Let’s Go Below the Surface, Shall We

imageI decided about a week ago that it was time for me to write another blog. It had been about a month since my last post and I just thought that I should just hurry up and get something else out there. I did what I usually do when I get ready to write. I found a nice quiet place, got out my yellow legal pad and my favorite pen, grabbed the dictionary (which I use often), and sat there for a moment thinking about what might be a good topic. The word “passion” kept popping into my head. I decided that’s as good a topic as any, so let’s write about passion. And write I did!

I spent the next 5-6 hours writing about what I thought passion was all about, and about what it meant to me. I was passionate about this! I was passionate about that! I was passionate about a lot of things. I thought, WOW, I’m a very passionate kinda guy. I had several pages put together about all the things that I was passionate about . I wrapped the whole thing up with some nice quotes from some famous people, added some remarks on how we can all find our passion in life, and signed my name to it.

Boy, was I proud of myself. I had put together another blog that I could share with the world, and now I could go and sit down and relax and watch the football game.

Janet, my wife, my rock, my best friend and my biggest supporter, had just gotten home from running some errands with our good friend, Bre. I asked them if they would please read the blog before I posted it (which Janet always does). A mere formality because, of course, I was passionate about this blog.

Thirty minutes or so went by and I went into the kitchen where they were hanging out and said, “Well, ready to post?” The looks that they both gave me were not what I was expecting, looking for, or had anticipated.

One of the reasons why I love Janet so much is because she is brutally honest with me. Always! She always lets me know exactly how she feels. She pulls no punches with me, or with anyone else. And she punched me right in the gut on this one.

“John”, she said, “what is this about? What does it even mean? You listed off a bunch of things and activities imagethat you get excited about, but this is not passion. Everything that you just wrote on this paper is surface stuff. None of it comes from the heart. Passion is from the heart. You need to go below the surface. You need to share your heart, your feelings, your deepest thoughts with the reader. You need to drop a few layers of protection and get that ‘tough’ man in you out of the way.”

Okay then, I thought, that was brutally honest!!!

I thank God every day for Janet. I thank Him for putting someone in my life who is not afraid to speak the truth to me. Someone who doesn’t sugar coat everything just to make me feel good. I thank God that this woman has stood by me for 33 years through thick and thin, good and bad, happy and sad.

I grew up in a household where real feelings were not shared. Hugs were not commonplace, and the words, “I love you”, were seldom said. I grew up in an environment where we never went below the surface. Janet has taught me, and obviously continues to teach me, that I need to go below the surface. She has taught me what it looks like and what it means to open your heart, to bear ones soul. She has shown me how to peel away all of those layers that we put on to protect ourselves and to get down to the real self.

I spent the better part of last week thinking about what it was that I had written in my feeble attempt to describe passion.The more I thought about it, and continued to read it back to myself, the more it reminded me of a very bad Seinfeld episode. I said a lot of things about nothing really important, AND, none of it was even funny.

It became clearer to me as the week progressed as to what it was that Janet was talking about. She knows that when I do open up my heart, and bear my soul, that what I then write about is real, and not sugar coated.

I can’t sugar coat writing about the child that we lost years ago. I can’t sugar coat writing about the struggles that I’ve had in the relationship between my son, John Shay, and myself. I can’t paint a pretty picture about how Janet and I went through counseling on several occasions throughout our marriage and came close to calling it quits a few times.

Writing, I have come to realize, is a special gift that the Lord has given me. It is a gift that allows me to go below the surface. To be able to open up my heart and my soul and to share things which are important and meaningful in my life. It allows for the possibility that others might find some meaning, or connection, or insight into something that they may be going through as well.

When I sat down to write that blog post a week ago I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I was doing it just to get something out there. I was in a hurry and remained completely on the surface.

God, and my wife Janet, continue to remind me and to show me that it is completely okay to be a man AND to have feelings. These two things do not need to be mutually exclusive from each other. Men, just like women, do have tear ducts, and we do cry. We shouldn’t have to do it only when no one else is watching.

I have come to better understand over this past week what I am passionate about. I am passionate about my God. A God who grabbed ahold of my heart on that cold, crisp day back on January 12, 2008. A God who long ago brought a woman into my life who fueled a passion for what it means to have a meaningful relationship, a marriage, a true friendship. A God who allows me, and encourages me, to go below the surface and to share my heart, my soul, and my faith with others. To not be afraid of looking too meek or mild or being concerned that others may perceive you that way.


