Live Life Wide Open

Tribute To My Dad

Daniel Boone was asked by a newspaper reporter years ago if he ever got lost, he replied, “Well, if I got lost, I wouldn’t be here now, but I do admit I have been a might bewildered at times”.

Mark, Dad & Bill

My Younger Years

My Dad passed away in February 2003, and I would like to share with you a life lesson he started teaching me when I was about 8 years old.

I grew up in Vermont where deer hunting in the fall was a way of life. My Dad started taking me to deer camp when I was in third grade; I carried a BB gun. We hunted out of the Wiggett camp in Pecor Hollow and we always took a few essential items. (Of course we had extra toilet paper… just in case!) We always had matches, and at that point my Dad always carried dry mittens and socks for me, but most important, we both carried a compass. My Dad taught me how to read a compass and a topo map and showed me different landmarks in the area where we hunted. He was always quizzing me on which way I thought north was, as well as south, east and west, which way had we just come from and what direction back to the road, or to the jeep, or back to camp.

The second year while in the fourth grade, my Dad let me bring his single shot 22 and I hunted squirrels and rabbits. We still carried extra toilet paper just in case, matches, and yes, I had to carry my own gloves and extra socks by then. Still, the most important thing we carried was the compass. My Dad still constantly quizzed me as to which way was north, which way to camp, which direction did we come from and by the end of the hunting season I thought I was pretty confident of where I was, where I wanted to go and how to get there.

Bill & Mark

Over the next couple of years, I moved up to a 410 shotgun, which I could shoot deer with. Then while I was in the fifth grade, I bought my own 30/30 rifle from money I earned myself working on the neighbors’ farm. By then I knew the area well enough where my Dad trusted me and my other young friends at deer camp to hunt by ourselves and not get lost – without even using the compass.

The next year we changed territories and started hunting in the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, where there was about 710 square miles of wilderness with no roads. We had to get different maps and familiarize ourselves with different landmarks and yes, believe and rely on our compass. By then I was then 14 and had saved enough money by mowing lawns to buy a 308 Browning semi-automatic. It was at another camp full of Wigget’s and Buzzell’s in Averill that I became overly confident that I knew my way back and several times did not pay attention to or believe my compass and ended up places I really did not want to be.

Well as my story has it, I too have been bewildered in the woods and also in my personal and business life. The one benefit about being bewildered is that if you do not get in that position you will never find a new route. The important thing when that happens is to look at your compass, look at your map, figure out what your destination needs to be and develop a plan on how to get there. Another thing to consider if you were in a place you really did not like, is to make sure you mark it on your map, register it in your head, and make sure you avoid it in the future.

In 1983 after living in and driving truck out of NY for the last few years, my Dad, my son Bill and our good friend Don Cooper built our own deer camp in the Adirondacks. The terrain was similar to the NEK in Vt although much larger and more remote than I have ever been in and we went back to learning new ground, new landmarks and using new maps. Bill and I had the pleasure of hunting with Dad out of our own camp for 20 years!

Starting a Business

In 1986 I started a business, and my destination was simply to get out of a truck-driving job and support my family. I was given directions and training from the people I bought the Americlean franchise from, that to make money and be successful, I could wash houses and truck fleets and use a pressure washer to clean just about anything. That went really well and I became confident about my surroundings and started searching in different territories.

Going into unfamiliar surroundings and looking for different routes in and out is something I grew up with. Over the years AMERICLEAN explored several different areas. We were on many different hunts for different opportunities. A serious hunter will always be scouting new hunting grounds, looking for signs that it will be a good area to provide your desired results. This scouting exercise can be compared to our business; some hunts have been enjoyable, some not.


In the early years we took a turn towards more commercial work, which lead into more heavy duty industrial work, including making workplaces around the region brighter, safer and healthier for outstanding customers, such as Citizens Bank, Delhaize group, Owens Corning, Ball Metal, Amazon, SUNY, International Paper, GE, Irving Tissue, Mallinckrodt Kraft Foods, T.D. Banknorth, Reseneron, Amphenol, Hexion, and National Gypsum, to name a few.

And I know a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs can relate to this. Americlean also went hunting in several areas where we shouldn’t have, and it has taken longer to find our way back!

In order to find new opportunities, we all must travel into new and uncharted territories and we will continue to do so. If we keep an eye on our compass, remember the territories we did not like, spend more time in the ones that we do like, and are able to find our way back, we will always be safe.

