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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Hoser!

When I learned in May that I had the fortune of serving Mike McBride for 2013, I felt a bit anxious, but encouraged, similar to Frodo contemplating the epic journey Gandalf assigned to him in The Fellowship of the Ring. (OK, full disclosure: I’ve never read any of The Lord of the Rings books or seen the movies, but I’m trying to write this for Mike, so I relied on Wikipedia to help me set up this analogy.)

I’ve always loved Mike because he’s so great for Mitzi, but our relationship is not easy to describe. It’s never been negative, but it has been lightly strained in rare times for whatever reason, the biggest of which was probably rooted in Mitzi’s transition from being my best friend to being Mike’s wife and best friend. Even though it was never bad, things have gotten much better over the years.

But this year, I determined to show love for Mike by getting to know him better. My goal was to identify his strengths and seek to adopt them in my life.

Jeff Immelt’s finest

Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO of
General Electric is grateful for Mike McBride

We joke that Mike’s job involves a lot of conferences at beach resorts and “training sessions” on the golf course, with an occasional meeting with doctors in North Carolina. But, we all know that Mike works hard and works smart to excel as one of GE’s best sales representatives.

Last year, while seeking to further my career, I identified a handful of business contacts that I deeply respected from whom I wanted to learn. Through that process, I realized that I was blessed to be the brother-in-law of the top salesman in his division of GE, but I had never taken the time to ask what it was that made him the best. So I asked him late last year, but circumstances that day prevented us from discussing the answer.

This year, we’ve discussed it more in depth, and not only did I learn a lot more about Mike’s work and his successful attributes, but I realized something I needed to adopt within myself. Mike works hard, but he admits that with his priorities to family and God, it was likely there would always be others who worked harder then he chose to. Where he really excels, is in working especially effectively by building relationships and listening to his customers.

Mike is the rare combination of a great leader and salesperson who doesn’t feel the need to dominate the room. By spending more time listening, he earns the respect of others because he learns how to work with them individually. His ability to let others dominate a conversation enables him to lead and sell more effectively.

This year, I’ve tried to do better at listening at work. I’ve realized to embrace those somewhat awkward pauses in conversation as moments for all to reflect on what has been said, whereas my natural tendency is to fill the pauses with the sound of my own voice. By following Mike’s example, I’ve become a better listener, and therefore, a better worker, friend, and husband.

Embrace discomfort

Speaking of embracing difficult situations… Mike does really well at embracing the chaos of being married to a Gates. I doubt it is in Mike’s natural character to surround himself with loud crowds and or raucous gaggles of children playing.

The McBride house is a hub of activity and Mike’s office is located right inside the front door. Somehow, he has developed a way to prohibit this from distracting him. But this characteristic goes beyond ignoring distractions.

Mike loves spending quality time alone or with his kids in the quiet comfort of the home he built for his family to enjoy. But he also knows that because his wife is a natural hostess, activities director, and super-involved mom, the house is likely to be filled with neighbors, church members, Kids Are Music friends, or the extended Gates family. Because he finds joy in seeing her enjoy her friends and family, he frequently sets aside his discomfort to see her shine. I’ve always felt welcome to come visit the McBride house, no matter how much chaos is already there.

This welcoming attitude can result in difficult situations for a man that relishes a clean and well-taken care-of-abode. I learned a lot from Mike on one particular night when Charise, Lani, and I were there with our entire families.

Amidst the fun, one of the visiting parents had forgotten to check the diaper of their child, which was beyond capacity when it exploded leaving a mess of absorbent gel and “other” stuff on the floor. After the parent cleaned up the mess, they explained the situation to Mike and Mitzi with the rest of us watching. As the details emerged, I was befuddled how calmly Mike handled the news. He chose love over frustration by calmly discussing the situation and how it was resolved.

Since that night, I’ve thought of Mike a number of times as I’ve tried not to jump down people’s throats when they break bad news to me.

Support your queen

Kids everywhere!

Mike often shows love for his wife through small acts of service. For instance, when bedtime falls upon the McBride house, Mike takes the lead in directing the children through their nightly routine. This year I’ve tried to do better at making bedtime a quality time for me to spend with my kids.

Mike and Mitzi always welcome the neighborhood kids or cousins into their home. On December 23, Ashley and I decided to serve in their honor by inviting our friends to drop their kids off at our house for a few hours so they could run their Christmas errands. Admittedly, Ashley did most of the work, but it was a way for us to serve others as Mitzi and Mike serve their friends.

