Until now I have talked about women who have brought me enormous joy and in a final sense, success, because of what they instilled in me. In my first blog post for Babble, I wrote about my mother’s elegant ability to use clothing as a form of language, a language that if you perfected could usher you into the receiving arms of success. Looking the part was key to her, and it’s something I always strive to do (as those who know me can attest).
In my second post, I spoke about Marge Campbell, the missionary from Pittsburgh who helped raise me during a difficult time. My family and I were refugees, feeling sorry for ourselves and wondering whether the world had come to a hold. But Marge’s whole worldview was to never feel sorry for yourself. She believed that life breeds events, which can be sad or beautiful, and that each of those experiences adds to your “toolbox” for survival. In other words, each experience in your life possesses a secret medicinal ingredient that you will need to solve a problem in the future. For example, earthquakes are a huge shock to both the world in which they occur and also to the inhabitants. But while they are destructive and can’t necessarily be stopped, we as humans can learn a great deal from them. We can improve the construction of our buildings and discover new technologies that help us get through other shocks like high winds and hurricanes. Similarly, what I learned from Marge was that you could take these big human catastrophes, like being a former refugee, and learn how to cope so that you don’t totally give up on life when it gets challenging. She is how I came up with the saying: “Never underestimate the power of your failures to inform the future of your success.”
And if you remember from my latest post, Vicki, vice president of the InterContinental Hotel Group, taught me how to articulate my vision for the Global Soap Project and convince others to get on board. She taught me the importance of the two P’s: Preparation and Presentation.
I remember when one of our potential donors for the GSP was scheduled to visit, Vicki had us take a Saturday to clean up the headquarters. Her point was that we were not going to get that donor’s interest or investment if we looked unprepared. And sure enough, by the time the donor showed up, the factory was immaculate and we got the start-up capital we needed.
All of these women have been essential in my life, but there’s one woman I have not written about yet, and that’s my redoubtable wife, Sarah. She and I co-founded the GSP under so much duress. As most of you know who are married, spouses know so much about us that sometimes there is no wiggle room for platitudes or procrastination. They are what I call a beautiful thorn in the ass, if there is such a thing. They are why we learn how to live through a storm, an earthquake and paradise — all at the same time. They know when we are not serious about things we promise to do, and unfortunately, they are the ones who suffer through all the ebbs and flows of our dreams.
Sarah’s redoubtable role:
When I had to travel from South Carolina to Tennessee to pick up soap on the weekends, Sarah stayed home to take care of our two beautiful children, Lauren and Kevin. She made sure that they were fed and that all their homework was done. But perhaps the most cardinal thing she did was help them understand why Daddy wasn’t at their basketball practice or piano recital. She always put me in a positive light. (Now, don’t get me wrong there were moments when we fought like medieval animals, but she eventually came around!)
Sarah also served as the chief cheerleader of all things Global Soap. Whenever I came back home exhausted and ready to give up because I felt so alone, she would sit down with me in the middle of the night and say, “Derreck we need this and you need to fight for it. This is our legacy and it depends so much on your persistence and total dedication. Don’t give up.”
Dreams are so powerful and demanding that they really require forgiveness and understanding from our partners, and Sarah stepped up to the plate in so many ways. Today the Global Soap Project is everything I dreamt it could be and more. Though success makes a great amnesia pill, I’ll never forget my wife’s support.
I’m lucky that she trusted my vision for the future even when things got rough. She taught me what it means to have faith, even when all seems to be lost.
As you live your life today, try to live out your vision and bring your spouse along. He or she will serve as the sounding board you need at midnight. She will rebuke you when no other will. He will comfort you when you fail. She will cry tears of joy with you when you succeed. He will be a beautiful thorn in the ass when you least expect it. And out of all this a dream will come true. I thank my wife for being the central woman in my life. And Sarah, dear, this is not a platitude!