Where Life’s Greatest Lessons Get Taught

How My Grandfathers Taught Me to Catch the Big Ones without Using Bait

For as long as I can remember, I have been fishing with my grandparents over the summer.  It started a long time ago, when I would get out of school just before the long Memorial Day weekend. First, my parents would take me to my great-grandpa Charlie’s for a week; after that, I would go to my grandpa Wade’s for a week, and then I’d finish with my grandpa Bob for a week. If it was one of those extra-special summers, I would turn around and do the rotation again!


What’s funny is that I thought I had the coolest parents for letting me do this; now that I am a parent, I can only imagine how pleased they were that I wanted to do this!

So my earliest memories of summer are of being with my great-grandpa Charlie, where we would fish just about anywhere we could wet a line—even if it was just the little creek in front of his house.

Some years after he passed away, a new tradition started—and lasted more than a decade—with my grandpa Bob. We fished on Memorial Day, catching enough fish for a big fish fry that night.

Now that I am a father myself, I plan to spend every Father’s Day fishing with my kiddos, and hopefully one day with their kids, for as long as they will fish with me. Because, you see, that is how these traditions work.

In reality, though, this is not only about tradition; this is about the fact that they taught me how to catch the really big ones in life, and although the lessons happened with a fishing pole in their hands, many times they had nothing to do with catching fish.

Life Lessons Learned from a Master Fisherman

Recently I was sharing with my wife and daughter about how my great-grandpa Charlie would take me fishing every chance he got. I suddenly got really choked up as I realized I had not shared with them why he would take me fishing.

In all those years I spent fishing with my great-grandpa Charlie, it turns out we were fishing for two completely different things.  I was fishing for big fish, but he was fishing for my soul.

It was only after many years of fishing with him that I finally started to realize that he did not put any bait on his hook!

Slack for iOS Upload (1)It’s funny that it took me so long to realize; I think I just assumed I was a much better fisherman than he was! But on the last few times I went with him, I was an older teenager, and paid attention.

That’s when I noticed that he did not have bait on his hook. And I noticed he would always make sure I had the best spot to drop my bait.

While we were fishing, he would talk to me and share with me the wisdom of his life.

He taught me about hard work—that hard work was never really hard; it was healthy.  He taught me to care about others first before I could share with others.  We talked about equality of all people.  He told me stories of his childhood and what he had learned. And, of course, his favorite subject was his bride of 60-plus years.

By the time he passed, this man—whose formal education stopped at the 8th grade, but who never stopped learning—taught me about love, laughter, respect, responsibility and faith.

Thankfully, at some point I started to write some of his wisdom down, and I have notes and a few stories to pull from to this day. With each year, as I get older, his wisdom becomes more powerful.

The reason I get choked up when I think about him and our times fishing is that now I fully realize that fishing was just the excuse he needed to catch me!

All the many miles we walked, and those countless hours we talked, he knew exactly what he was fishing for, and he did not need any worms or minnows on his hook. He was fishing for an eternal catch.  He was fishing for me, my future wife, and my future kids. Even more, he was fishing for the future of my soul.

Well, Grandpa Charlie, as you smile down from heaven, I want you to know that on this Memorial Day I took my kiddos fishing, and in your honor, I did not use any bait.

I was just fully present in order that I could land the biggest catch of my life—them—and their time and attention while I shared with them all that I learned from you!
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Question: What life lessons have you learned from family members who invested the time to teach you? How are you using your time to invest in your own children and grandchildren? You can share your thoughts by clicking here.

The Secret to Having a Family that Wins

Habit Number Six of a Family that Wins: Courage

All the habits I have discussed so far in this series for a family that wins are critical practices. But this sixth habit is the one that often gets the least attention—courage.

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Anias Nin once said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

I had the opportunity to go to family camp this past fall, an event that’s become somewhat of a tradition for our family.  We drive to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, where we spend a few days getting to know each other. We grow, challenge, and learn from each other.

And each year at family camp, we find that they add something new. Last year the new thing was to climb to the top of a pole in a challenge called the Leap of Faith.

