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Cancer Was No Place For Self-Pity For Ruel

Positivity – Displaying a positive or “can-do” attitude in all circumstances.

At dinner, not long ago, I met a guy named Valentin. He is from Puerto Rico. My dad, The General, and I met him at our hotel restaurant. Valentin was our server and he had an infectious way about him. Every table he approached, he brought life and joy to that group. He reminded me of my friend Ruel Bobet, who passed away, yet Ruel’s example remains with me constantly.

Ruel worked with me as a peer when we worked in sales. Years later, he worked for me after I earned a promotion. Ruel, like Valentin was also from Puerto Rico. He too had an infectious way of influencing people. Ruel mentored younger sales team members and also coached high school lacrosse in the Houston area. He had a beautiful family about whom he bragged about constantly.

During the last three years in my corporate career, Ruel worked for me. In that time, he became my constant confidant, my devil’s advocate and my encourager. Yet, it is important to share the fact that during those years, Ruel was also battling cancer. This battle eventually led him home to heaven.

I have written in previous posts about my time “in the pit of self-pity.” That time overlapped with my time as Ruel’s manager. During that season, I was unhappy with my company and many of the decisions they made. I let that disappointment affect me to the point Ruel became the team’s anchor. He kept everyone positive. He also did not let me stay in my pit.

Even as he battled his cancer, he listened and encouraged me. I am sure I sounded like a whiny school boy to him, considering what he was going through. Yet, Ruel did not chastise me. He spoke truth and reminded me of the leader I needed to be for our particular team. He also modeled those behaviors for me. Often, he would go to chemotherapy and return to work the same day—even on days he felt physically ill. Ruel was a uniquely strong man with a indomitable spirit. I mention it because, looking back, his character is such a powerful reminder to me.

Some days, Ruel would call me and ask how I was doing. Towards the end of the conversation, I’d sometimes remember to ask him how he felt that day. On days I did remember, he’d say, “I’m a little tired. Treatment took a lot out of me yesterday.” Then, he’d talk about his son’s lacrosse game or his wife’s work. He never brought the focus onto himself.

I am grateful for the people in my life who remind me how our circumstances don’t choose our attitudes, we do. Circumstances are out of our control. Ruel’s certainly were. I find his example of how he chose his attitude to be incredibly meaningful to me.

As leaders in the workplace or on the home-front, our attitudes are a choice. The choices we make in the midst of even the most trying circumstances influence everyone around us. In the middle of those circumstances, we still have a choice.

Ruel’s choices made him a Leader of Character. To this day, his memory inspires me to remember to do the same.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • What do Ruel’s choices teach you about Positivity?

  • What choices can we make this week to exercise Positivity?

  • How does choosing to exercise Positivity influence others?


Exercising Positivity takes work and is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Positivity daily, which is why we have created FREE tools and resources to guide your journey.

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