First, let’s do that circling back I promised regarding BW’s take on villainry.
We covered in the second interview installment that Brandy regards most villains in most stories to be the better character for four solid reasons. We also established that if anyone ever considers him to be the villain in their story, that he would take it as a compliment to his efficiency, among other things. Let’s further explore his controversial views on The Walking Dead, specifically how he views Rick versus Negan, as leaders.
“Rick was weak and worthless as a leader.” Ha! Suffice it to say that BW cannot stand that character. He describes the man as having no vision, not being a unifier, and just bad at preparing for contingencies. As for Negan, BW asserts that aside from the shocking baseball bat scene when Glenn died so brutally, everyone would (or should) admire the rebel for the community he had built, for the hierarchy he maintained, for his people’s safety, etc. Of course Negan also wore a black leather jacket, was smart, fun, and unapologetic, all qualities we know BW believes are any villain’s advantages. “People say they want a swift system (of justice) but in the moment they are scared of it. You’ve gotta remember the context.” We spoke at length about how the baseball bat scene forever stained Negan’s popularity for viewers. I wondered about BW’s own human flaw, how he might lose favor with his people.
Are there takeaways here for your own career? Do you have a baseball bat which you are cautious to use, however right it may seem? “In my professional career I soft serve disappointment quite often, because I know some people cannot handle it.” He usually tries to “coach people up” constructively, when inwardly he might be inclined toward a more direct and maybe vicious redirection. BW’ baseball bat is his word choice. He also chooses not to take vengeance legally or physically on people who have hurt our loved ones.
So where does all that Negan energy go? How do you redirect it? “Lots of yelling in traffic or at TV. shows.”
Now let’s look at how he identifies with the cool car element.
If you know Brandy even just a little, you know he is a car guy. He understands cars and car culture. He appreciates a wide variety of makes and eras. And he is a skilled mechanic and body guy. It’s a passion by which he has come honestly, as both of his parents were also avid and talented hot-rodders. Besides Harvey and Judy, many of Brandy’s favorite people over the years have been car folks, the salt of the earth people you meet at car shows and in little garages. So many instant friends over the years.
And he freely admits to having “a little problem” with collecting cars. As an adult, Brandy’s vehicular collection has expanded and evolved almost monthly. He is always buying and selling something to satisfy a new curiosity, so much so that our friends and family often joke that they don’t know what to expect us to be driving. We have a farm full of treasures already, but I know he is always looking to the high-octane horizon.
What other cars are still on your wish list? An A-Team van, a General Lee, and a Mach 5 (from Speed Racer, please refer to his one unfulfilled career longing). For this project he would use a 1972-1980 Corvette, dirt cheap base, and go from there.
Until recently, he would have included a Batmobile on his bucket list, but during Pandemic he actually built one! Slowly, frugally, and with limitless passion and ingenuity, our very own Batman transformed the rusted shell of a 1964 Ford Thunderbird into his very own childhood dream come true.
What are your intentions are for using this gorgeous product of your blood, sweat, and tears? “Get it to run well enough that we can easily drive it places, have it at the circle drive in the Bethany Children’s Hospital, seeing kids climbing on and sitting in it. Doctors or nurses can hold kids, drive ‘em around, have fun, no worries. Just purely there for the kids.” This man has a heart for children who are suffering and missing out on the fun parts of childhood due to illness, abuse, or disadvantage. “That’s the only plan,” he continued, “Parades would be just for fun, not the purpose.”
We commiserated on how much both his Mom and his Grandma would have loved this Batmobile. They both loved cars and racing, and together they sewed him literally hundreds of different Batman capes and costumes over the years.
How many Batman costumes do you have now, as an adult? “Total of 5. There’s the ‘89 Keaton armor, Desert Batman, Batman Begins UD replica, Arkham Knight UD replica, and the Affleck (Nightmare Batman).”
I asked this man whose outer world has endured so many changes over the years, how does he address God? “Depends. Sometimes it’s the old structured prayer of, Heavenly Father, and having the conversation. I’d say more often than not, my conversations with God just happen in the moment. And it’s just like talking to Him… asking for help or comfort or peace, or to control my temper when I’m going in somewhere difficult. Unfortunately, that’s probably 90% of my prayers, or just calling someone’s name in my head. You know, it’s hardly ever audible. Nothing wrong with audible, it’s just really more of a thought. An ongoing thought process, a conversation.”
This is quite a departure from his upbringing in a Pentecostal church, where Brandy says he was taught to be “loud when you pray.” But now he says, “It feels more natural to me when I know God can hear my thoughts, and I know He does. And oftentimes when I need Him the most, I’m somewhere I can’t be loud. In the past I would have let that get between (me and) prayer. If I can’t say it aloud it doesn’t matter. It’s a pretty big difference,” he said, one he had never really thought about before.
