The Man Who Inspired the Keep In Touch (KIT) List

5 11 2010

After the recent coverage about the KIT List (due to the efforts of great friends!) (http://budurl.com/merc1), and seeing over 350 people come to the recent KIT List meet-up, I wanted to share with you the true source of the “Keep In Touch” spirit, and who is my role model…my Dad!

As most of you know, I didn’t start the KIT List with any grand ideas; I was just trying to stay in touch with my friends at Silicon Graphics. I actually had no idea what I was starting. I’ve told friends that had I known what I was in for, I would have run screaming in the other direction!

But the spirit which started the list, and what made it grow as my friends reached out to help other friends, is from simply modeling what my father taught our family through his actions.

See a quick video of my SGI friends give a hello to my dad at the latest SGI Reunion on 9/14 to encourage him while he was sick at: http://budurl.com/HiBob

The Inspiration for the KIT ListBob Connelly

Bob Connelly is the quintessential “Keep In Touch” person. He has stayed in contact with friends over the decades dating back from grade school, World War II, Notre Dame (where he was grateful to attend through the G.I. Bill), clients who became longtime friends, and the many others he’s met over the years. He faithfully went to nearly every reunion, even his ship reunions from the war, and he was part of the creaky cavalcade of Notre Dame alumni who proudly marched into the Notre Dame stadium at a football game who were in their 70s and 80s.

My dad grew up during the Depression which forged the Greatest Generation. His family was financially devastated, and his mother died at a young age of tuberculosis after spending five years in a sanitarium. Yet the suffering and the sacrifices of that economic meltdown bore rich fruits in the courage, ethics and resolve of an entire generation which prepared them to tip the scales and win World War II. They learned to work together with people of diverse backgrounds, develop leadership at young ages, push themselves beyond their limits, sacrifice for others, and hone true character. Those that came home were able to commence one of the biggest growth periods of our nation.

I am convinced that this challenging economy will reap great gifts as well. We are a strong people, and I have faith that we will be better as a result.

The Spirit of Keeping in Touch

The roots of the KIT List are in my father’s many years of regular phone calls to friends across the country, handwritten notes, visiting friends and those who were sick or lonely, and always being willing to help someone find a job, get career or financial advice, or who just needed a warm smile and a good joke. My dad has a vast repertoire of jokes (some old and much repeated!), and I sure wish I had his Irish gift of telling a joke well and making everyone laugh around him. If I’m at an event and I hear people laughing, my dad is sure to be in the middle of it!

After beating cancer, he’s now contending with Parkinson’s Disease. He has patiently endured going from playing tennis three times a week with his old buddies to having his back stooped over into what I describe as a parenthesis with shuffled steps as he struggles to walk. His ever-present smile and twinkle in his eyes have fallen prey to the “Parkinson’s face,” robbing him of much of his facial expression. But he still makes people laugh and he smiles as he peers up at people over his glasses.

Mom and Dad

He’s had to give up many things, including the much-cherished tradition of the Connelly Manhattan which he specialized in making. Yet he never complains except to say, “Getting old isn’t for sissies!” He has weathered many storms due to his optimistic attitude and his enduring faith. He is an optimist by choice – he chooses to focus on what is good, and to let the negative go. He has had a truly happy life and marriage as a result.

  

Learn Each Person’s Story

My dad has always wanted to hear everyone’s “story.” He’s still deeply interested in hearing where they were from, where they went to school, their families, and what is important to them. And he REMEMBERS! I’m astounded on how he recalls so many details about just about everyone he meets, and how he brings both important and small details into their conversations. I think SalesForce.com should emulate the neural network in my father’s brain! If I could only have a fraction of his memory recall!

The secret is that he genuinely cares, and that’s enough to make him commit things to memory and make it stick. He taught us to treat everyone with equal respect, whether they were a CEO or someone who empties the office trash cans at night. It’s evident that after some CEO exploits, that the person sweeping the floor has far greater integrity and character!

My father was successful with his own business because people trusted him – and he worked hard and had deep wisdom. While he is the first to say that he wasn’t the best student, he was very grateful to graduate from Notre Dame. However, he worked two jobs and rushed to graduate early by taking more classes and going to summer school so he would be out before all the other returning GIs graduated! Thomas Jefferson’s concept and Samuel Goldwyn’s quote say it all, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Before Parkinson's

Since my father just came out of another tough time these past few weeks with his Parkinson’s, I wanted this blog post to give credit to my father for his influence in my life — and for his impact on the creation of the KIT List. His encouragement when I faced my own challenging times, and when I struggled with keeping the KIT List going, has been absolutely vital. His advice, his unwavering support of me and in the KIT List community, has been one of the reasons the KIT List not only still exists, but keeps growing (68,000 members!). His belief in the essential goodness of people is proved by the high-quality and amazing people in our KIT List community.

As so many of are facing financial, medical, or any one of a myriad of challenges in this time, let’s remember the generations before us who not only weathered other tough times, but triumphed and flourished after enduring and doing the right thing. The power of the personal touch and for reaching out to others in authentic and practical ways to help has stood the test of time and it’s the best way to turn adversity into a great opportunity.

Hang in there, help each other…and let’s all keep in touch!

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