When I was in junior high school, my principal, Mr. Graham, made a big push for all of us students to identify and develop our own set of values. Of course he gave some great examples to follow. The assignment stuck with me, and years later after getting married and starting a family, I made it a point to write down and remember some of the values that would become a guiding light for me through some tough challenges.

They’re still the ones that hold true for me to this day, and I can’t stress enough how important it is for each of us to find what we value in life and do everything we can to remember and stick to those ideals. My values have shaped me into the person I am today, and I think it’s also important to constantly share your values with others.

One of the most important parts of this process is to become conscious of where you place value in your own life. For me, it begins with valuing myself first and foremost. Take time to take care of YOU, make yourself happy, and make yourself strong so you can be there for others. Also, value competition, because when it’s fair, you can usually win by working harder than everyone else. Value the perspective of those around you, and always try to walk in someone else’s shoes before making judgments that will affect others. And most of all, value true love. It’s hard to find, and when you think you love someone, tell them sooner than later. “Too late” is a hard and bad thing to accept.

Always know that you have a choice in everything you do. “Choice” is the biggest and best word in the English language, and choose to be accountable for your actions and act often on things you care about to help people other than yourself. Hurry up every chance you get. Laugh and be funny, especially at your own expense. Also, avoid people who complain and are never happy, no matter what! And remember to be selective in all areas of your life – friends, jobs, and people you work or play with.

Life is a helluva-long experiment if you are lucky. Some parts won’t work, and some parts will, but it’s the solutions you find and implement that will make all the difference. Mr. Graham knew what he was talking about, and these values have encouraged me through both good times and bad. They’re also some of the same ones that shaped Clayco into what it is today, and I still think it’s one of the most important first steps to building a life and career you are proud of.