Enjoy the Competition

Mike and our Dad have a terrific relationship based on respect mixed with a significant amount of teasing through competitive sports and games. In the past, I haven’t always behaved well when playing alongside Mike and Dad. Their desire to care for me may have caused them to limit their competitive opportunities around me, even though it is a valued part of their relationship. This year, I set a goal of encouraging their competition and changing the way I behave when playing with them.

Dad and Mike especially enjoy playing golf together, where they satisfy their competitive needs with small wagers and not-so-small amounts of trash talk. To be honest, I’ve always struggled with their golfing relationship. I don’t play golf much anymore and due to my weaknesses, I’ve abandoned all forms of wagers. Plus, only two can ride together in a cart and I was jealous of their ability to laugh about themselves no matter how poorly they were playing.

When we went to Lake Gaston in October, I was excited to find out we would all get to go golfing together. I prayed that I would grow by finding happiness in seeing them enjoy each other. I chose to ride in a golf cart with another brother, Michael Hock, so that I could spend quality time with him and also watch Dad and Mike from afar. This new attitude helped me find great joy in watching them laugh and tease one another. It also turned out to be a great bonding opportunity for me and Hock (apparently, his golf swing responds much better to my more aloof attitude to golf). It is the best memories I have of golfing with my Dad and brothers.

Socks vs. blue jeans
During the Thanksgiving weekend, a few of us played basketball at the McBride’s house. It was Mike, Hock, and Mitzi against myself, Ashley, and Lani. As we played, it became clear that my team was much worse at shooting the ball. While losing the first two games, I chose to find joy in just playing alongside my brothers and sisters and didn’t worry very much about the score. Although we were clearly overmatched, we competed well and Lani and Hock wanted to keep playing. I said that was fine, but I was too fat and too stiff to keep guarding Hock, so I switched with Lani, so that I could guard Mike, who was playing quite casually although he was draining long-distance shots with ease.

In the third game, we found success by getting me the ball down low, then throwing it back out to Ashley or Lani who started hitting shots. My height kept Mike from shooting as often from outside, and as the score got more competitive, so did Mike and I. Luckily, just as I started to get frustrated, I caught myself. I smiled and realized Mike was goading me like he would Dad. Shortly thereafter we won the third game.

During our water break, Ashley and Lani separately checked on me to make sure I wasn’t frustrated and about to get too physical. I ensured them I was fine and enjoying myself. As our team won the fourth game, Mike’s teasing and creative rules (à la Ed) got stronger, but for the first time, I saw it as a positive quality that he shared with Dad.

The fifth game ended as it should have, with them draining outside shots to humble us. But, afterwards I realized how much I enjoyed the experience. Mike’s characteristics brought out the best in all of us to have a good, competitive game.

Love your brother

We miss you Ryan.
The way that Mike shows his love for the Gates family amazingly fills a much-needed role in our family. His calm, collected nature and willingness to quietly serve was especially evident on September 9, the most difficult day of our lives. Mike’s actions on the day we learned of our brother Ryan’s death was nothing short of an angelic ministry of God’s love.

I’m constrained not to share the details of all that he did, but his handling of the phone call, telling Dad, and administering a blessing to Mom and Dad all exemplify the way he lives close to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. I’ve talked with him multiple times about those experiences in order to identify ways that I can learn to live to be able to perform the small miracles he did that day.

But the greatest way he touched my heart that day occurred after Dad, Mom, and the sisters were all in the air on their way to hold Tiffany. I picked up the phone and called my brother. Only a short time had passed since we heard the bad news, but we shared a calm and sacred conversation about the future of our family which the Spirit of the Lord had placed in our hearts.

Mike – I’m so glad you were there for me on that day. I’m grateful to have spent this past year focusing on your strengths and trying to adopt them in myself. I’ve always thanked you for being so great to my sister. Today, I want to thank you for being my brother.


  1. Chuck, what a great post! One of my favorite part of these is it gives us a chance to pause and take the time to actually say ow much we love each other and why. This one was so hilarious to sit and watch Mike as with each subheading he became more and more uncomfortable with so much praise and focus on him. Since he is a robot, ill tell you... I know somewhere inside him he loved it and was grateful for the kind words.

  2. This is such a great post Chuck! thank you for helping us all get to know Mike a bit better through your eyes. We all know he is an amazing husband and father--it was fun to read about other aspects of his life. Things we can all try to be better at.

  3. Wow...this was a whole new level of service...by learning from the person you are serving. We do so much service for our Savior in hopes to be like him...I really admire Chuck your learning from Mike in the same way.