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My last full day of work was March 17, 2017. It was my last day as a working shop owner and technician. I guess that makes me a “former” shop owner and technician now!

However, we all know that there is no such thing as being a “former” shop owner. The experience is transformational. Its impact on body, mind and spirit is profound and irreversible. It’s not something you could easily change, even if you wanted to.

There is another element to both realities that is similar enough to share and that is the concept of “first person plural.”

I know, I know: The grammatical construct of “first person singular” and “first person plural” are categories of verbs and pronouns used by every one of us when we refer to ourselves singularly and/or in conjunction with others.

But what if they are an allegory for life and living? What if that “Retirement: Straight Ahead” highway sign I can see so clearly when I close my eyes—the one with an arrow pointing one way and “first person singular” under it on one side and another arrow pointing the other way with “first person plural” written just as clearly under it—is warning me that there is a fork in the road just ahead. And, what if that fork is a significant element of the quest I began more than 35 years ago when I put you and the industry first?

I began to wonder about the road less traveled and whether that road was the right road for me.

“First person singular” is all about “I.” All about “me.” It tells a story that revolves around me and what I’m doing. It doesn’t have to be selfish but in too many instances, it is. If it’s all about “me” there isn’t very much room left for anyone else. If it’s all about me there is no reason for understanding, empathy or compromise.

“First person plural” is different. Undeniably, it is about “me.” But, it’s about “me” in concert with you. It’s about “us.” It’s about “we.”

That’s when it hit me. That’s when I could see the last 52 years and just about every decision I’ve ever made through the almost blinding filter of “we/us,” not “I/me.”

That may not mean a lot to you, but it means everything to me. You see, I see the world divided into two opposing forces. It’s a part of the genetic memory I inherited from my father. Issues were always crystal clear for him. Choices were right or wrong. People were good or bad. Issues were black or white.  

I’m a “we/us” person. I always have been. So, considering a retirement that is “first person singular”—a retirement that is all about me—is not only foreign to me, it’s also impossible

That brings me right back to this idea of “first person plural”—a retirement that is focused on the goal I set for myself when I discovered there was an incredibly rich and beautiful industry out the driveway and around the corner. An industry I was determined to leave somehow better than the one I entered.

I think I may have had an impact, however small. But, there is still a lot that needs fixing.

Once upon a time, in a piece written by a much younger version of me, I asked what I thought was a pretty simple question, and that was: “If the automotive aftermarket was a vehicle you were riding in and it had as many things wrong with it as our industry does, wouldn’t you pull over to the side of the road, get out, open the hood to see what was wrong with it? Wouldn’t you try to make it better somehow?”

Well, the truth is, you can’t do it alone any more than I can. Trying to do it alone is all about “first person singular.”

But, you and I—we—just might be able to figure things out if we work together. If we decided that “we/us” is a much more powerful alternative than “I/me” ever was or will be.

So, I steered in the direction of the “first person plural” sign and made the commitment to hang out in the industry just a little longer and work a little harder to help create that better industry that we deserve.

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