In last week’s Wellness Wednesday, we shared a story of Steve Ring not only experiencing the messiness of life, but causing the messiness of life. However, in his unique sprinkling of gold dust (love, forgiveness, compassion), he achieved kintsugi with his sons.

At the age of 33, Philip Schonebaum is the Superintendent of Lyman School District in South Dakota. During a zoom visit discussing his interest in becoming a Top 20 school district and community, he shared a personal story about the messiness of life and kintsugi.

Philip’s father grew up in a no-nonsense farming family in rural South Dakota where he excelled in school, sports, and life. But by the age of 29, choices he made changed his life. Involved in the drug culture of the 70s, he was charged with selling drugs and sentenced to time in the state penitentiary. Philip was conceived six months after his father was released from prison. Throughout his parents’ marriage, Philip’s father struggled with alcohol and drug abuse while his mother struggled with a gambling addiction. As Philip grew up, his father either wasn’t present or was drunk or stoned when he was around.

On Philip’s 17th birthday, his father was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and died seven months later.

“During these last seven months, dad mended friendships and hardships, and I learned who I wanted to be as a father and a person. He became a very good husband to my mom, a very good dad to my siblings and me, and a great grandpa to his grandchild. Dad taught me lessons during his dying days that I still value. As morbid as it may sound, my successes have resulted from these moments and this portion of my life.

  • I value family as the most important aspect of my life. I value the family life of each of my staff members. If there is a family issue, it needs to be taken care of before you can expect to be good at what you do.
  • Being a dad is the best gift in the world, and I never want to take it for granted. I don’t know how much time I have.
  • Work hard at everything you do. You will be successful as long as you give it your all.

“I talk to students about my heroes, my hardships, and my highlights. It’s quite shocking to them that one of my hardships, my dad getting cancer, is my most extreme highlight from which I learned of the man I want to be. Sometimes I feel like the mythical phoenix who through the hardship was born to fly.”

Whereas Steve’s messiness took place in an afternoon, Philip’s lasted for many years. Unaware of the gold dust he possessed, once Philip’s father discovered it, kintsugi was possible. In doing so, he helped his son Philip become aware of his own gold dust earlier in his life.

Thank you to Steve Ring and Philip Schonebaum for reminding us that the messiness of life is not the final chapter. Thank you for showing us that when we find ourselves in the messiness of life, we still have the choice to use our gold dust to create something beautiful.

Now it’s our turn.

From our Top 20 team…Kevin Brennan, Willow Sweeney, and Tom Cody…who generously share their gold dust with me.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training