There’s only so much time in a day. We all know the pressure of having to be in three different places at once mentally, and sometimes physically, when working to build a career that leaves some room to breathe. Some of us fold under the pressure; despite his modesty, one local man is a world-class juggler of pressures, so to speak.
At 43, Bob Thomas was recently appointed the next chief operating officer of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Previously the vice president of operations and executive director, Thomas rose to become a top official within the organization. He’s also a health and fitness instructor, socialite and father to Isabella, 10, and Franklin, 7.
“As the joke goes within many chambers, nobody ever planned their career path to become a member of a chamber of commerce,” said Thomas. “This was my first job out of college.”
Despite still being with the same organization since graduating from Grand Valley State University in 1997, it would be insulting to say Thomas hasn’t “gone anywhere.” In fact, he’s accomplished more than most by being open to where growth and lifelong learning would take him.
However, personal evolution isn’t the only thing on Thomas’ mind. He believes the same level of attention must be applied to his family, and one way is through setting a good example for his children. He’s constantly wondering how he can be a guiding force in their lives.
“They’re at the age where they’re becoming more involved with school and beginning to explore their own interests. Plus, I still have my own interest and career to manage,” Thomas said. “So, it becomes more about how I can blend those things together.”
A steady career, parenthood and finding self-fulfillment are formidable moments in life that
bring hard lessons. Thomas is hopeful that those hardships and truths can help to move his children along their journeys.
“The biggest and hardest lesson to learn is to be yourself at work and at home, because those are places where you’ll find the most joy,” said Thomas.
You won’t get everything right in life, but leaders like Thomas understand that it’s not always about catching the ball; it’s about passing along the lessons you learn. Only time will tell what lessons come next.
“If you can make a career out of something that you love to do, then you’re further ahead than 90 percent of the rest of the working world,” Thomas said.