The key to this is remaining optimistic. Optimists are willing to take a chance, willing to make mistakes, willing to pay the price. Similar to the saying, “if you’re not learning, you’re dying”.

The Many Ways to Hunt

There are many ways to hunt, many areas to hunt in and everyone has a favorite. You can hunt by yourself, or with your favorite hunting buddy, you can still hunt, or sneak and peek. You can organize drives, which includes coordination of several people, which requires everyone to become familiar with their surroundings and a leader to communicate the plan. Hunting with a group that hunts together often, share the same goal and desire and know exactly which way they are going and exactly which way to get back can be very enjoyable. Similar to jobs that we do, a thought out, well-planned hunt can be extremely rewarding.

I have always enjoyed hunting as far away from other hunters as possible. That is where the trophy bucks are. They are skittish of hunters and often go deep in the woods or to the mountaintops where they are hard to find. Hunting for the big ones requires getting up earlier, traveling farther, working harder and smarter than the hunters that hunt in the lowlands. It is probably true that there is more deer down lower, but also more hunters. As a hunter, there is not a better feeling than to be on top of a mountain where you can see for distances, instead of in a swamp where you have trouble seeing deer or the other hunters.

This scenario also relates to business, we could go after business that is easy to get. The same business many other contractors go after, which means more competition. Or we can go to the top – go after jobs that are harder to get, harder to perform, larger jobs with a larger payout. In comparison, Trophy Customers. Remember, as the saying goes: If you are not the lead dog the view never changes”.

I grew up with some profoundly serious hunters. We all lived for hunting season. We spent the time during off season planning hunts, sighting in our rifles, getting in shape, preparing camp, reading all kinds of “how to” articles and talked about and tried new kinds of clothing, boots, guns, ammo, and anything else that had to do with hunting. We had a passion for the sport and would go to great measures to be prepared for our hunting trips.

I have hunted with many people in the past and most have been very enjoyable to hunt with. Like AMERICLEAN, I worked with many different people and personalities and enjoyed the opportunities to learn something from every person. I realized that in order to earn more, I need to learn more.

My son Bill

Over the years, some of the guys we have hunted with have either quit hunting, chosen another hunting area or another group, or sometimes just figured out they like to hunt by themselves. There were also times we did not invite them back to hunt with us as they either did not share the same excitement we did, didn’t help with camp chores or maybe got lost too often and we wasted hunting time looking for them. Or, maybe they had a negative attitude that got in the way of completing a successful hunt.

When we search for other people to hunt with or invite to our camp, there are certain characteristics we look for.

  • We look for serious hunters, like we are.
  • We do not want guys that think deer camp is about drinking or hell raising.
  • We look for guys that will hunt in rain, snow, heat and cold.
  • We look for guys that will without asking, help with the many chores needed to keep a camp warm and clean.
  • We look for people that are optimistic and have outstanding personalities that will get along with the others we hunt with.
  • We look for guys that have decent hunting equipment, the right clothing that keeps them dry and safe.
  • We look for guys that have hunted before and can share their stories of successful hunts with us.
  • Most of all, we look for guys that don’t criticize, condemn or complain and are fun to be with and enjoy life.

In business, as we continue to look into different areas for other opportunities, we also need to keep searching for the kind of people we want to work with. You must admit, like hunting, working with people with the same goals in mind while enjoying themselves, has got to lead to a more enjoyable work atmosphere. Maybe you should consider asking yourself “Do I have the characteristics and qualities to be invited to camp? Am I prepared to hunt with the best? Am I enjoyable to be around?”

Years ago – many years ago – hunting was all about getting meat for the family. It was all about survival. Today, most hunting is done for the sport, thrill, fun and camaraderie; even though the ultimate goal in hunting is to come back with a trophy. In today’s world, we all come to work every day so we can provide meat for our families, shelter, a vehicle, clothing and other necessities, to support all our kids and ex-wives. The ultimate goal in life is to love and be loved, earn enough money to live comfortably, enjoy some sport, have some fun, and to be able to retire early enough in life to enjoy.

While hunting there may be others in your party that may help you get your trophies. In hunting, in life in general, and in the workplace, whether you get the trophy is 100% up to you (E+R=O).

