By Bill Mullet
Today we’re sharing the recent journey of Bill Mullet, CEO of ProVia. The past several months have brought him unexpected challenges but also surprising rewards. Here he shares his insights that illuminate a path forward, and may bring inspiration to others as well.
An Abrupt Detour
Over the past several months I’ve experienced a journey I never expected. In December 2012, after months of feeling extremely tired and not myself, I literally passed out. My doctor ordered blood tests, which showed a very low blood count. Further tests revealed a growth in my colon that was causing blood loss, and this was confirmed as cancer. In January I had surgery to remove the growth, and the doctors tell me they were successful in removing 100% of the cancer. I’m grateful I did pass out, because it was a relief to know there was actually something physically wrong. But I also learned that when you go to a hospital to get treatment, and you think you’re rebounding, that’s not always the case. Soon after my initial procedure, I learned I had to have surgery again.
The second surgery was to fix a kink in my intestines. This one really brought me down physically; it was much harder to keep my spirits up. But after this double blow, today I feel really good about being home, eating well, and finally healing. Along the way I learned some valuable lessons that have helped shape the course of my life going forward.
Lesson 1: Gratitude for the ProVia Team
Though I received startling news, and had to come to grips with new realities very quickly, there was one thing that has given me great comfort throughout this journey. The leadership team at ProVia was already solidly in place and eminently qualified to carry things forward in my stead. Just knowing that the right people were in the right place, doing the right thing, is such a comfort. Though of course it’s always a good business practice to have a well-functioning team in place, I could not have imagined how important this became. The company has performed without me and without a hiccup – as it should be.
Lesson 2: The Light is Brighter After Darkness
During the last few weeks I’ve reflected on the story of Job from the Bible. I’m no comparison to what he went through, but I did experience a sense of darkness that hung over me. I saw bright spots – people who were sent by God to be a light and an encouragement. As an example, one of my nurses was a very caring individual. He would poke his head in at night and ask, “Mr. Mullet, are you OK?” There were bright spots in the midst of the darkness.
I just wanted to be myself, to have the strength to get up and meet each day. For a while, the darkness felt like defeat; I felt powerless. It played a mind game with me. Yet I think you almost have to go through that “darkness” to get to a point of being truly ready to serve again. On the other side of darkness, you can appreciate more fully the light that draws you forward.
Lesson 3: The Power of the Positive
One of the unexpected challenges was how hard it was to stay positive. A friend gave me a book that puts positive thoughts in your mind. For the healing process, and to create a productive, healthy path forward, it’s essential to focus on positive thoughts. It would’ve been very easy for me to dwell on the negative – in fact I did for a while. In the midst of regaining my health, the problem at the moment became such a negative experience that I forgot about the huge positive – that the doctor said they got all of the cancer, and I wouldn’t need any further treatment. That was VERY positive. That was huge. But my issues at the moment blinded me to my blessings. Learning to put focus on blessings can be difficult during times of pain and confusion. I’m thankful I was surrounded by loving people who helped me find the strength to remain positive.
Lesson 4: Retirement Not So Tasty
Now that I’m in my 60’s, one of my dreams had been to have a life that’s a bit easier, where I’d have more leisure time. But this experience revealed that I’m not ready for that. I told my wife Ellen that now I want to recommit myself to a life of service. I want more than ever to further serve people. It may be small business owners who need a little encouragement and guidance. Or perhaps it’s a ministry with teaching – I have the opportunity to teach in a couple places.
The lesson that struck me is about the idea of doing less. Now I know I don’t want to go there. I’m more certain than ever that I want to channel my energies into helping people and serving mankind. When I had a taste of retirement – even though this particular downtime was due to health issues – I didn’t like what I tasted. I have less desire for a life of leisure. We all need life with a purpose.
Lesson 5: Embrace My New Future
The future for me is taking a step away and letting Brian Miller (ProVia’s President) build his team around him a bit more. I still want to be a part of it, but taking one further step away. I will still be in meetings, and have an influence, but not a dominating influence.
This fall, I’ll be stepping down from my role as Senior Pastor at my church. I’ve been in the leadership of that church for 15 years. Of course I’ll still be willing to help share when asked, but this will free me up to go to different places where I’m invited to speak. I’m really excited about that!
I’ve been asked to speak at a small college on the topic of “Christians in Business” – how Christians run businesses differently than non-Christians. It really comes down to how we treat our employees, our vendors, and our customers. Honesty, integrity and all those things.
As I stand at the threshold of this next phase of my life, I thank my family, friends and the ProVia team for surrounding me with love, talent and passion for our endeavors. For myself, I’m strengthened by my life lessons. I look forward to serving with renewed vigor and enthusiasm as I walk into the light of the years ahead.