As I continue to read through scripture, and try to understand the life of my savior, Jesus Christ, I find that not only was he a man that was very meek and mild, but also that he was at the same time the greatest warrior that mankind has ever known. I pray that I can continue to strive to be more like Him, and to be able to share my life and my story with others.

This is what I am passionate about, and I am only beginning to scratch below the surface.

Have a blessed day,

John EarlyJohn Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

Shepherd or Sheepherder?

What is your Leadership Style: Are you a Shepherd or a Sheepherder?

Think about this question for a moment. Are you a shepherd or a sheepherder? Many people might think that these two are the same; however, they are definitely not.

A shepherd is one who tends to the sheep; who leads from the front; who draws the sheep to himself. A sheepherder is someone who drives sheep; who herds from the back of the flock. These are two very different styles of managing sheep and two very different leadership styles of managing people.

Shepherding has been around for thousands of years and considered the Eastern way of taking care of sheep. The shepherd leads his flock in the direction they need to go. The sheep look to the shepherd as their leader. As the one who will take care of them and who always has their best interest in mind. The sheep feel protected, cared for, and know that the shepherd is always watching out for them.AJGM48-1680x1050

The western style of managing sheep is somewhat newer (hundreds of years). It involves driving the sheep, similar to a cattle drive. By driving from the back of the flock, this allows the sheepherder to handle many times more sheep than a shepherd would be able to do from the front of the flock. By driving sheep this way, the sheepherders know that there is going to be an attrition rate that they have to take into account – sometimes as high as 30% of the flock. If you consider some of the massive sheep ranches in Australia or even in the US, you begin to understand why they may drive thousands of sheep at a time. They need to start with this many because they know they are going to lose a significant number.

1917212_origThe shepherds from the Eastern parts of the world manage much fewer sheep. Their flocks are in the hundreds. Everyone in their flock is extremely important to them. They are all valuable and they don’t want to lose a single one.

The following is a story, which explains the difference between driven and led. Joe Batten is one of the grand old men of public speaking and a member of the national Speaker’s Association Hall of Fame. He wrote the best seller “Tough-minded Leadership”.  Some years ago, Joe was meeting with a group of 35 corporate CEO’s for a daylong seminar. Early in the presentation he asked how many were leaders in their company. Every hand in the room went up.

Joe smiled and said, “I’ll ask you the same question after I share this true story with you.”

“In the Middle East there are two countries separated only by a common border, which each have large sheep and mutton industries.  The cultures of the two countries are radically different, and they are hostile to each other. In fact, they have fought wars with each other and they are fighting as we speak.

In one country, the shepherds walk behind their flocks.

In the other country, the shepherds walk in front of their flocks.

In the country where the shepherds walk behind their flock, the quality of the mutton and the wool is poor, and it is not a profitable industry.  In the country where the shepherds walk in front of their flocks, the quality of the mutton and wool is excellent and the profitability is high.

In the flocks where the shepherds walk behind and drives and pushes, and corrects, and is always in charge, the young sheep grow up afraid to stray from the flock for fear of being rapped up-side the head by the shepherd’s staff, or having the dogs sent out to round them up.  They have no opportunity to explore for the better grass and water, or to play with other young lambs.  They simply become obedient, passive and apathetic.  By the time they are grown, they have lost all initiative. They are not really healthy.

In the country where the shepherds walk in front of their flocks, the young lambs have plenty of opportunity to stray, play, experiment, and then catch up to the flock. Instead of feeling overly controlled, compressed, repressed, depressed and suppressed, they feel free, empowered, enhanced, and stretched. They eat more, sleep better and grow up large and healthy.  They are truly led.

Joe Batten then asked the assembled executives once more, “How many of you truly lead in your company?” Not a hand was raised!

This story drives home the importance of leading from the front and by example.

Lt. Colonel Hal Moore, who led one of the first fighting forces into battle in Vietnam and co-authored the book “We were Soldiers”, which was later made into a movie, told this to his men before they left for their first encounter with the enemy: “I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me, God.” This was a leader who not only led from the front but cared for each and every one of his men.

In John 10:11,14 it says:

“I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

ecfc9d2cd1e6353911818bf772e99fc8I always thought that I was a good leader. I realized a few years ago that I was wrong. I had the leadership style of a sheepherder. Whether at home or on the job, my style was to bark orders, give directions, and drive people. I drove people in order to get the job done. To achieve the end results that I was looking for. This had the effect that is a common result of sheepherding. There was a certain degree of attrition, and it drove a wedge between some very important and valuable relationships. I had to learn to move to the front and to lead by example. To give the people I was trying to lead the respect, dignity, and the compassion that they deserved.

