I was born and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am a middle-child. I refuse to believe I have any sort of complex about it. I have a younger sister named Shadie and an older brother named Joseph. My brother Joe and I are 15 months apart. Which means my parents were incredibly busy doing damage control. Growing up, my brother and I did some ridiculous things. We painted the neighbor’s pig blue. We motor-oiled a stray cat. Don’t worry both were thoroughly cleaned by the adults. Once we even spray-painted the back of our own house. Our mom couldn’t be too upset because we graffitied the words “I Love Mom” in giant letters. We almost burned down the house on many different occasions. We were typical crazy boys, we had broken bones, got into loads of fights, caused insurmountable damage and somewhere in all of it we were shaping our lives and becoming the men we are today.
I always followed Joe’s lead. My parents famously tell people the differences between mine and my brother’s personalities as we grew up. We often went on fishing and camping trips and they would say, “We always had one eye on Joe for fear he would run out and jump into the lake (again). James on the other hand, well… we just sat him down and placed a circle of rocks around him and he would simply play with rocks and never leave the circle.” So, I was clearly the town buffoon until I started following my brother’s influence.
I’m not saying Joe was a bad kid, he was just extremely curious about things and electronics interested him the most. I must have been 5 years old as I watched him take apart a VCR to…umm… fix it. Which of course always begged the question, “Why fix something that isn’t broken?” But to my older brother, everything needed to be fixed. He took apart that VCR, cleaned the heads, put it back together and ended up with a handful of extra parts from the original dismemberment. It never worked the same again. That’s just the way things were back then, Joe would fix something that was previously unbroken and end up with extra parts. Nothing was out of reach of Joe’s repair shop. He dismantled televisions, radios, bicycles, computers, Nintendos, fans, telephones, toasters and the thing that hit home for me was the repair of my toys. He’d tear them all apart and put them back together and we’d cry and mourn the loss of them. The fact that he did all this at 6-10 years old was pretty darn impressive. Here I was playing with two rocks, sitting within a circle of rocks and my brother is rewiring televisions.
I don’t remember the first time Joe truly and finally fixed something but I do know he hasn’t slowed down since. Now within our family and friends, he is the guy you call when something is broken and really needs to be repaired. He can fix most things from computers to electrical wiring to smart-phones. I’d like to think all the practice growing up really gave him the edge. The creative allowance by our parents certainly contributed. I do know that he always had an aptitude for it. Joe enjoys fixing electrical and mechanical things and he’s damn good at it.
We all have our strong points, our talents, our influences and our passions. Surround yourself with people that allow your talents to grow. If you’re a parent, don’t be too upset if you walk in the room to find your TV in shambles and your son or daughter with a screw-driver and a clever grin. I learned from my parents to be patient. I learned from my brother that every failure, every broken item is one step closer to success. I also learned that bones don’t bend that way, that paint and oil don’t wash off easily and that manufacturers put unneeded parts into electronics.