I Know Him & I Love Him! – 11 Life Lessons from John Schottler

Once again, I’m breaking up the “deep questions” posts with profiles of people that I know & love! Reminder: my intent in doing these profiles is to inspire myself and others by celebrating beautiful human beings and what makes them so fabulous.

Missed my first profile on my Mom? Check it out here.

Now on to the second profile: My wonderful dad, John Schottler! He’s a man of few words (lesson #6) so if you really want to learn from him you have to dedicate time to observing his actions. I’m excited to summarize 30 years of observation with you!

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Lesson 1: LOVE CHILDREN! Let’s just say I thought my parents had a lot of kids (11 biological, 13 total) because…well…they’re Catholic and loved each other a lot. A LOT, A LOT. LOL. Yeah. I just wrote that. It wasn’t until recently that I realized it’s also because my Dad straight up loves children.

I think this is me? LOL.
Loving on who I think is me? LOL.
Great Grandpa & Game
Loving on his great grand baby, Gabe.

Pictures of him loving on babies are a more common theme in photos than him loving on farming. This was solidified for me even further when I recently asked him, “What do you hope yet for my life?” Of all the things he could respond with–

 Dad: I don’t want you to take it too seriously…but I’m hoping that maybe you and Nate will have a little family.

Me: So your only hope is that I have babies?

Dad (thoughtfully, slowly, carefully): If that’s what you & Nate want.

Me: I think I want to have kids, Dad. But I’ve always felt it’s in my heart to adopt children.

Dad: That’s good too!

How much this guy must LOVE children and what they bring into his life if this is the ONE thing he wishes yet for me. 🙂

img_0455Lesson 2: HAVE UNPARALLELED WORK ETHIC & DRIVE. My dad inherited nothing from his parents. His own father even tried to persuade him against buying the first farm. They moved to Somerset, WI on February 24, 1967 with a windchill of -40 and never looked back. They were just 27 and 29 with 6 kids in tow but ready to take on the world! And they did just that building up a multi-million-dollar operation from nothing.

My first memory? My dad waking me up before dawn, bundling me up tight, and throwing me on his shoulders to go outside and feed calves with him. He’d give me a quarter for every row of calf buckets I filled up with water. He taught the work ethic young and still hasn’t stopped.

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Every Fall he’d be up all hours of the night ensuring the corn dryer was running non-stop. Time to cut hay? He’d stay up late getting the guys food to keep them motivated to get it done before the rain hit. Time to cover trenches? Ok. Let’s go throw plastic and tires around. Making silage? He’d be the one in the precarious position on the loader leveling trenches (can you see it in the picture?). He didn’t have to be the one in the most important job or on the biggest & best piece of machinery. He simply kept quiet letting his actions, drive and direction do the talking.

Lesson 3: TRUE LEADERSHIP MEANS GETTING YOUR OWN UNIFORM DIRTY FROM TIME TO TIME. He showed me first hand that leadership didn’t have to be

Having fun in Sunday clothes!
Having fun in Sunday clothes working with an old tractor!

loud, flashy or authoritative. Leadership also didn’t mean just sitting quietly in their shop office thinking when everyone else was out working. Actually, leadership involved getting your own uniform dirty alongside your employees most days. There wasn’t a single job assigned to someone that my Dad wasn’t willing to do himself.

 

Lesson 4: FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE; DON’T WASTE BREATH COMPLAINING. I’ve spent 30 years (ok, maybe 26 or 27 I can actually

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Chaos of Christmas with so many kids! Zero complaints from this young Dad.

remember) observing my dad. I only recently realized I cannot recall a single memory where I heard my Dad complain. Seriously. NEVER. I’m not sure how I missed this knowing one of his favorite reminders for his children was to “Just keep watering the grass; don’t worry about the weeds.” He’s endured significant health issues, business challenges, watched $500,000 worth of barns & machinery burn in seconds more than once, the death of a child and raised 12 more. He just kept watering the grass not wasting a single breath worrying about the weeds. Now this is a lesson we can all learn from, myself especially.

Lesson 5: MAKING DECISIONS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE HARD. I recently asked him “What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?”

I really can’t think of one that felt hard.

WHAT?! This response blew me away. He’s made HUNDREDS of decisions that I would’ve agonized over—

  • Decisions on putting millions in equity on the line to buy new equipment, more land or even a whole new dairy farm

    School board member perk? Getting to hand diplomas out to your own kids!
    School board member perk? Getting to hand diplomas out to your own kids!
  • Decisions when he was on the local school board for 9 years
  • Decisions to fire, hire and direct 30+ employees
  • Decisions with his health as he faced cancer multiple times

The list could go on and on. But not a single one really fazed him?! How could this BE?! Decisions don’t stress him out because he is 100% clear on his values and what matters to him: good kids, good health, good wife, good life. This is his consistent response to “What are you thankful for?” each family gathering. All the rest of stuff in life? Possessions, money, power, prestige, fame. Nope. It makes decisions pretty simple when you know & commit to living your values.

 Lesson 6: BE THE TYPE OF PERSON SO THAT WHEN YOU TALK OTHERS WANT TO LISTEN. My Dad can silence a room just by opening his mouth. Want to know how? Because he really doesn’t talk that much to begin with. So when he does decide something is important enough to speak up on everybody wants to listen. He never finished college, but is genuinely one of the smartest people I know. He’s an avid reader, thinker, doer and leader. His vocabulary is much more extensive than most as he regularly uses words like preposterous and facetious in every day conversation. Recently he had to remind me what the word nepotism was when it came up in conversation. It’s fair to say many of us hang on his every word.

