – that’s it.
When Paul Joseph Skok reared up at me and said, “What do you stand for?” … that moment is a demarcation in my life timeline. The course of my life changed, the meaning and purpose of my life got a deeper and my actions became more meaningful.
As I lay here in a hospital after this incredible accident, and at this moment unable to walk. I’m surrounded by my tribe who have shown awe-inspiring support for me on a level we’re all amazed by. In my mind, it’s due in no small part to a stand I took awhile ago. Even before some of you and I were friends. I took a stand for you. That’s what I choose my life to be about.
It’s due in no small part to one Paul Joseph Skok. Who scared the shit out of me because I didn’t have an answer to his question.
In subsequent years I staffed for Paul. I looked forward to it. Because I knew if reared up again, I’d look him square in the face and say, “My Tribe: My Family & My Friends.”
He never did ask me again. He could see the light in me was different. And our relationship man to man changed & evolved.
Paul passed away this week. I know I’m not the only one to have a story like this about Paul.
I thank God for you Paul. This life here, this man, is forever better because you contributed to it.