Changing my leadership style after so many years has not been an easy task. It is not easy to change anything that we have done a certain way for the majority of our lives. However, sometimes change is called for. Change is needed for growth. Change is required for healing and redemption.

In Jeremiah 23:1, it says:

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!”

The explanation for this verse in the NIV Bible is that, “leaders are held responsible for those entrusted to their care. Remember that you are accountable to God for those you influence and lead.”

We all have the ability to lead, and in fact are all called to lead in some form or fashion at different times in our lives. It may be as the stay at home parent raising our children, or at our place of work. It may be that we are called to lead in one of our social circles, or in some capacity at our church. Whatever the situation, and whenever you happen to be called to lead, think for a moment about what it means to be a good shepherd, and then what it looks like to be a sheepherder, and then go out and lead your people well.

Isaiah 40:11 – “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”

God bless,

John Close-Up (498x700)

John Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

Exciting News!

It has been over six months since my last blog post. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t have anything to say or that nothing was on my mind (although I have been accused before of having nothing on my mind). There has been plenty on my mind and I have had plenty to say. The reason for no blog posts over that period of time is because I have been busy writing a book. Yes, a book!

I was contacted late last year by Waldorf Publishing out of Dallas, Texas, about the possibility of writing a book. They got my name from someone who I had never had the opportunity to meet, but was a Shoe Shine Guy customer and had been reading my blog. This had been something that I had thought about doing many times over the years, but because of my tendency to procrastinate I just never got around to pulling the trigger. The phone call from Waldorf was just the push that I needed.

It took me about four months to write the book and has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The book is titled: 10 BITS OF WISDOM FROM THE SHOE SHINE GUY – A TRANSFORMED LIFE. It incorporates some of what I have written about in my blog over the last several years, but delves much deeper into my experiences in the business world and my personal life, and how the two interacted over the years. It talks about priorities in life and how mine were misplaced for so long. It talks about how God changed my life forever on a cold, crisp January day back in 2008.


The book will be released this October and can be ordered through Amazon as of the 19th of October. My hope is that by sharing my story and some of the pain that I went through, and a lot of the pain that I inflicted on others, that I will be able to touch some lives. That others will be able to see that no matter where we find ourselves that there is hope for us all. That we can all be transformed through Him.

In the meantime I will continue to be The Shoe Shine Guy. I will continue to shine, and to fix, and to take care of all your shoe and leather needs, just as I have been for the past four and a half years. I will continue to write my blogs on a more frequent basis now, and will continue to look forward to all of the nice comments and conversations that have come my way over that period of time.

Janet and I want to thank everyone; family, friends, and all of our customers, for all of your support over the last four and a half years. You have all made what we do an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and we could not be more blessed to have you all in our lives in some form or another.

We have put together a web page for the book, www.10bitsofwisdom.com, and we will continue to update and add to it as we get closer to the release date for the book in October. In the meantime, I have written a few words that have been on my mind lately and wanted to share them with you. Enjoy!

This week’s blog:


“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

Have you ever stopped to think about the power of words? Their true meaning? Their inference? Their ramifications? Have you ever stopped to think about the effect that the words we use can have on others? Words are a powerful tool. They can be used to brighten someone’s day, or they can be used to tear someone down.


Our language and our words are an awesome responsibility that are not meant to be taken lightly. Words are a gift, and a gift is something that is to be treasured and taken care of. We were given this gift of language so that we could communicate well with others. To communicate in a positive, uplifting, and encouraging kind of way.

But that is not how we always use our words. Sometimes we are callous, demeaning, and down right hurtful with our words. We use words to get back at others, to put them in their place, to get even. We use words to start rumors and to talk about others behind their back. We use words that for a brief moment can make us feel good about ourselves, but can have a negative, lasting impact on others. We very often use words the wrong way.

For most of my life I was proud of the fact that I had a quick wit, a wit that I defined and explained away as being part of my “sense of humor”. I came to realize after about 50 years or so that this quick wit was often times more hurtful than helpful. It was more discouraging than encouraging. It was a defense mechanism that I had incorporated into my demeanor long ago to cover up for my insecurities and shortcomings. It was something that I often used to make me feel better about myself. The problem with that was that it more often than not came at the expense of making others feel worse about themselves.

I used the art of language and words the wrong way for a very long time. This is not something that I am at all proud of and is also not a very easy habit to change. Having a quick wit is not something that just easily goes away. Sometimes words just jump off of my tongue before I have the chance to reel them back in. And once they do get out into the open air, there is no getting them back.

