February 17 has turned out to be a significant day in my life. It doesn’t rate as high as the birth of Jesus my birthday or the birth of my children, but through the years much happened on this particular cold and dreary day that has helped shape my life. Below are some of the significant events and the lessons from this day I’ve learned.


February 17, 1898 – my maternal grandmother, Pearl Roan, was born in Eva, Alabama. She passed away of cancer when I was 12 and from her I inherited my black hair (now salt & pepper) a desire to open presents early only to expect another on the actual present-giving day and the desire to pinch pieces of chocolate to see what’s inside before eating one.

February 17, 1980 – one of my best friends during our senior year in high school, Michael Franks, died in a tragic accident when his truck hit a tree on his way home. We had been hanging out at a friend’s house and unlike most of us, he had not had a single beer, as was our routine on a small town Saturday night. However, it was me who ran my car onto a curve and blew a tire because of my inability to drive and stupidity in getting behind the wheel.

February 17, 2009 – the firm I had been working at for the previous three years was shut down by financial regulators after it was discovered that certain key executives had mismanaged funds, ultimately altering the courses of hundreds of investors and employees who what relied on their word and good faith.

February 17, 2009 – on the same day our firm was closed I began what was a five-week affair with a woman who worked in my legislative office when I was in the third year as a Tennessee State Senator. A few weeks later she and her boyfriend attempted to exhort money from me. I participated in a sting with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that ultimately led to him pleading guilty to a felony. I resigned my seat months later when the news became public.

What I learned:

  • Take the positive and negative attributes you inherit from your family and use them to your advantage. I inherited my lack of patience from my grandmother. And like my mom, she would do anything to make us happy and as I mature I want those around me to know I’ll do the same for them. I still pinch pieces of chocolate before eating them.
  • Life is precious. My grandmother was battling cancer and her death in May of 1975 was expected. Knowing she had lived a long life I was sad to see her die but wanted her suffering to end. But Michael’s death was different. It was the first time someone my age and I knew so well died. We were 17; we weren’t supposed to die. After all, we were invincible and like every teenager I’ve ever know, they think they’re going to live forever. Live today as if it were your last.
  • It’s good to trust in people but always double-check any guarantee they make you. The executives we worked for had told us numerous times everything was okay and the money was always there. We asked the right questions but got the wrong information. Keep pressing. Ask and then ask again. If it doesn’t feel right then walk away.
  • When it seems your world is falling apart don’t look for comfort in people or places that don’t have your best interest at heart. Many times we make our worst decisions when we’re seeking short-term comfort for problems that deserve our complete focus and effort. When trouble comes surround yourself with loved ones and your best friends. A loyal dog will work just as well.