In the twenty-plus years Brandy and I have shared our lives, we have seen untold beauty and deep joy. We have seen a lot of darkness, too. I have witnessed Brandy ride wave after wave of hurt and disappointment. He has faced so many various crises head on, endured so many fundamental catastrophes that might have destroyed a weaker person, and watched unsinkable ships really truly sink, right before his eyes. Watching his faith-walk from the outside, you might wonder what has stayed true. You might ask what remains of his church life, for example, compared to those decades when he never missed a Sunday, only prayed aloud, and knew what he knew was absolutely true, period. I asked him to articulate some pillars of his faith and non-negotiable beliefs. He answered in a measured way but with conviction:
“Well, I know there is a God, period. The idea of being agnostic or atheist, I just can’t imagine. I’ve felt too many things and frankly seen too many things that I absolutely know there’s a God and I know He hears us. He, She, It, you know, whatever, right?” He laughed, “I know God hears us. That to me is an unshakable faith. I know that when we’re in need He can help.” Brandy addressed the difference between God being able to help and always doing exactly what we ask of Him. This insight comes up sometimes in our discussion about the Law of Attraction. “Faith is easy, knowing God can.” It’s knowing what God will do that gives Brandy pause.
After more thoughtfulness, he continued: “It’s unshakable to me that we’re supposed to take care of each other. You know, be good to people, I think I’ve probably grown more in understanding that than I ever did before. That’s actually a commandment. It’s not just something we do to feel good. It’s a commandment to take care of people.”
How do you define a miracle? “I think miracles can be big,” he offered matter of factly, having himself witnessed firsthand the disappearance of cancers and many other supernatural events. “I’ve seen the dead raised up.” But also, “I think the more miracles we see are the simple ones. The things that we just don’t expect to happen that are good, the things we shouldn’t receive that we do, the ability to do something we didn’t think we could. The knowledge you didn’t know you needed it, the strength…”
He trailed off, reflecting aloud on the long stream of help God has provided throughout his career. In his work at the Commission, Brandy has for years relied heavily on prayer and miracles. He is a talented leader and proficient solver of complex problems, but he credits much of his ongoing success to a deep wellspring of knowledge and wisdom that is only accessed by prayer. He says that God has been there for Him on steep learning curves when he was brand new to the industry, during intense meetings when important outcomes are at stake and the players are powerful and combative, and in the fabric of innumerable human relationships of every variety. The miracles are big and small, left and right, day after day, year after year. And he is thankful for them all.
He talked about living as if you see miracles in everything, and I completely forgot to ask for his take on the famous Albert Einstein quote about the friendliness or hostility of the universe. But my heart fluttered to be reminded that my husband, for all his pragmatism, chooses to see miracles everywhere, every day.
And yet, this artistic, miracle mining, privately spiritual man still considers himself a pessimist. This is one of the dichotomies that frustrates and infatuates me all at once. Here was our exchange:
“You consider yourself a pessimist still?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah, definitely. I’m always assuming and planning for the worst.” He was a little bit too ready to defend his position.
“But you’re still in awe of miracles.” I challenged him, way too aggressively.
“Well yeah. And they may be that much sweeter to me because of that.” He smirked.
Tell me about paradigm shifts in your life overall. He paused thoughtfully. He acknowledged there have been many over the years then zeroed in on the fallout from his mom’s sudden passing in 2013: She was the glue for their family, and everything changed overnight when she died. Brandy had to delay his own grief to keep things together for his Dad for a time, then the church community fell apart, and finally he had to cope with a brand new realization that the closeness he had always trusted with his Dad was gone, too. It was shattering. “It shook me to my core and made me question everything.”
This massive paradigm shift launched Brandy, maybe against his will at first, into a brand new life perspective, and gradually he cultivated gratitude. He was good at recalibrating, at reinvesting his love and attention in the people who remained, and in finding other outlets for service and worship, with the church gone. He began to see, among other things, that his relationship with God was not dependent on a church building. “God’s not some floating cloud over a pulpit in a building that only lives in the sanctuary. I feel God as much in a bad meeting when I need Him as I ever did down at an altar praying for hours. It truly feels more like a relationship. Much more accessible now.”
There is still plenty he doesn’t understand, but he feels stronger for it all. “I lost so much family and history but also was freed of baggage and drama, freed of ongoing hurt, of being used.”