I’ve had to learn to slow myself down. To be more conscious of the words coming out of my mouth. To think about what message I am trying to convey and what is the best, most positive and encouraging way to do that. I am trying to take my quick wit down to a medium wit (if that is at all possible). This does not mean that I have to lose my sense of humor. What it does mean is that I need to be more aware of each situation and to think more precisely about what it is that I am trying to convey to someone else. I need to choose my words more carefully and make sure that I am conveying words of respect, kindness, sincerity and affirmation.

 words matter

The right words can build a person up and set them on the right course for a lifetime. The wrong words can do just the opposite. Mother Teresa once said: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Think about the words that you speak today. Think about how it is that you would like to be spoken to and do the same to others. How we communicate and how we speak to others will echo for a very long time, and will send out a ripple effect that will touch peoples lives for longer than we can know.

Have a happy, productive, exciting and blessed day!

John EarlyJohn Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

Thanksgiving and Psalm 23

One of my favorite days of the year happens to be Thanksgiving, and one of my favorite passages from the Bible is Psalm 23. I thought I would reflect on both.

It’s Sunday night as I’m writing this, three days after Thanksgiving, and I’m still full from all the turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie that I consumed. Why do I eat so much on this one particular day of the year? I continue to tell myself (usually Thanksgiving night right before I go to bed and I’m about 8 pounds heavier and in some discomfort) that I won’t do that again. So much for will power or self control.image

I really do love Thanksgiving though. Not only the food and being able to get together with family and friends, but the whole idea of “Thanks Giving”. Taking the time on this one day to reflect and give thanks for everything that has been provided to me and my family. I appreciate the fact that we celebrate this day as a country as well. That we set aside one day a year to acknowledge what it is that we are all thankful for. I’m especially grateful that I have the opportunity to do this not only on Thanksgiving but everyday, to be able to thank God for everything, EVERYTHING, that He has given me.image

I’m thankful that THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD AND I SHALL NOT WANT. Even though there are times that I find myself wanting. That HE MAKES ME LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES AND HE LEADS ME BESIDE QUIET WATERS. Always guiding me through life as long as I remember to keep my eyes focused on Him. That HE RESTORES MY SOUL and continues to bring me closer to Him.

I’m thankful that HE GUIDES ME IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIS NAMESAKE, and that even though I veer off that path way too often He always brings me back. I’m so thankful that EVEN THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL BECAUSE YOU ARE WITH ME; YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF GIVE ME COMFORT. How can I possibly be afraid when I know that God is with me, that He is always by my side. It says in Romans 8:31 – “If God is for us, who can be against us”? That gives me great comfort.

I’m thankful that YOU HAVE PREPARED A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES, which assures me that you protect and watch over me at all times. YOU ANOINT MY HEAD WITH OIL AND MY CUP OVERFLOWS which means that I have an abundance of anything and everything that I could ever want.

I’m thankful that GOODNESS AND LOVE WILL BE WITH ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE, no matter what hardships, trials, or tribulations come my way, and that I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER. FOREVER, not the eighty or so years (on average) that I have here on this earth, but FOREVER.

imageIt is so comforting to know, and something that I cannot possibly be thankful enough for, that for all that God has provided for and given to me in my lifetime, that so much more awaits in eternity with Christ. In Philippians 1:23 Paul reflects on this, stating that to be with Christ is much better by far than anything you could possibly have here on earth, but that as long as the good Lord keeps us here there must be a reason, and that we are to continue to search for that reason and make the most of the time that has been given to us. I am thankful for the time the Lord has given me, extremely thankful. God has provided me with so much that I could never begin to thank Him enough.

So another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Good food, good friends, good family time. Plenty to be thankful for. As Christmas fast approaches there will be a lot going on and plenty of distractions for all of us. My prayer is that we can all keep our eyes on what is really important, what really matters, what gives us our meaning in life. Keeping our eyes on Him.

God bless and have a wonderful holiday season!

John Close-Up (498x700)




John Early
The Shoe Shine Guy


How does one describe the perfect day? The perfect picture? The perfect landscape? How do you convey to someone else what real beauty means to you? How do you describe Autumn?

Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year.  That season that falls right between summer and winter.  It is usually void of too many extremes.  Not too hot, not too cold.  It’s a comfortable time. Pleasant. Relaxing.

imageBut the thing that strikes me most about Autumn is the beauty of it all.  I am hard pressed to come up with another time of the year that exudes so much natural beauty.  I truly believe and understand that every day is a gift from God, and that in itself makes it a beautiful day.  But for me, God turns it up a few notches in Autumn.

