How do you make a pie chart of your life? If you were to determine the percentage of your time and effort spent on family, faith, community and business, how would it look? Would you be happy with it? Would giving to charitable causes fit in, too?
That’s a question Bob Lee, Enhance Your Vision, Barrington, IL, thought a lot about during 130 days he spent away from home last year. He was away on purpose; on a 6,500-mile bicycle ride across America. In March 2007, Lee set out from Jacksonville, FL, for three good reasons: to raise awareness and money for the American Cancer Society, the Les Turner ALS Foundation and the National Hospice Foundation.
While on the road, Lee learned a bit about people in general, the window coverings industry he has been a part of for so long, and how (and why) he might make changes to his own personal pie chart.
FINDING THE GOOD IN PEOPLE
Lee has done this sort of thing before: A Ride for a Reason in 2001 (see D&WC, August 2001, page 24) and Face of America in 2003 (see D&WC, January 2004, page 62.) This year, for A Ride for Three Reasons Lee set out at age 65 to ride 6,500 miles to raise $65,000 for each of the three charities he supported (a total of $195,000 with all proceeds going to the organizations).
Initially, the thought was to sign on 650 donors, but the Duchossois Family Foundation, an Illinois-based philanthropic organization, stepped in with a challenge: if Lee could register the 650 donors before mid-March, it would contribute $65,000 to his cause. The word went out and before Lee left on his cross-country trek he had 1,000 donors and, thanks to the Duchossois family, had already met his goal of $195,000.
But that didn’t keep Lee off his bike or off his planned route. He set off for what he later described “an unbelievable experience.” Along the way Lee met with countless supporters and did countless media interviews. Traveling across rural America he met motel owners who offered free night’s stays, farm families who invited him in for dinner or lunch and drivers along the roads who recognized him and stopped to contribute.
Interviewers often asked Lee for some of his road horror stories. “We didn’t have any horror stories,” he says. “I wasn’t looking for bad people I was looking for good people.”
“I think sometimes that’s the secret of how we go about life,” he adds. “If we look for the good, we’ll find the good.”
Lee also has found a lot of good during his career in the window coverings industry. As the former president of Eastern Standard Corp., Baltimore, MD, Lee admits, “I was a workaholic for 13 years.” That changed after he “realigned his priorities,” only to start Enhance Your Vision where he could work on his own treating windows for customers. “There are not many businesses that you can get into today with an investment of some sampling and have such a great business as being a window coverings dealer,” he says. “In this business you can determine what percent you want to do and how hard you want to work and how successful you want to be.”
Lee’s cross-country bike tours started, however, when he began feeling he wanted to pay something back to his community. He chose ALS after reading Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie.” The American Cancer Society and National Hospice Foundation came later.
From the very beginning, friends and contacts Lee made in the window coverings industry were there to support his every effort. He says his latest ride would not have been as successful without the people involved in the window coverings industry. Among his top-level sponsors last year were Hunter Douglas, Norman Shutters and Designer Blinds.
What Lee is most grateful for during his years in the window coverings industry are the connections that are made. “When you sell to help customers and to make a friend, and not to make money, it’s surprising how well you can do, and how those connections come around in other areas.”
ADDING A NEW DIMENSION
Lee’s ride ended September 7, 2007, in Bar Harbor, ME. He logged in those 6,500 miles while away from home 130 days. Of those, he rode a total of 117 days, putting in 150 miles in one day—his longest one-day’s ride. (“When you have the wind to your back, you go for it,” he says.)
Lee far surpassed his original goal, topping $325,000 at last count to be divided evenly among the three charities.
He also has an answer for how he’d like his personal life’s pie chart to look. “It’s not just about making a living, but making a living and making the world a better place,” he says.
“How do we define our lives, enrich whatever we’re doing, whatever our role is in the window coverings business?” Lee asks. “What I have learned out of all this is, and what I am going to do going forward, is set aside a percentage every year and decide what charities to give it to, and add a new dimension to making a living.
“If we know we’re not just working for Uncle Sam for the first four months of every year and then for our families, but do it also for some charities that we’re moved by, then I think that the more passionate people can get over giving and sharing will make their jobs more enjoyable.”