What does a boy from a heart-breaking childhood, a military veteran, and a very successful corporate executive have in common? A lot, especially when…they’re the same person.
It’s my privilege to share with you an interview with Mr. Bob Ravener, the man whose personal history involves all the things mentioned above. And more. I’m sure you’ll be blessed by this candid interview, in which Bob offers straightforward answers from his heart. His story is told in a wonderful book called UP! After this interview I will give my review of his book, and remind you how you can contact Bob and where you can find UP.
Bob Ravener can be contacted at BobRavener.com and you can do yourself a favor and get a copy of his book UP at
Note: The answers expressed below are solely Mr. Ravener’s and do not necessarily express the views or opinions of his employer.
1. How painful was it for you to relive your childhood as you wrote this book?
BOB: In many ways it was therapeutic. In the book I discuss never mentioning any of the family strife to anyone until I met my wife, so it was bottled up for a long time. Writing it all down brought back some very painful memories but was also cleansing at the same time. Once I began to realize that I could help others with my words and experiences, the agony transformed into a purpose, which ultimately eased my pain. My siblings initially had mixed feelings as it also brought back some painful memories for them but I believe the process has begun to heal these emotions and is bringing us closer. I know I am doing more now than ever to re-kindle our relationships and become closer with them. In fact, my brother Tom, his family, and mine even vacationed together this year, something that had not happened in the past. So in that respect, this book has even helped me.
2. What did writing UP do for you personally?
BOB: There are really three reasons I wrote the book:
- Since my family lost most of our possessions, including toys, bicycles, furniture, photos and other memorabilia, I wanted to have some kind of family history to pass along to my kids.
- Once I started to write down the stories, I began to realize that I have experienced many events that put me and many other family members in very dire straits, ending with both tragic and positive outcomes. I felt like these life stories carried a message that could help others and give people hope.
- I am a big believer in giving back to others. Since I have received so much help and guidance from many other people along the way, I felt like I owed it to them to “pay it forward” for others.
I think it gave me a sense of accomplishment but more importantly, some closure to open and deep wounds. Through the process I found myself forgiving both my father and mother as I had held on to much bitterness because of the family circumstances. What I found most interesting was it wasn’t until I started putting it all on paper that I began to realize that my life had been a long, windy, and dusty road filled with lots of rocks but also one filled with many blessings along the way. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have been able to be associated with so many good people along my journey. It is in this context that I have realized that there are so many wonderful people out there, willing to help you if you open your heart and mind to letting them inside the tough outer defenses.
3. You mention that there were various times in your childhood when you faced the painful/humiliating realization that your family wasn’t like most other families. Why do you suppose such realizations will limit some people but launch others (like yourself)?
BOB: A lot of the outcome is how people approach those circumstances. I became a fighter, not a victim. I was determined to break out of the cycle and not get caught in the web of despair. People make so many choices throughout life. I am far from perfect but have made a lot of good choices because I had the benefit of a lot of caring people who took me under their wings. But I also had the wherewithal to take their guidance and advice. Others make a lot of bad choices and find themselves in challenging situations from which they can’t always unwind. I have also found a lot of calm and compassion from faith. At the end of the day, some people start building from wherever they are on their life journey and make something of themselves. Others feel like it’s too late and spiral downward. I say, it’s never too late to start over.
For me, I knew that I did not want to be stuck in the misery of my existence all my life. I saw what it did to people. The issue for me, and for others in similar circumstances, is finding a way out. I had the good fortune to have a godfather who knew my parents at a different time in their lives, a time when life was much better and more innocent for all of them. This may have very well been one of the plans God had for me and for my godfather, Dick Orefice. He was the peek into the ‘possible’ as he showed me a glimpse of what a different kind of life could be like. Along with his son Mat, he took me to the U.S. Open in tennis when it was still being played at Forest Hills in New York. He brought me to see a major league baseball game in Philadelphia along with a tour of the city. He paid and accompanied me to visit the Naval Academy, the first time I had ever been on a plane. I may have never attended the Academy or been given the great training the Navy provided unless that trip had taken place. Dick Orefice was instrumental in who I became because he invested in me as did so many other people. He gave me hope…
4. After reading UP, it is obvious to me that your family is a top priority in your life. In the midst of your busy life, how do you protect and preserve that priority? What steps do you take?
BOB: I have come to believe that our worlds are blended together more than ever. I don’t separate my work and family time as sometimes I have to do work related activities at home and personal things at work. I work a lot of hours but I plan and organize to keep these things straight, which enables me to juggle them as well as anyone can. I also stay in the front of deadlines to avoid eleventh hour stress and communicate with my boss to keep him informed of what I have to get done on the personal side. My experience is that communication is the key as it helps everyone stay informed and manages expectations. I have always found the organizations where I have worked support the balance I needed in my life. If an organization does not support work/life balance, then it’s time to find another place with which to utilize your skills.
Balance for me with my family was ensuring I could be there to coach my three kids in youth sports and attend the important events in their lives. I lost count at more than fifty teams I coached but it was worth every minute and helped me balance the challenges that life threw my way. Along the way, I gained a great deal of additional experience in working with teams, dealing with defeat and learning how to graciously win. Volunteering is a gift in itself but always a growth experience as well.
5. How important is God in your past, present, and future?
BOB: God has always had a presence in my life. Whether it was praying to God on those cold, distressed nights as a young boy, seeking a way to rise above my circumstances, walking to church as an eight year old, or asking for His help and forgiveness too many times for me to remember, God has always been there. I have always been a believer that God has a plan for us all and believe the trials He’s laid before me throughout my life have helped me become who I am today. I faced a critical juncture in my life early in my adulthood and career as I became much more self-centered and selfish. Once I regained my God-centered focus, I not only became less stressed, I found a great deal of peace in my life. I didn’t start reading the Bible until the mid-1990’s, but once I did, the words helped steer me in a better direction. I am far from perfect and make mistakes like everyone. What helps me and will continue to guide me in the future is that I believe God recognized our imperfections and forgives us for those shortcomings.
6. How do you define success?
BOB: Success for me is to ensure that my family is taken care of; my kids are given the opportunity to realize their potential; the world can become a better place than when I got here. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than to help others succeed and realize their dreams. If I can help others, then their good can be multiplied to many others around them. My goal is to lift others up around me.
7. In UP you mention that learning how to respond to circumstances in your life has been the greatest lesson of all. Do you think everyone is capable of learning this lesson? And what would you say to someone who doesn’t think they can learn this lesson?
BOB: I use a quote in the book attributed to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who said: “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” Tomorrow and next year will come whether we want it to or not. Life will happen. The question is what are you going to do about it? As I see it there are two choices: Give in or fight on. I have always chosen to fight on and so can anyone else. Part of it is a choice. Another part is a strong will and in my case, a trust in God that He would bring me through the trials of life and help me become better for it. I think the potential exists in every person.
Thanks, Bob, for spending time with my readers today.
Bob can be reached at BobRavener.com
And I encourage everyone to go to Amazon and get his book UP.
Briefly, let me add that I highly recommend UP to you. I found this book to be well-written, extremely revealing, and powerfully inspirational. Bob’s story is one of triumph over turmoil. UP left me filled with hope. And, as far as I am concerned, that’s a gift each of can use again and again. Do yourself a favor and go get this book.