It’s as if you’re looking at a Van Gogh landscape bathed in neon lights.  In a matter of weeks, or even days, the trees, like a chameleon, change colors.  The most vibrant reds, the brightest oranges, and the almost translucent yellows.  It often looks as though someone has hit the switch and actually turned the trees on.  This time of the year, this landscape, this season, has always been special to me.  It has been my favorite for as long as I can remember.

imageThe thing about seasons is that they don’t last.  They are just that, seasons.  Here for a little while and then gone.  I think that is what makes them so special; they always give us something to look forward to.  This Autumn will be gone soon enough.  Then Winter will settle in for a bit (usually much longer than a bit).  Then Spring, then Summer, and then Autumn again.  Life is one big cycle.  One changing season after another.

I think that God does this for a number of reasons.  One is to let us know that nothing is constant, except for Him.  Seasons come and go, people come and go, but He never changes.  No matter what “season” we happen to be in at this time in our life, He is right there by our side.  Through the harshest winter, or the hottest summer; He is there.  Whether we are having a good season or a bad one, He is there.

That always gives me comfort.  Knowing that no matter what comes my way, good or bad, happy or sad, pleasant or not, that He is there.  He is my Autumn.  He illuminates my day for me.  He puts the color in my life.image

Seasons will come and go.  The leaves will fall off the trees and the snow will come.  Springtime will show up, summer will arrive, and then, we will be back at Autumn.  All of this happens for a reason, most of which is beyond our understanding.

Whatever your favorite season is, or your favorite day, or your favorite moment; Remember that it was created by God.  He alone gives us our moments, our time, our seasons, our Autumn.

I thank Him for that every day and I hope that everyone can find their “Autumn” in their life. Ask Him and He will show it to you.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…

God Bless,
John Close-Up (498x700)


John Early
The ShoeShine Guy

How Fortunate

The word Fortunate is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as:

1. Having good luck, lucky.

2. Bringing, or coming by, good luck; favorable; auspicious.

Fortunate comes from the word Fortunatus.  It was originally a Roman proper name turned into Greek (Phortounatos). It is the same as the Latin adjective fotunatus, meaning “blest,” or “fortunate.”

The reason that I bring this up is that I have taken a lot of time lately to reflect, and the one word that keeps popping into my head is fortunate.  Not so much the “having good luck” or the being “lucky” version, but more of the original Latin version of being “blest.” image

I drove up to Saginaw this past weekend for a family reunion.  It was my mom’s side of the family and this was the 78th year for the reunion.  As I made the almost two hour drive to where the reunion was being held I was reminiscing about years past.

I’ve been able to attend the majority of these events for the past 55 years.  I thought back to when I was maybe 7, 8, or 9 years old.  All the Aunts and Uncles, cousins, parents, and grandparents.  How they looked to me as a child.  There was always a lot of laughter and joking going on.  Along with some crying and reminiscing of years gone by and relatives that were no longer with us.

I thought about this year’s reunion as I made the drive.  My mom would not be there.  My grandmother would not be there.  Nor my uncle Don or my cousin David.  Nor countless other relatives that were no longer here.

I was filled with sadness for a while but the more I thought about it and the more the memories kept coming back, the more joyful and uplifting the drive became.  I came to realize how fortunate I am.  Not just because of this reunion and all the family and relatives that have touched my life over the years, but for everything.

– How fortunate (blest) I am I have been able to spend the time that was allotted with my parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.
– How fortunate (blest) I am to have Janet, a wonderful wife, friend and partner of 32 years.
– How fortunate (blest) I am to have John and Jennifer, two beautiful children.  My son-in-law Mike, and our grandson, Lucian.
– How fortunate (blest) I am to wake up every morning.  A gift that only He can provide.
– To be able to go to work and shine shoes.
– To say hello to people with a smile and hopefully brighten somebody’s day.
– How fortunate (blest) I am every time my heart beats one more time, or I take in one more breath.
– How fortunate (blest) I am to be alive.

imageI’ve come to realize that I should take nothing for granted.  Tomorrow is not promised to us and every moment is a gift.  God allows us to be here for a reason, for a purpose.  Only He knows what that reason or purpose is and it is up to us to be thankful for every moment that we have and to use each of these moments for His glory.

