The Right Description

By Thad Plumley

There were three of us who were inseparable growing up. We met in middle school, kept the fun going through high school, went off to college together, and were smiling and laughing as we participated in each other’s weddings.

Call us the Three Musketeers or Three Amigos if you want. I’m sure a few folks called us the three SOBs on occasion, but one thing was certain: the three of us were always there for each other when we went from kids to young men.

Now there’s just two.

Chris is gone. He defeated cancer a few years ago, but couldn’t defeat the other big C, COVID-19. And, yes, he was vaccinated. But his immune system was wrecked after his victory over cancer, and it was no match for the world we live in today.

Chris was one of the good guys. He wasn’t supposed to go first. He was a college athlete, but he wouldn’t want me to tell you that. He was successful in his occupation, but he wouldn’t want me to pass that on either. He was a tremendous dad to two children and a great husband, and that’s exactly what he would want me to lead with.

So, I will. Chris always opened conversations talking about his kids and their latest accomplishments. It was neat. I still recall him telling me being a parent was his greatest achievement, and that was saying something as Chris was quite the athlete growing up.

Thinking about Chris has had me recalling talks I’ve had with others and how I’ve described myself through the years. After all, those opening lines show where your priorities lie, don’t they? They’re essentially what you think of yourself.

So, what about you? Do you lead with your job and say, “I’m a groundwater professional who . . .”? Perhaps you open with your hometown and your introduction sounds something like, “I’m born and raised right here in . . .”

Do you immediately bring up your faith or tell people that you’re a veteran who served our country? Perhaps you’re like my buddy and detail your family.

Those opening lines show where your priorities lie.

I admit I’ve often led with my job. There are times in life where the next deadline has driven me, and my conversations sounded more like an elevator speech: “I’m a publisher and editor working for the National Ground Water Association . . .”

Not anymore. Chris showed me time is precious and you never know when your next meeting with someone is going to be your last. I want those first impressions to show the best of me, so I’m making sure I lead with my wife and wonderful family from here on out. I owe it to Chris to do so.

It may seem odd I’m writing this. After all, this is a business magazine and I’m suggesting you don’t lead with your business, but then life is odd.

And we need to make the best of it every chance we get.

Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.