Be Like Walter

In last week’s blog I shared some ideas from two of Charlie Munger’s commencement addresses that he had given in the past. In an address to the undergraduate students at Harvard back in 1986, he spoke on the theme “Prescription for Misery.” He told these students that to be guaranteed a miserable life as an adult, just follow this prescription. The heart of the talk was, if you want to be miserable in life, be unreliable. It is the best way to sabotage your life, your relationships, and your career.

In this address, Munger was seeking to drive home the point that if you want your life to flourish, be reliable. Do what you say you are going to do.

A great example of this was in the news just recently. It took place here, in the suburbs of Birmingham.

Back on July 12th, twenty-year old Walter Carr, a Homewood resident who attends Lawson State and who one day hopes to join the Marines, started to have car trouble. The next day was to be the first day of his new job with Bellhops Movers. He was scheduled to be at work at 8:00 am to help move a family to their new home.

He tried to call some friends to see if he could arrange transportation but to no avail. It was getting close to midnight and it looked as if he would not be able to make it to the job site the next morning.

However, this new job was important to him and he did not want to let down his new employer. He had assured them he would be there at 8:00 a.m. sharp.

He pulled up his Google maps to see how long it would take him if he walked – 7 hours. He started walking at midnight from near the Palisades at Homewood to his job at the far end of Pelham, over 20 miles away. He got on US 280 and walked all night.

Around 4:00 am, local police officers stopped to check on him, wondering why he was walking all alone in the middle of the night. After hearing his story, the officers took him to breakfast and then to a church where he could rest before continuing walking. Carr, fearing he wouldn’t make it to work on time, set out walking again. Another officer heard about Carr’s story, found and drove Carr the last 4 miles to the home of Jenny and Chris Lamey, who were packing up to move to a new home. Jenny Lamey was impressed with Carr and his story and they quickly developed a bond. In an article in the Pelham Reporter, Lamey said:

“I just can’t tell you how touched I was by Walter and his journey,” she said. “He is humble and kind and cheerful, and he had big dreams! He is hardworking and tough. I can’t imagine how many times on that lonely walk down 280 in the middle of the night did he want to turn back. How many times did he wonder if this was the best idea. How many times did he want to find a place to sit or lie down and wait ‘til morning when he could maybe get someone to come pick him up and bring him back home. But he walked until he got here! I am in total awe of this young man!”

The next day she posted about the experience on Facebook. Luke Marklin, CEO of Bellhops Movers, was so blown away by Carr’s efforts he drove his own 2014 Ford Escort from Tennessee to personally give to Walter.

Carr wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of support and media attention and was moved to tears by the gift of the car given to him by Marklin.

Since then, he has been featured on CNN, Fox News, NBC’s Today show, the BBC and more. He’s received multiple job offers and scholarship offers. Before he even had a Twitter account, he was the subject of tweets from Gov. Kay Ivey as well as US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

There has even been a GoFundMe account set up for him by Jenny Lamey. It has always been Carr’s goal to help people. He has decided to use his blessings to be a blessing to others (a long-time motto of the Birmingham City Schools graduate). He pledged, when the account was just over $65,000 that any additional monies received from the GoFundMe account will go to the Birmingham Ed Foundation. (The Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to increasing the number of students in Birmingham City Schools that are on the path to college, career and life-readiness.) The GoFundMe account now stands at over $90,000.

Walter Carr merely sought to be reliable and keep his commitment to his new employer. He is a humble young man who was looking for nothing more than making it to the job site and doing his work. His story has touched the hearts of thousands of people and in the process he has received a windfall. So, if you want to succeed in life – be like Walter.

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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