It is comforting (to me) to know that someday I will get to see my relatives again in a better place.  A place that has been promised to us.  A place that will last for eternity.  Sometimes that is hard to imagine.  I get so caught up in what I want to do today, what I want to have, that I forget that all of this is just temporary anyway.  None of this is going with me.  It all stays here.

I thank God daily for everything that He provides for me and the time that He has given me on this planet.  I thank Him for how fortunate (blest) I have been.  I thank Him for 78 years of the “Shay Family Reunion” and for His promise of a reunion to come unlike anything that I could possibly imagine.

I thank Him right now for the ability to put into words how grateful I am to be a part of His family.  Something that I could not have done or would not have done just a few short years ago.

I asked everyone at our family reunion this past weekend to take a moment, when they had the chance, and to close their eyes and think back over the years to some of their memories of the reunion.  I am asking you imageall right now to take a moment, when you have the chance, and close your eyes and think about what it is you are thankful for.

How fortunate (blest) we all are.

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

God bless you all,

John Early




John Early
The ShoeShine Guy

Memorial Day

Way back in the old days, in my previous career as a financial consultant, I used to send out a quarterly newsletter to my clients. It was called “The Early Report”.

I would give updates on the economy and what was going on in the stock market. Report on any special seminars or meetings that were coming up.  And give out general information that had to do with our company or the services we provided.

I would also always write about something other than financial news that I thought was important or that would be of interest.  I was looking through some of my old newsletters the other day and came across one that I thought was important to mention again.  It was from the June 2008 “Early Report” and the following is what I wrote:

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died  in our nation’s service.  It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his general order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of union and confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873.  By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states.  The south refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).  It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May.

imageAfter just having gone through this past Memorial Day and enjoying the good weather, good barbecues and hanging out with friends and family, I started to think about how fortunate we are in this country to be able to enjoy a lot of what we have because of the sacrifices of so many.

We want to thank those who have served in the military, past, present, and future.  We are especially grateful for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the men and women who protect this great country and who continue to serve with honor.

It is now Sunday afternoon, (May 18th, 2014, a week before Memorial weekend), and I happen to be sitting on the deck in my backyard.  After having a nice barbecue lunch with my wife Janet and a friend, I am now just enjoying  the sounds that the birds are making and listening to the rustling of the trees in the wind,(and what seems to be the barking of a small dog a couple of houses away).

How peaceful this is.  How relaxing.  How free.  How thankful I am to be able to live in this country.  How thankful I am for my father and father-in-law who both served during WWII.  How thankful I am for my brother Paul and sister Anne who both served in the military.  For my brother-in-law who served and was wounded in Vietnam. For my two nephews, Thomas and William, who are both serving now.  And for the millions of other men and women, past and present, who have served in the military in order to protect the freedoms that have been afforded to me.  To all of us.

imageI thank God for giving them the courage and the fortitude to step up to this brave calling.  And I will be praying this coming Memorial Day for all of them. A prayer of thanks, of gratitude, of protection.  I pray that we will all keep them in our thoughts and prayers and remember them, not only on this one special day, but every day.

For all of those who have served, who are serving, and who will be serving, I say thank you and may God bless you all.

John Close-Up (498x700)




John Early
The Shoe Shine Guy



Do you live in a community? Of course you do, we all do.  Some of us live in big communities.  Some of us live in small communities.  But we all live in a community.  I looked up the different definitions of community in Webster’s Dictionary and here are a few of what I found.

  • A group of people living together as a smaller social unit within a larger one and having interests, work, etc, in common.
  • Society in general; the public
  • friendly association; fellowship

I think most people believe (I know that I used to) that their community is the part of town where they live. “I live in the Canton community.” “I’m from the community of Dearborn.”  “Troy is my community.” And so on.   But community is much more than where we live.  It’s much more than the four or five blocks surrounding our homes.  Community is made up of our families, our friends, our coworkers.  The people we share faith and church with.  The people we come into contact with every day as part of our jobs. I’d like to think that my community is much bigger than just my neighborhood.  I’d like to think that I’m part of the Michigan community as well.  And the United States community.  And the world community.  That’s a pretty big community! But it wasn’t always that way.
imageWe can all have different beliefs, ideas, and theories about how everything all began.  But I think one thing is pretty clear.  We didn’t start out with our current community of 7 billion people.  At some point in time, long ago when everything here on earth began, there were a lot less people.  Maybe only a couple.  That very small community grew to the current total of today.  It is also estimated (by the Population Reference Bureau, I looked it up) that since the beginning of the human race, over 100 billion people have left this earth. 100 BILLION! I guess when you really stop and think about it, it makes sense.  There are 7 billion people on earth today (give or take a few million). Our life expectancy is around 80 years.  So 100 years from now the vast majority of the current 7 billion will be gone and there will be a new group of 7 billion or so.