Theresa listening to Dad's 500 bidding advice!
My sister Theresa ready to listen for Dad’s 500 bidding advice!

One time where this really came to life though? When I was in my sophomore year of high school already stressing about how I was going to pay for college (read this post to understand why). So I BEGGED my Dad to let me sell my 3 acres now to help me pay for college. You see my parents will give 3 acres of land whenever one of their children is ready to settle down permanently and build a house back at the farm. It’s kind of a genius plan to keep the family so close-knit. 8 of my siblings live within 5 miles of each other. Crazy, right?

Anyways…back to the story. I was helping him feed the ponies as I blubbered on and on about my future financial worries. He just quietly listened patiently waiting for me to calm down. When I finally did he gently said—           

Shannon, when the land is gone it’s gone; its true value lost. You’ll find another way to pay for college.

He taught me the value in my new favorite quote: “Dollars are a lot like seeds—eat them or sow them.” I am genuinely so grateful my parents have required each of us to learn self-sufficiency and take a lot of pride in knowing I paved my own path just as my dad did.

 Lesson 7: BE OK BEING 100% YOURSELF. I never really thought about

Me petting a baby pony.
Me petting one of our baby ponies.

this until recently…but my dad has some pretty unusual hobbies for a “manly man.” He loves flowers, ponies and singing. Yep. That’s my dad! And he makes no apologies for it. He is 100% ok being himself. He doesn’t hunt or fish. I’ve never seen him play sports (granted he was 49 when I was born). And the only sports I’ve ever seen him watch are Packer & Badger football games or when his own children/grandchildren were playing in the event. He’s enjoys his unusual hobbies proudly. Take it or leave it. He certainly won’t stress either way.

My Dad's favorite hobby-- The Milk Buds. His 8-pony hitch he modeled after the Budweiser Clydesdales...but he wanted to promote MILK!
My Dad’s favorite hobby– The Milk Buds. His 8-pony hitch (right) he modeled after the Budweiser Clydesdales (left)…but he wanted to promote MILK!

Lesson 8: DO WHAT YOU LOVE; IT MAKES EVERYTHING ELSE EASIER.

Young Dad Farming.
Young Dad Farming.

My Dad took a few quarters of college at St. John’s University. He says he saw the tractors out in the farm fields and just knew that’s where he wanted to be. He walked away and never looked back. You know…because making decisions isn’t hard when you know your values. And complaining doesn’t have to be a part of your life when you’re living those values daily doing what you love.

Lesson 9: HELP OTHERS EVEN WHEN THERE IS NOTHING TO BE GAINED. There’s many examples of this, but I’ll share just one. A few years ago one of my Dad’s employees was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. It would have been so easy to just say I’m sorry and goodbye to this employee that had only worked for my parents for a few short years. My parents own a farm—not a conducive work environment for someone who is paralyzed.  But that didn’t stop my dad from creating solutions & purpose for this man. My dad invested thousands of dollars in the right equipment to modify tractors so the young man could still work. They even had to increase their level of insurance to keep him on staff. There was literally nothing in this for my dad except just doing the right thing in helping someone else still live a fulfilling life.

Lesson 10: HAVE INTEGRITY. My mom has a favorite story demonstrating how important integrity is to my dad. Tom Stephens was a cattle dealer that provided my parents with $125,000 of credit in heifers when my dad first went out on his own operation. He didn’t know my dad from Adam; he simply believed in his potential (what a smart man!). This was a huge risk for Tom since my dad had nothing to offer as collateral.

Around the time of this story...
Around the time of this story…

When the spring came around my parents were negotiating with Farm Credit Agency to get money for fertilizer, seed and so forth for their first planting. Farm Credit tried to get my parents to sign a release of all security interest regarding Mr. Stephens saying they would pay Tom just $60,000 for what they owed in cattle.

My dad quickly responded “That’s an insult to my intelligence and my integrity” and walked out refusing to turn his back on the man that helped him so greatly. They found other ways to put the crop in that Spring and kept a wonderful relationship with Mr. Stephens for decades to follow. 

Lesson 11: HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR (even if it’s funny only to you). My dad is one for exactness and finds a great deal of humor in it. You’re permitted to say “urined off” but not “pissed off” in front of him; it’s a more precise description. And if you say “I made a ton of meals yesterday for a friend” he’ll respond with a sly smile: “Shannon. A ton? That’s a lot of food. Are you sure it was a TON?!”

But where he’s NOT big on exactness is in the pronunciation of words. As an example, he thinks it’s soooo funny to say YOZE-MITE. Not yo-sem-it-ee. It’s actually how my sister ended up meeting her now husband for the first time. She mispronounced Yosemite in front of a full lecture hall of students in at UW-Madison.  Theresa—“So YOZE-MITE National park…” Her now husband Ryan challenged back—“Um. I think you mean Yo-sem-it-ee?” It was love when he saw she could laugh at herself.

For these reasons and so many more…this is why just to know my dad is to LOVE my dad! Love you, Daddy!

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you know my dad? Share a comment with something he taught you, what you love about him or a memory you have! Don’t know him? Tell me about a different person you KNOW & LOVE that has inspired you in some way.

2 thoughts on “I Know Him & I Love Him! – 11 Life Lessons from John Schottler”

  1. Great article. I remember your dad and your family growing up in Somerset. I remember your dad as a gentle giant. I was always amazed how he had his huge farm, huge family, and able to serve community being on school board. Wonderful dad and leader.

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