Every week I write a column called BE YOU for one of the local papers (The Times of Acadiana) – Each week someone different answers the questionnaire – the paper often has to edit them,  so here are all the answers, unedited (the whole truth) :

John Williams

John (along with his wife, Becky) are the owners of Pack & Paddle, a company started by his parents in 1974. It’s grown a bit since then and it’s flourishing (I think John has a lot to do with that). Go and talk to him, he has this wonderful quiet way of explaining things (even to a complete novice like me). He is just one of those guys who you find yourself learning from, a natural teacher and you find yourself smiling. Tell him I sent you.

What was your first job?

I grew up in Pack & Paddle – so my brothers, sisters and I all worked from a young age.  Cutting grass, loading canoes, building racks, gift wrapping, helping customers – stuff like that.  My parents called it our scholarship fund.  We all worked our way through USL at the store. I’m the only sibling that stayed with the business.  I have a brother and sister that teach at UL, another sister that is the head of the boarding school at Sacred Heart and a brother that is a geologist in Atlanta.

Describe a typical day in your life.
My life has no typical day.  Every day has it’s own set of challenges.  It’s more fun to build a treehouse than to live in a treehouse – so we just keep building the treehouse in new and different ways every day.  That’s what makes it fun.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Slow down.  Have confidence in yourself and your abilities.  Know that in the end things are going to turn out differently than you thought – and probably much better than you could have imagined.

What values do you live by?
This is kind of hard to explain, but in any relationship – family or business – you have to “trust the heart of the other person towards you”.  This means that you have to feel that the other person in the relationship really does have your best interest at heart.  When you feel this way, your reactions to things that inevitably crop is completely different.  This gives them room to grow, create and bloom into who and what they are.

What do you most appreciate?
The way that my wife Becky has been my constant partner in the 29 year adventure we’ve had together.  In so many ways we’ve grown up together and discovered our world together.

Where is your favorite place to be alone?
My favorite place to be alone is the coastal marsh sitting in my fishing kayak watching the sunrise and hunting for redfish.  It’s absorbing, challenging and peaceful beyond measure.

What living figure most inspires you?
My parents taught me everything I needed to know about being in business and living well.  It was all learned through the shared struggle of developing family business that was about more than just selling stuff.  They wanted to change the world with Pack & Paddle.  In a lot of ways, I think they have.

What was the best advice you were ever given?
The first night we were on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, we met someone that had hiked the entire trail.  He told me to “Think like a 2,000 miler”.  This means that you should shape every decision with your focus on hiking all the way to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.  Steven Covey would call that “Begin with the end in mind” in his 7 Habits books.  This keeps me focused and gives a solid framework to make decisions from.
Another nugget of advice from the Appalachian Trail was “If the end seems too far, live in the moment.  If the moment is to tough, focus on the end”.

What is the best thing about where you live?
I’ve got a kayak fishing habit that borders on obsession.  So to me, it’s our proximity to some of the best kayak fishing in the country.  I tell people if you want to ski incredible powder snow, go to Colorado.  If you want to catch Redfish out of a kayak, come to south Louisiana.

How do you “let the good times roll” ?
We sit on our back porch late in the day feeling the breeze and watching the birds, butterflies and lizards that our yard is attracting.

What is your motto?
I don’t have a motto.
I think mottos are too confining.
Maybe that’s my motto?

How would you like to be remembered?
I don’t really think about living my life in order to be remembered.  This is the only life I have and I am working at living in a way that pleases me and respects the people in my life.  I believe strongly in people finding their own way in life rather than dwelling on how I lived mine.

What do you say to yourself when you doubt yourself?
Put your head down and go.  Try to get something – anything done.  Do any little thing that can provide some forward momentum no matter how small.  Then hopefully success builds on this slight momentum and eventually the headwinds shift to tailwinds.  They always do!

What three things are vital to BEing YOU?

What do you collect?
I am not a collector.  I do have a collection of vintage Hacky Sacks from the early 80’s that’s pretty cool though.

What food could you live on for a month?
Eggs and Grits.

What would you change about yourself?
I think that I’m too introverted in social situations.  I wish I could change that – but I’ve just always been that way.  Becky says she wishes I could learn to dance.  I’m convinced that’s hopeless.

What literary, movie or cartoon character do you most identify with?
Jerry Mcguire.  I love his inspiration to change followed by his fear of what change means followed by learning to lay it all on the line leading to his eventual metamorphasis into a different person.

What is your idea of happiness?
Creating a new direction, then assembling a team and seeing the direction come to fruition through hard work and team effort.

What is your favorite movie?
I’m not a huge movie buff – but I enjoyed Jerry McGuire, Remember the Titans and Gladiator.

What do you most regret?
I would love to be able to play a musical instrument.  I’ve tried, but I seem to be a talent-free zone when it comes to playing music.