Former Columbus Chamber President Mike Gaymon Pens Book "A View from the Backhoe"

Shelley Dean

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

It has been more than a year since Mike Gaymon retired from the Greater Columbus, GA Chamber of Commerce where he was known as a bold and effective leader that helped transform the Columbus community. Gaymon traded in the boardrooms and business meetings for a backhoe and a quieter life in the country where he has spent time reflecting on his decades-long career as a Chamber executive. 

It was this new view from atop a backhoe that inspired his book, aptly tilted, A View from the Backhoe. So along with clearing brush and enjoying time with family, Gaymon began to write about the challenges he faced and the lessons he learned in his illustrious career. The result is a book he hopes will motivate and inspire those navigating their own life experiences.

In this interview we talk to Gaymon about his new book and what he plans for the future.  

What made you decide to write a book?

We all have stories. I love to hear and to tell stories and have learned an awful lot by reading stories of leaders and people who were inspiring. Telling stories about some of my professional and personal experiences might encourage, enlighten or cause the reader to reflect on their choices and make some changes that might make a real difference in their lives.

Where did the title, A View from the Backhoe, come from? 

One day I was up in the country sitting on my ‘ole backhoe’ about to dig out a ditch.  It was full of dirt, leaves and sticks that had accumulated over the winter.  The water was stagnate due to all things in the ditch. As I dug into the ditch and removed some of the stuff I noticed a small whirlpool began to form. I continued to watch it grow and soon the stagnate water began to flow out and fresh water began to flow into the ditch. It was one of those ‘story moment that made me think – life is like that ditch. Our personal and professional lives, like that ditch can get filled with stuff that is not healthy and can become stagnant. Frustration, disappointments, decisions that didn't turn out the way you planned, etc.  Are in our ditches and take room from the positive things being there.   

So, as I watched the fresh water flow, I thought that when I write a book I will have to remember this moment. It could be a good story that many people would relate to. Then the more chapters I wrote, the more this story about being on the backhoe and digging out the ditch kept coming up as a good title to set the stage for the rest of the stories.

What surprised you the most about writing a book? What was the most difficult part of writing the book? What part did you enjoy the most?

Writing and publishing a book is a journey. What would make the book interesting so that people would want to buy and read it?  How to frame the story so that the reader would not only be interested in it but also hopefully learn from my ‘lessons learned’?  

Telling the stories was not hard but making them readable and framing the point of the stories so that the reader benefits from reading it took lots of time. Now, comments from readers about what they learned or found encouraging to them, makes the journey well worth it.

You worked with some of the best leaders that the business world has to offer. What did you learn from those experiences?

In my 38 year Chamber career, I had the opportunity to work with some of the top leaders from both the public and private sectors. By far, the majority of them were tremendous people who helped me grow and challenged me to exceed, and were willing to do their part in both. Even the few that demonstrated poor leadership skills and had their own selfish agendas helped me grow. We can learn from both good and bad experiences. The key is our own attitude and how we allow things to mold and shape us.

If readers only take away one thing from your book, what would you want that to be? 

We all have a purpose in being. Giving our best and continuing to learn from our experiences is a great way to grow and make a difference to other people that we come in contact with or can influence.  It's about our own attitude which governs our altitude.

Writing a book is quite a way to spend your first year of retirement. What is your next venture?

I formed an LLC last year to focus on professional speaking and consulting. I have a new web site, and have begun marketing to selected entities for key note presentations and conferences. I am currently consulting with three companies and really enjoying working with each of them. It’s nice to know that lessons learned and experiences gained can still make a difference.  

But now I can also visit my elderly Mom and Dad without having to drive back all hours of the night for an early morning meeting. My wife, Sheila and I can spend time together doing grandparent kind of things and enjoying each others company without the feeling of always being on call for the community.