June 25, 2012 Leave a comment
Four years have now passed since the passing of my best friend, Tom. He meant a lot to many people. As time passes the space between my thoughts about him may increase, but the thoughts and memories are still there, fresh as ever in my mind. I think all of his family and friends have the date engrained in our head of when he passed, and whenever that date nears we all think about him more and find ways to pay homiage to his life. We all had our good times, crazy times, heart felt times, and maybe a few times where he scared the living sh*t out of us and made us think about what the hell he was doing. As time passes I think the stories of those moments we shared with him also turn into reflecting on how Tom helped to shape our lives and to truly see the person that he was and the legacy he left behind.
I’ll share some of my thoughts with you and hope you find them in good taste. The past few years I have been back in school working on a few masters degrees. I largely started school again not long after Tom’s passing because I thought it would be a regret of mine if I did not at least try. I earned an M.S., and now am close to finishing up an M.B.A. It is this M.B.A. where I have studied business and even read a lot about some great minds of our time and entrepreneurs who have shaped our world. Some obvious ones are Steve Jobs with Apple, Bill Gates with Microsoft, Richard Branson with Virgin Group, and Dana White with UFC, and even thinking about Warren Miller and Dana Brown with what their documentaries did for action sports (two of Tom’s favorites). Some of my favorites lately that I have read about are Jeff Bezos with Amazon, Mark Cuban with the Dallas Mavericks and the old Broadcast.com, and Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head Brewery.
Why do I bring them up? Well, recently it hit me how much Tom reminded me of a lot of them. Lately it has been Richard, Mark and Sam. Reading about their stories I started to picture Tom and who he was shaping up to really be as a person. Tom to me was the first true entrepreneur I ever knew and had as a friend. An entrepreneur being a person who is willing to help launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome, or who builds capital through risk and/or initiative.
In college Tom never discussed much about big wheels and off roading, but, he was always latching on to anyone who had a new adventure he could get into, learn, and master it. If he could learn something from you he wanted to be your friend, and in return he was as loyal as a dog (thinking of his dog Stroker here). If you offered something he wanted you around. If you didn’t offer much but you were still cool to hang out with, he wanted you around too. I remember him latching on to skiiers, rock climbers, web developers, theorists, philosphers, media creators, musicians, etc. So it was no surprise to me later after all of his on the job traveling that he got into big wheels and he rebuilt his first Jeep, Chrissy, or when he said he was moving to Colorado to further involve himself in the off roading community. He spoke of many people that were hard to remember, but I recall him getting to meet Robbie Gordon and having him sign a buggy hood he auctioned off for breast cancer research. He called me from all parts of the country telling me what race he was at, such as King of the Hammers and Vegas to Reno.
One thing Tom was great at was bringing together all of the people from so many different circles of interest together. I didn’t skii, I hardly rock climbed, I was learning web and media, and I sure as hell loved the Yuengling Tom brought back from his home state (PA) to the house we shared in college. If you ever watched the show “The League” and remember the episode about My Face, Tom was My Face, an offline social networking community. After awhile in Colorado and having not been able to visit him yet, I still felt like an off roader because of how Tom got me involved with the music and editing of his film, “The East Strikes Back.” We were on the phone a lot during those dates, and he sent me a lot of links to review his video clips. He generated a lot of excitement, and I could only imagine what it was like to actually be there playing with big wheels.
Of course, by the time I finally got out to Colorado it was too late. It was one of my regrets to not get to visit him there, but what I saw when I got there was the same characteristics of people I saw when I knew Tom in college, and the people I met who he worked with before moving to Colorado. Everyone offered something and were willing to share that something with you, not just to Tom.
Deeper into Tom as an entrepreneur, we can see what he did. He started FlexOnThis.com, Flex-Marketing.net, and Ride-Motorsports. He turned a website into a dream and a fix for his entrepreneurial spirit. He wanted to off road, he build that first jeep. He wanted to race, he built that buggy or barrowed a ride from someone else. He wanted to capture the moments and promote, he started taking pictures and making videos. He wanted to share, he started the websites and the online communities with the forums, or he just called you or showed up at your house to talk your ear off. He wanted to turn something he did into helping others; he helped you promote, helped you build, and he helped to donate and promoate awareness for breast cancer awareness, Toys for Tots, and responsible off roading.
If Tom were still here, I think the FlexOnThis community would be huge. I think he would have created a popular off roading lifestyle company, not just vidoes and racing. There would be more tshirt designs, more videos, a bigger racing team, more websites, more people asking for him to do their marketing, etc. These sites were Tom’s creations and he used them to bring people together in his life.
We still keep the sites up. We consider what to do with them and how to pay homage to him. We debate if we could have the tenacity and work ethic Tom possesed to do something in an area he started out knowing nothing about. I went as far as using my WordPress skills to add a blog (http:www.flexonthis.com/blog) that maybe I’ll figure out how to create content for. I also created a YouTube channel to upload a lot of the video footage he captured, including his film, “The East Strikes Back” (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7DDEDD5DEDA227DA). It is no Warren Miller or Dana Brown movie, but it was a great start from a very ambitious and intelligent individual.
I am not much of an off roader, besides the fact that I eventually bought a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon a few years back. But the fact I got one adds to the impact Tom left on me. There is no main purpose of sharing this other than the thought that you can learn from anybody, and you never know who it will be. You may know the person your whole life, only a few years, or only a few short moments. It is not about them teaching you about how to be an entrepreneur, as I don’t even consider myself to be one, but how to be a good person and that you can do the things you set your mind to. It is about not letting opprtunities slide by as you never know when your time is up. If you truly want to do something you will make no excuses and to ‘Just do it’. That was Tom. He did it.