When I received the devastating news that my best friend had passed from COVID-19 in January 2021 my heart broke in one fell swoop. Not only was he my dearest friend, a father figure, a mentor, but was my absolute hero in all aspects of life.
As we discussed funeral plans with family, and I was asked to participate at the family-only ceremony, my mind went to the place I knew he would want me to remember and take care of on his behalf: His final Keynote Speaking event commitment in June 2021.
This is the story of my opportunity to keep a Promise to a Friend…I Promise I never actually audibly made to my friend, but felt compelled from the great beyond to do something about.
I hope you enjoy this incredible story. VIDEO HERE if you prefer to watch instead.
Coach Tony Ingle and I had worked tirelessly on his transition to becoming a full-time professional Speaker since his retirement from winning national championships in basketball and named National Coach of the Year multiple times. His web site is HERE if you’d like to check it out.
Few had a better story, from poverty and failure, to national prominence, to being kicked down again and again, to winning The Beauty: Jeanne, and having a loving family, to losing his opportunities and work, only to overcome and rise again…it was as good as any story you’ll ever hear. And literally no one on earth was funnier while utilizing his southern charm and down home drawl, while mixing in heart, emotion, passion and inspiration, then Coach Tony Ingle.
To read his story, in his own words, check out his heartwarming, hilarious book, appropriately titled: “I Don’t Mind Hitting Bottom, I Just Hate Dragging”, available on Amazon.
Coach worked so hard to become a great speaker and entrepreneur in a world of technology that seemed to have overtaken traditional methods of sales, and yet he tackled it head on, going for it in a new industry.
And he succeeded, even starting over in his mid-sixties! Every event he spoke for loved him, re-booked him, purchased his books, and sang his praises.
Slowly we got his fee to go up and up and up to the point that he was getting very excited about every opportunity, since he was seeing this could actually replace some of his income since retirement from coaching basketball! He would joke with me and say,
“Well, Jason, I just booked an event for a fee so big the mouse in the corner thought he won the lottery! We bought a plate full of cheese for him and he gladly traded me the toenail he’s been gnawin’ on for the last few years…”
His biggest gig was one booked in the mountains of his home state of Georgia, at the beautiful Brasstown Resort, and he couldn’t wait to take Jeanne there for a nice trip, as they had just moved back to Utah in early 2020.
He talked about this event often, how the client had to move things from 2019, and then 2020 pandemic, and now into June of 2021…and how important the client was (superintendents and administrators of education for many counties) and how essential the money was to his family (the client had paid half up front).
Of course, when I got the call that he had passed, I racked my brain as to what I could do to help the family, and it was as if I could hear him say, “Take care of that one last event for me, please, we need that client to be happy and to still get my Jeanne that check…”
And so I took a walk in the cold of January, following the news of his sudden passing, and having dug through his emails, his sweet wife and now widow, Jeanne, found the number for me to call the client and handle the awful reality.
As Coach Ingle was quite famous, the client already heard the news of his passing, but wasn’t sure what to do with the vacancy of his speaking commitment, as well as their deposit.
I introduced myself as his best friend, someone he mentored and helped launch my career, and that I was equally his speaking coach, and would love to fill in for him if they would honor the contract and allow me to stand in his shadow while delivering a message about him along with The Promise.
Thankfully this may have been the kindest client in the world, as they agreed, we confirmed all would be fulfilled on their end, and mine, and in June I did the event.
It was quite the journey from our home in Utah to Atlanta, and then a 4 hour drive in traffic up into the mountains of Georgia, and my wife and I made a trip of it with our 20th Anniversary around the corner. It was a joy to speak in Coach’s place for 2 presentations that day, share his story and greatness, tied into the message of The Promise.
Following the standing ovations and requests for more events in the future, it was wonderful to know it was a success in honor of my friend.
The client handed me the check for the Tony Ingle books they had purchased, and the balance of his fee, and I’ll be honest – I went back to my hotel room and wept like a baby.
Mailing the check to his wife, Jeanne, knowing she wasn’t expecting this money, allowed me to have the closure I needed on Coach’s passing, confirming I could keep a Promise to a Friend that would make him happy, a little certainty there is caring for his loved ones while he looks over us from his heavenly home.
Of course, I will continue to speak of him, honor him, do all I can for his family, but this was a direct and immediate way to serve, and few joys in my life can compare to keeping The Promise to a Friend.
Your Promise Prompt for This Week:
What is a Promise You have made to a Friend that has brought you great satisfaction and joy?
What is a Promise You can make to a Friend in need?
What is a Promise You have been prompted to keep but have yet to act on it? What is keeping you from doing so? It is time to act.
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~ Jason Hewlett
* The Promise Institute Co-Founder
* Promise Culture Keynote Speaker
* Speaker Hall of Fame
Author of “The Promise To The One”