Why does any of this matter.  Why am I even bringing this up.  We all know that the world is huge.  One giant community of people.  There are good ones and bad ones.  The friendly and the not so friendly.  All different races, ethnicities, religions, sizes, shapes, and colors.  There are 7 billion individuals living together on this planet.  So why does it matter? I think it matters a lot.  At least it does to me.  If I can see everyone, EVERYONE, as part of my community (and this is not always easy for me to do) then maybe I will treat them a little nicer, a little friendlier, with a little more respect, a little more love. Jesus tells us to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” He is not just talking about our families, our friends, or our actual neighbors.  He is talking about everyone.  The giant community, the whole world. This can be a difficult task. For myself, I tend to compartmentalize.  To shrink things down. I’m not a big crowd person.  To think of my community as 7 billion people can be overwhelming.  I have to look at it as one person at a time.  If I can be just a little friendlier, a little more courteous, a little more respectful to each individual that I come into contact with, then maybe I can help make my community a better place. What if we all started to do this? To expand what we think of as our community.  We all have the power, the gifts, the opportunity to make a difference.  All of us do. I heard a great sermon by our pastor not long ago and in it he talked about the misuse of two words, “Just a.” As in, “I’m just a stay at home mom.” “I’m just a dad.” “I’m just a secretary.” “I’m just a janitor.” “I’m just a shoe shine guy.” None of us are “Just a’s.” We were all created as individuals with our own unique gifts and purpose. He has a plan for each and every one of us.  We may not know what that plan is, but He does. Don’t sit around and wait for your purpose to be revealed to you.  Start making a difference in your community now.  Your community of 7 billion.  One encounter at a time.  And whenever there is any doubt as to what you should say or do, just think to yourself, “What would Jesus do?” image There was a song written and recorded by Bill Withers in 1971 called, “Lean On Me.”  It talks about being a friend.  Being someone that others can lean on in times of pain and sorrow.  I don’t have to be a CEO or a “very important person” to be that friend to someone.  I can be “just a” shoe shine guy. And just maybe that is my purpose.

Lean On Me by Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

Please, swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show

You just call on me, brother, when you need a handimage
We all need somebody to lean on I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long ‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

If there is a load
You have to bear that you can’t carry
I’m right up the road, I’ll share your load
If you just call me


Have a blessed day,

John Close-Up (498x700)




John Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

Great Recipes

You know who was a great cook? My mom was a great cook.  I have vivid memories to this day of coming home from school and walking into our house to the smells of something awesome that she was putting together.  Whether it was green pea soup or lasagna, chop suey or tuna noodle casserole, or even her delicious liver and onions (and you can be sure that if a mom is making something like liver and onions that her kids will actually eat, she must be good), everything always smelled and tasted great.

momkitchenI’m not saying this just because she was my mom.  In fact, my wife Janet is a pretty great cook as well.  But Janet would be the first to tell you that my mom was an outstanding cook.  She had probably hundreds of recipes that she had put together over the years, and when she prepared a meal it seemed as if she did it almost effortlessly.  I’m sure this was not exactly the case and that a lot of effort went into every meal, but as a kid you just somehow thought that she must have magically whipped up another great dinner.

She also had a lot of practice.  She was always cooking for at least eleven people (nine kids and mom and dad).  I say at least eleven because there always seemed to be somebody else showing up for dinner.  A friend, a relative, a neighbor, somebody unexpected. This didn’t seem to faze my mom.  She was a good planner and always managed to have enough for everybody.Recipe1

But my mom’s cooking just tells part of the story of who she was and what she did. Her greatest recipe was her recipe for success.  I know she never thought of it this way but she was the CEO of our household.  Between cooking meals she made sure the laundry was done, the house was clean, the bills were paid and the kids were doing what they were supposed to be doing (and if not she became the chief of police).

She always seemed to do all of this with a smile on her face and a kind word from her heart.  She was a great manager of her time and of people.

In Webster’s Dictionary, two definitions of the word recipe are: 1) A list of materials and directions for preparing a dish or drink.  2) A procedure for accomplishing or achieving something.

The first definition my mom was keenly aware of and was very good at.  The second definition she would not have been consciously aware of but was outstanding at it.

