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I’ve learned a lot of things from my mentors.

When I was four, my grandfather let me help him with his garden. I got to dig with a spade. And, as a side benefit of learning to dig, I learned that you could use certain types of claw hammers as picks, to loosen dirt. Then you can dig out the dirt with a table spoon. I learned to love excavation. Now, I can’t hammer a nail or replace the guts of a toilet to this day. But I can dig.

A few years later, I learned from my dad important thinks like how to sharpen a knife or ax, how to tie either a bow tie or long tie without a mirror (he prefers a windsor, while I go with the four-in-hand), how to lash logs together to make a raft, how to build a lean-to, how to start a fire with two sticks (as long as one of them is a match).

My crazy uncle, who happened to be a newspaper editor, blue-penciled my essays, starting when I was about six. He taught me that English is the property of those who use it (unlike, say, French), that our language runs on nouns and verbs, that idiosyncratic adverbs (if you need more than one adverb, you have the wrong verb) are sloppy, and that I should be suspicious of all prepositions.

At Ohio University, Mary Robison taught me that writing is fun and therapeutic and that it’s okay to use words like swell, and Robert Baker taught me that there is always good news and bad news (the good news is that it isn’t due until next Friday—the bad news is that it is an 18 page paper with footnotes).

Steve Czaikowski taught me that advertising is supposed to make somebody do something, not simply tell somebody something.

Bruce Mitchell taught me, by example, how to get a roomful of talented guys—whose talent is exceeded only by their egos—to work together to create something better than any one of us could create alone.

John Sterling taught me to push next quarter’s sales into this quarter.

Todd Delello taught me that marketing is transactions, baby.

Kieth Mason taught me to mix voice and music by filtering out a groove in the music in the frequency range of the voice over, then increasing the volume of both.

Walter Peck taught me how to search the scriptures, how to recognize gold, and how to lead without saying a word.

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