This is the scene I have been waking to these past two weeks. It is a view from our family cottage on Torch Lake in Michigan. Every summer as a kid I would awaken to the lapping of waves against this shore and the brightening pink, then orange, then fireball red sunrise peeking above the horizon. Sunrise starts early in northern Michigan. I mean early — as in 5:30 am in the morning.

My childhood and teenage-hood (is that really a word?) were filled with long summer days swimming, sailing, running, and exploring.

It was in this place that I learned a lot about independence.

Because both my parents had to work full time in town, we kids were expected to take care of ourselves, and one another. We got ourselves up in the morning put on our swimsuits after breakfast then began our days of adventure. Sometimes we rode bikes in the woods, we swam a bunch, and many times we sailed for hours on end. As for sailing, we had two requirements wear lifejackets and tell the neighbor lady next door that we would be out on the lake. That was it. No other rules.

I believe it was because our parents needed us to be independent that we became independent. Just as they expected us to go to college, they expected us to become self-reliant and learn that we could do many things ourselves. We learned to fix our bikes, repair our sails, handle our sibling squabbles without intervention, and rely on one another.

My parents passed away last year. As part of their legacy, they left the cottage to my brothers and me. My parents’ high expectations coupled with the opportunity to grow our independence was a gift to us. A tremendous gift. Dan, Jim, and I went to college – all three of us graduated from service academies – and onto military and civilian careers well beyond the horizons of Torch Lake and northern Michigan.

When I awake in the morning and look at the horizon now, I see it a bit differently. This is our cottage now. The independence we learned in this place became the gift that keeps on giving in all our lives. I am grateful.

Speaking of horizons, I’ll be at Horizon Books in my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan this Saturday July 30th from 1-3 pm to tell more of my story and sign a few books in the process!

As always… Fly High,