I have been a student of business my entire working life.  I have read hundreds of books on business and management, marketing and branding, and the art of dealing with people.  I have held positions in sales, marketing, and management over my career and have owned or been a shareholder in 3 different companies.  I’ve enjoyed my career and the people who I worked with and all the different experiences that I’ve had.  My idea of success has changed a lot over the years and especially over the last five or six years. With the first two businesses that I was a part of helping to build we talked a lot about strategic execution, competitive advantage, business models, goals, and P & L’s.  These are all very important and an integral part of putting a viable business together.  But when I decided to start my current business 3 years ago I was in a different place in my life.  I thought long and hard about the “recipe” for this new business and what ingredients I wanted to incorporate into this business model. recipeforsuccess

There is a famous quote by philosopher George Santayana that says, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I thought a lot about my past and the businesses I had been a part of.  All the books I had read and the classes and seminars that I attended.  I thought about all the “successful” people I had known and those that had “made it.”

I kept thinking about one of the most successful people that I ever knew, my mom.  Even though she never put together a business plan, I tried to reconstruct what hers would have looked like purely by her actions and how she managed her business of being a mom.

When I thought of how she worked and took care of her business (our home) I thought of her core values, which are one of the most important aspects of any business.  There was integrity, wisdom, happiness and humor, inspiration and most importantly, faith.  These core values seemed to come naturally to her and were a part of who she was.  I decided when I started my current business that these same core values were going to be an important part of what our company was about.  These would be the main ingredients in our recipe and we would add the other stuff like, strategic execution, goals, and P & L’s later.

Starting any new business is not easy.  There are always bumps in the road and unforeseen problems.  But I will say this,  I have never been happier or more fulfilled in my life.  And after thinking about what my mom did all those years for our family, in that house, and all of the hard work it took to make our home a success; I can now understand why she always seemed to have that happy and fulfilled look on her face.

Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”  My hope is to bring some of the values that my mom brought into our lives into the lives of those that we deal with.  If that happens for us, we will be successful.

eat or drink

Have a blessed day,

John Early

John Early
The Shoe Shine Guy

Happy New Year !


Wow! Another year gone by.  That sure happened fast.  It feels like the older I get, the quicker the years go by.  I don’t know if it is just me, or is it like this for everybody?  Another birthday, an anniversary, a first grandchild, a new knee, a little skin cancer removed, and BAM! the year is over.


It seems not that long ago that I wrote my first blog, which was titled, “Begin With the End in Mind,” and was actually written one year ago, last January.  Since that time I’ve had the opportunity to write 23 other blogs covering various topics, thoughts, and ideas.  I wasn’t really sure when I started writing this blog where I would go with it, or even what I would end up talking about.  I just knew that I had 54 years of life experience and wanted to share some of that with others.

The response, for the most part, has been overwhelming.  People approach me all the time now, even those that I don’t know personally, and say “you’re the guy that writes that blog, the shoe shine guy!”  It has given me the chance to meet a lot of good people, and to connect with them, if only just a little bit, on a personal level.  People have been able to share some of their stories with me as well, and how a particular blog hit home with them.  They’ve shared their sorrows and their joys; how some topics made them laugh, and how others made them cry.  I had a large number of people share with me their love of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (blog #16).  But the most common responses that I have received over the past year were people thanking me for getting personal and for sharing my faith.  This is not where I had intended to go with all of this when I started writing the blog a year ago.  I realized though, early on, that as I was sharing my journey with others, that my faith was the most important part of who I am.  My family, my friends, my customers, everything that I have and do, is only made possible because of Him.

So I will continue to share my thoughts and ideas with you.  The successes, the failures, the milestones, and the mishaps.  The good times and the bad.  And as long as He keeps prompting me to write, and putting these thoughts and ideas into my head, I will continue this blog and we will see where the journey leads.

Please continue to share your thoughts and ideas with me as well.  Getting personal is a two-way street.  I like to know what people are thinking.  What inspires them.  We are all very similar creatures, created by God, just trying to make it through this short journey here on earth the best way we can.

2014 will also go by way to fast.  Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to cherish every day, every  moment, with my wife, my children, my grandson.  To make the most of friendships.  To work hard and to bring a smile to all those I come in contact with throughout each day.  To share my personal journey and my faith.

today-is-a-giftTomorrow is not promised to any of us.  I know I need to always be thankful for the “now,” and to continue to look forward to the rest of the journey that He has in store for me.

I pray that your journey will take you to the place you need to be, and that when you get to the end of this relatively short road, you can look forward to the “forever” journey that He has waiting for you.

Have a Blessed Day,

John EarlyJohn Early
The Shoe Shine Guy