I write a lot about my dad, Chubby. His guidance, inspiration, encouragement, and life lessons propelled me to a better life. Chubby earned the right to be remembered.
But this article isn’t about Chubby. There is another person who had a profound, positive impact on my life. He didn’t do social media. Heck, he didn’t even have an email address.
He built a financial empire that enabled him to afford anything, but he was driven by making friends, not buying things. So he drove Ford trucks and owned the same conservative home for 30+ years.
At breakfast he’d steal pancakes right off your plate, but then insist on paying your tab. At restaurants he’d walk around introducing himself to patrons. His magnetic personality made them comfortable talking with a stranger. He quickly became their friend.
We rode together on motorcycles throughout North America. When we stopped for gas, he would wave me over to one of the pumps like he was my personal pit crew. He insisted on pumping it, paying for it, then patting me on the back like I had done something for him.
His iconic TV commercials made him a celebrity in Arizona, but he didn’t let it go to his head. He once told me that what made him feel important was making others feel important. And he meant it.
When I took the Arizona Bar Exam I submitted his name as one of my recommendations. They sent him a multi-page form with an array of questions about my character and trustworthiness.
They expected him to write a paragraph or two in answer to each question. Rather than answering the questions, he wrote the following in marker pen across the front page of the form: “I’d trust Greg with my wallet and my wife.” He signed it and sent it back with nothing more. A member of the admittance staff later told me it was the “coolest recommendation they had ever received.”
Charles Darwin said, “A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.”
He lived Darwin’s advice, building wealth by investing in friendships. If you asked about his “net worth,” he would say it’s the number of friends in his net.
He was a man of simplicity. He was a man of generosity. But most of all, he was a man of friendship. One day we talked about life and legacy. As usual, his words were short and sage: “How much can I do for how many?”
A few years ago I was interviewed for a newspaper article about his success. My takeaway was easy. He built an automotive empire by being caring, genuine, and honest… and being a great friend to as many people as he could.
Tex Earnhardt passed away last year. His birthday was last week, which inspired me to write this article. Like my dad, Chubby, I don’t want Tex to be forgotten. He was the best-hearted person I have ever had the pleasure to know.
Helen Keller once said: “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Every step Tex and I took together was a ray of light to me.
Tex, you left a legacy in my heart, and the hearts of many. The world was and still is a better place because of you.
The big lesson you taught me is that wealth may be defined by money, but worth is defined by friendships.
Borrowing your signature “line” from Earnhardt Automotive TV commercials:
“That ain’t no bull.”