If you are going to succeed in the dog-eat-dog business world, you will need a deep reservoir of strength and determination. You are going to need principles and values, those guidelines that determine how you lead your life. Most important, you are going to need the lasting and unconditional love of a family. My advice to you: Never value the pursuit of family wealth more highly than the wealth of family.
I have never been more conscious of the treasure of family than this Christmas holiday season, my first in more than 52 years without my beloved wife, Barbara, who departed this mortal plane on the morning of May 25, 2012. Her physical absence is keenly felt, although we are eternally present with one another in spirit. Moreover, my relationships and time spent with my sons, Earl Jr., Johnny, and Michael; my eight grandchildren; and other dear friends and beloved family members, have become even more precious and priceless.
I believe that economic development is vital to the black community, and that more African Americans should focus on entrepreneurship and wealth accumulation not simply to make money, but as a way to provide for a better quality of life and greater opportunities for us and our children. However, family, and the values and principles that keep them healthy, should never be neglected or subordinate to the pursuit of business or professional success. Without my family, I would never have had the strength to fight all of the battles I’ve had to engage in during the more than four decades I’ve spent building Black Enterprise.
That’s why, throughout my business career, time for family has always been non-negotiable, never an elective. Despite the demands of closing deals and hectic travel during the week, nothing interrupted sitting down for Sunday dinner with my wife and children, or being present and engaged for my sons’ and grandchildren’s sporting events and other activities. Family gatherings and trips were and are priorities on my life agenda, not distractions to be squeezed in between business trips, staff meetings, and conference calls.
Far too many people in business see their personal lives and their careers as competing aspects of their lives. I don’t and never have. They are each parts of the whole, with family being the most important. Success can sometimes be as lethal to black families as struggle. I know of too many men and women whose professional accomplishments have been offset—and even undermined—by family turmoil.
The truth is you never really know how much you miss, need, and love someone until they’re gone. Don’t take your family, however you define it, for granted; you never truly know how much time you’ll have together. No one ever said from his or her deathbed, “I wish I could spend more time at the office.”
Stop and take inventory of the quality of your relationships with your loved ones. The opportunities to say, “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” “I forgive you,” or “You’re important to me,” are not unlimited. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. This holiday season take the time to treasure the wealth of family. On behalf of black enterprise and the Graves family, I wish you and yours a blessed Christmas and New Year of realized hopes and prosperity.