I consider myself to be relatively thrifty and for years I refused to purchase a good pair of sunglasses. I was always sitting on them, losing them, or forgetting where I left them. A few years ago my wife and I were on vacation talking, and I said, “You know I think I am finally responsible enough to own a really nice pair of sunglasses.” She agreed and the rest is history. I’m not sure if the brand name sunglasses are really any better than the cheap ones, but we are proud owners of very nice sunglasses. As we prepared for a vacation to Maui over Christmas break, I mentioned to Rebecca how I was kind of surprised and proud of the fact that after several years she and I still owned the nice sunglasses we had acquired years earlier. But while on vacation during Christmas break, I was reminded that faith, family and friends come before finances and things.

One day during our vacation we were at the beach enjoying the rolling and crashing waves. Libby my 7-year-old daughter likes to play this game where I hold on to her and when a wave comes I help her jump over the wave. As we looked out with anticipation I saw the next wave rolling in and it was HUGE. I said, “Libby this one is too big. Come on we need to get out of here.” We turned and tried to start making our way back to the shore, but the current was rushing against our legs. We couldn’t move fast enough. I looked back over my shoulder and realized that huge wave was just about to break right on top of us. I told her, “OK we are going to have to brace for it.” I grabbed her and held on. The wave smashed us down and she went under. I was able to hold my footing at first, but then all of a sudden a second wave hit and it knocked me off my feet. I was holding on to Libby as we both when down under the power of the waves. Heads submerged, I was struggling to  hold on to my beautiful daughter as her skin was slippery from all of the suntan lotion. My expensive sunglasses were being torn from my face and in that instant I had a choice to make. Do I let go of Libby with one hand to save my sunglasses or do I hold on with both hands to pull her close. In a situation like that you don’t have time to think you act on instinct. I was holding my breath, water swirling around my head, blinded by the salt and even though she was slippery I thought there is no way I am going to let her go so I tightened my grip and pulled her close. The water finally subsided enough to let me get my footing. I pulled Libby up. I helped her to shore so she could use a towel to dry her face. We made our way up to Rebecca, my wife, who was sitting on the beach and had seen the whole thing. Rebecca was not very happy with me. Libby jokingly and sarcastically said, “Good job Dad,” but shrugged it off like it was no big deal. My heart was racing and I made my way back out into the water to look for my sunglasses.

After the adrenaline resided, and I had time to think and process this experience I had three realizations.

First, I realized that waves are like the problems we face every day. If we turn and face them and move toward, then we can usually get beyond the break point. Moving toward a big wave can be scary and feel unnatural, but if you can get to it and over it before it breaks on top of you, then you will be much better off. When you try to run from waves or problems you might occasionally get away in time, but eventually you will get stuck in the perfect conditions and the problem will knock you off your feet.

Second, as I think back about this experience I asked myself how could I ever even consider losing my sunglasses. What is wrong with me? How could that even be a thought that would pass through my mind? But as I thought about this, I realized we all make this choice all the time. We all have to decide what is most important to us. Do we value money and stuff or relationships. I’d like to believe that given the choice all of us would choose relationships over money, but how often do we hear stories about brothers who fall out of favor with one another over an inheritance? Or marriages that end because of financial hardship?

Third, my greatest joy in life has been learning to be a Dad. As a Christian becoming a Dad has helped me understand what our Heavenly Father must feel toward us. In those moments when life is crashing in on us like a rogue wave, when we make the wrong choice to try to run from a problem instead of moving toward it, when we play games and lose, when life is a struggle and challenge and we are being rolled under the force of adversity, then God in his big loving arms pulls us in close and says this is my child whom I love and I am not letting go for anything.  (Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”)

I was recently asked during a radio interview what my hope for our community is as we enter the new year. My hope is that people understand their purpose. That they know what is most important to them.

Financial advisers have the responsibility of stewardship. We are tasked to oversee, protect and grow assets that reflect a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice. We also have an amazing opportunity to learn from incredible people. I’ve learned from the people we serve that the most important things in peoples lives aren’t things. They are faith, family and friendships. My hope is that your goals for the new year reflect your priorities and that this be a year of increase for you in those areas that truly matter the most.

 As Featured in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal February 2015 issue.