I said good-bye to my father for the last time a couple months ago. His death wasn’t a surprise; his health had been increasingly poor for many years, and despite his doctors’ best efforts, his body just wore out.

Dad was a straight-commission salesman for nearly all of his adult life. In fact, he continued to sell well into his late 70s, when his health got in the way. He sold chemicals for industrial processes and maintenance. When a refinery needed to clean up after an explosion or a steel mill needed to degrease a rolling mill, he got the call. In his later years, most of his competitors were chemical engineering grads, but his customers placed more trust in his practical knowledge, despite the fact that he barely made it through high school. He was an extraordinary salesman, and that’s not just a proud son singing his praises — he received a constant stream of job offers right up until his retirement. (In fact, a salesman from a competitor once told Dad that his boss had instructed him to check the obituaries every morning, and if Dad’s name appeared, he was to target every one of his accounts. That’s praise, disturbing as it may be.)

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