What Families Can Learn from Turtles and Geese

Habit 5: How Collaboration Helps Your Family Win

Althea Gibson once said, “No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.” That is especially true for families, and turtles and geese can help demonstrate the essential habit of collaboration.


Our house is filled with a collection of all sorts of turtles; in fact, I’ve lost count of how many turtles we actually have.  We have them scattered around to serve as a reminder of the turtle question, inspired by our dear friend Don Seltzer, whom I’ve mentioned before.

The question Don asks is, Have you ever seen a turtle on a fencepost? The obvious next question is, How would a turtle even get on a fencepost?

Habit 4 of a Family that Wins: Communication

Seven Practices of Families Who Communicate Effectively

My wife and I attended a marriage seminar this past weekend; in fact, we presented a talk on the topic of making your family a priority. And it reminded me of the fourth habit of a family that wins.


We enjoyed participating in the sessions, and one of the things we learned—the number one thing that was talked about at this marriage seminar—was the top reason that marriages struggle—communication.

Habit 3 of a Family that Wins: Character

The Sum Total of All Your Everyday Choices

Who are you when no one is looking? Habit 3 of a family that wins was taught to me by my grandparents and parents who believed it to be the foundation of everything. What is it? Character.

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I grew up believing character to be who you are when no one is looking. I’ve shared that definition with my children as we’ve worked to make it the bedrock of our family culture.

It is also the real foundation of all worthwhile success and the sum total of all the choices we make in life.

Build a Family You Can Be Proud Of

7 Things Businesses and Families Have in Common

You are a successful leader. You lead at your place of business. You may even have started the business in the first place. But sometimes it feels as if none of that matters when it’s time to head home to your family after work.


At work, you get respect. People know the results you deliver and they turn to you for guidance and advice. But at home no one seems to care what you think.

Habit 2 of a Family that Wins: Commitment

The Habit that Makes All Other Habits Stick

What makes a habit stick? My last post introduced the first habit for a family that wins—care. But what is the habit that ensures all other positive characteristics actually become habits?


The key to anything going from good idea, to dream, to a reality that can be replicated is the second habit – commitment.

The family that values commitment will be a family that is well-positioned to win.

Parents and families are not lacking in ideas of how to get stronger and win together, but those ideas often go off-course because the family has not developed the habit of commitment.

Habit 1: The Critical Practice of Care

Why Caring Makes Everything Easier for Families

What is the one habit that is so foundational to your family’s success that all other habits will suffer without it? My series on the 7 habits of a family that wins kicks off with a focus on what I believe to be the most critical habit – care.


I believe it was John C. Maxwell who said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Other business leaders and even family members have offered similar advice.

For a family, I view care as the starting point for all of the other six habits, because when a family develops a habit of caring, it makes all the other habits possible.

The 7 Habits of a Family that Wins

The Secret Glue that Binds the Best Families Together

Over the last several weeks, the community here at MarkTimm.com has grown significantly as I’ve connected with so many of you who want to be better leaders at home. It has been a privilege to connect with so many parents—and future parents—who long for clarity and confidence at home just like me.


One of the most valuable things to me about connecting with all of you is hearing the challenges you’re presently facing as a family.

So many of you have told me you struggle with organization, time management, and finding a proven structure to help you execute the dream of how your family could be. Many of you are leaders outside your home who feel dazed and confused when it comes to leading at home.

How Zig Ziglar Changed My Life by Planting a Seed

Check Out My Podcast Appearance on The Ziglar Show

Some people make a lasting impact. I recently posted about the lasting legacy that can come from planting a seed. One person who planted a seed with me was someone whose name has become iconic in the world of motivation and goal-setting—Zig Ziglar.


I was a freshman in high school when I was given the opportunity to travel from Fillmore, Indiana to Kansas City, Missouri to attend the national Future Farmers of America (FFA) convention.

I had never been that far away from home, and had never been in a place with so many people at one time—tens of thousands of young people like me from all across the country.