Ask Questions

How good you want to be is up to you; Ask yourself, do you want to be good, quite good, very good, the best in your field, the best in the world, or a world class expert? Your ambition and your attitude, not your skill will take you there. You will become what you want to be. If you want to be the best…… do not seek praise, seek feedback. Instead of seeking approval, ask………what is wrong with this? How can I make it better? If you ask these questions of you and your peers, you will more likely get a truthful, honest and critical answer. The quality of your life depends on the quality of your questions.

If you want to alter the quality of your life,

If you want to increase the quality of your life,

Develop a positive mental attitude, Start with yourselves.

If you want to make more, Do more, Be more.

Your vision of where – or who – who you want to be is the greatest asset you have. Keep in mind that without having a goal, it is difficult to get there. Remember, if you do not have a plan, you will be part of someone else’s plan.

I encourage you to check your map and compass, see where you are and where you want to go.

You need to know your destination.

My friend and mentor, Jack Canfield has a saying that seems fitting to my story.

“Be a student to those above you, a fellow traveler to those beside you and a teacher to those below you.”

Consider offering to help to others that may be unfamiliar with the territory. Maybe they need a little direction. Maybe there is assistance you can offer to help with the chores of business and personal success. I hope this inspires you to share the experiences of your successes with others and most of all, do your part in being fun to be with and helping to provide an enjoyable atmosphere. It is not always easy, it is always worth it.

Dedicated to William C. Miller 1926-2003
Mark W. Miller


“Don’t Walk behind me, I may not lead.
Don’t walk in front of me I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.”.

I wrote the above story in 2007 as a tribute to my Dad. My Mom passed away in 2012 and not until then did I understand how she was the glue that held our family together. Another thing I didn’t touch on in the 2007 version was the difference between a compass that is used as a tool to find direction vs a moral compass which is the ability to judge what is right or wrong. My parents for example, both had an extremely respectful Moral Compass. They both had extremely high ethics, were schoolteachers and very respected in the community. I have never heard my parents say anything negative about anyone and “discrimination” of any sort was not even in their vocabulary. If I could be even half the parent or grandparents that my Parents were to me and their grandkids, I know my own kids and grandkids would be extremely fortunate.

In my story above I mention being bewildered in life. As I look back, I think there was a pretty good chance there was a failure of, or I was ignoring my own Moral compass and my bet is my own ego and emotions clouded my vision. This is a true sign to strengthen, and always rely on and believe your moral compass. I am grateful to have learned from each of these experiences and believe I have become a better and stronger person because of them.

It is now at the end of 2020, the absolute strangest and most confusing time I have lived through. The things that have kept me grounded through all the years and especially now are life lessons that I have learned from each and every family member as well as other many other mentors and close friends, some of them whom I have known for almost all of my 63 years. I have found that a lot of my current relationships are either a direct result of the bonds that were built thru hunting and deer camp or stemmed from sharing and practicing some of the business principals I have shared above.

Performance Industrial
Performance Industrial

I enjoy collecting maps and compasses and by using the principles I have learned, I have also had the pleasure of becoming a business mentor for SCORE and in the past 2 years have counseled and advised over 37 different businesses which has been extremely rewarding.. I, along with a lot of other great people invested 34 years growing Americlean and building a road map for its own success and then rebranded the company in 2014 changing the name to Performance Industrial. In 2019 I sold it to my son Bill and his wife Karen who are doing great with it and hopefully get as much enjoyment out of making a difference as I did!

I am now in the process of starting a new venture with my stepson Drew. Going back to my roots and starting a trucking company called Magnet Transport Group. (yes, magnet, like magnetic north.) I Guess I will be using more road maps instead of topo maps!!

I still love camp life and I have come to enjoy hiking and wildlife and just being in the woods with friends, family and my lab Dharma more than actual hunting.

Looking forward to next time our paths cross.

Mark Miller

I am a Dad, stepdad, husband, grandpa, friend, brother, cousin, uncle, nephew, in law, mentor, student, teacher, visionary, entrepreneur, confidant, and possible cell mate if we have to much fun together!

I found the following Quote by Albert Camus in my Dads old wallet. My Dad lived his life by this, and I find that I am by best when I do the same!

Don’t Walk behind me, I may not lead.
Don’t walk in front of me I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

[email protected]
Copyright 2020 Mark W Miller

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