He explained how this trauma in his family makes him so much more eager to help strangers, because there are no strings attached; there is just the joy of meeting someone’s needs without being abused or becoming too attached emotionally. “I want to just give people things, feel good, and walk away. Not stick around long enough to be hurt.”
Overall, how was your Pandemic experience? He thought about this for a while and answered solemnly, “There was a lot of hurt and pain with it, the death and sickness, the worry for people, but what (bothered me) was how people treated each other.” The crescendo of day to day fighting on social media greatly dimmed his state of mind in the worst of those first months. He said that it opened his eyes to the fact that people are not always as nice as they appear.
And yet he was happy to see how quickly people adapted for work and stayed productive.
What good came out of the Pandemic, for you? For him personally? “It was a blessing and a miracle to enjoy the gift of a year at home so far from retirement, time to enjoy the farm and our life together.” He said he “will never forget that, makes me envious of people who continue to work from home.” It all left him feeling thankful for our marriage, that we were actually happy during that time. During the spring of 2020, Brandy adapted pretty quickly, shifting naturally into emergency response and big time safety and provision mode. Then, eventually, he relaxed and started creating. Over the course of thousands of conference calls and with a trusty pair of ear buds, he built the Batmobile. He also tackled dozens of infrastructure projects around our property, in the midst of unprecedented (sorry, I couldn’t resist) professional workload.
Pandemic also gave him a deeper appreciation of the Outreach we had been doing previously. Being kept away from the public showed him how much he missed being out and helping people. Overall, despite the obvious heartaches, he will remember the pandemic times fondly. “Lots of goodness came out of it,” he concluded sweetly.
If you were to give a TED Talk, lead a master class, or write a book, what would your big message be to the world? This question lit a fire. He declared that if he ever finds a solution to the universal problem of wasted energy and ego-driven conflict, that’s what he would share with the world. Brandy laments all the time and energy that gets wasted on petty, short term problems and power struggles over who will get credit for work done by a group or a team. He expressed a deep desire to reinvest that wasted time and energy into things that really matter, into projects that will last longer than six months or into the happiness of children and the cohesion of teams and families.
What mark or monument do you want to have left on the world? He paused a while before answering then said, “Well, high level, I hope to leave things better than I found them, and not in insignificant ways. I hope that by the time I die there are still people who love me.” And he paused again, his voice heavier when he spoke again, “I hope to have created something that made life better for people, ongoing.” We talked about that for a while, and he explained that he doesn’t want all the stress and sacrifices we are enduring now to be for nothing. He also elaborated on the ripple effect, day dreaming aloud about the hope that helping one young family could lead to someone gaining an education and using their life to help the world at large in even bigger ways.
Arranging fun activities and making happy memories for children is vital to him because he had such a great childhood. He treasures his countless good experiences as a little boy and teenager and wants to spread that to other children who seem to be missing out on their youth. Simple joys and life pleasures can mean something lasting, and he wants to push that energy out into the world, for strangers, for loved ones, for anyone who will receive it.
Beyond that, he hopes to develop employees who go on to develop other people, and maybe there will be a small vein of better managers out there, “People who will learn how to treat people well while still driving excellence.”
Our conversation turned to Jocelyn and Jessica, who are quickly approaching ages 27 and 25, respectively. He hopes to have taught our girls things that will actually benefit them, hopes to have passed on the best of his generational gifts. We were robbed of so many years with them, so he craves lots of it now and believes there is still time for everything that matters. He always seizes a random chance to help in practical ways or talk openly and boldly about the hard things, because we know all too well that time is not promised.
Brandy freely admits he would have answered these questions so differently 20 years ago. He used to be more concerned about cash, credit ratings, and so many other financial measurements. While he may be less worried about those markers now, he does say there is never enough money. We have more than enough for ourselves, but the resources do not match his drive to make a difference in others people’s lives. There is always more to do for people, always further ways to serve.
What are your mottos and mantras? “Choose Joy, Love all the People, Go Be Kind, Be the Change, Teamwork Makes the Dream Work, and Ubuntu (me/we, I am because we are).” Besides a classic Bat symbol, “Me/We” is the only tattoo he would seriously consider.
Then I asked, what are the Great White Buffalos in your life? He immediately balked. He claimed, despite having watched Hot Tub Time Machine with me multiple times, to not understand my question. I even whispered great white buffalo dramatically, and still he evaded me. Eventually he laughed and said that he could not think of anything in life that he hasn’t just “made to happen.” I actually love this.
As we wrapped up our long conversation, I asked what questions were you worried I might ask you? This man laughed and said without hesitation, “I thought you would ask me more about girls.” Ha!
And that, friends just about sums it up.