“I used to be a tree-topper,” said Wade Walker, Vermont’s representative on the NADA board of Directors, using the metaphor to lead into Sunday’s inspirational session.

Walker reinforced his opening remarks by making a distinction between tree-gazers, those who never take on challenges for fear of failure, tree-toppers, those who rush though challenges without realizing the benefits of adversity, and tree-climbers, those who take on challenges, yet are fully aware of the transformation that take place between the start and end of overcoming an obstacle in life.

Sharing his perspective through a series of personal hardships, including the loss of his dealership and two illnesses in his family, Walker emphasized the importance of a positive outlook and encouraged dealers to, “take a breath and be grateful of the moment.”

A common theme throughout the session, Walker attributed his ability to overcome the hurdles of life to having family and friends around him for support. He also stressed importance of the inherent resiliency of the dealer community, something that’s helped many others like him overcome similar challenges in recent years.

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Retired American astronaut and Navy Captain, Mark Kelly, followed Walker to share his amazing life story.

“How good you are at the beginning is not a good indicator of what you can become,” said Kelly.

Valuing hard work and a positive mindset over natural ability, Kelly discussed how he rose through the ranks of the Navy and NASA to achieve a version of a goal he set for himself early on in life – to walk on Mars. Though he never made it to Mars, Kelly attributed a belief in planning, determination and communication to his success.

Kelly went on to tell a story of his time as a Navy A6 Intruder pilot. Having almost been shot down three times while flying over Iraq and Iran, Kelly shared the role communication played in saving his life, connecting his experience to establishing sound organizational communication at a dealership.

“There’s no excuse for not communicating,” said Kelly. “Strive for timely and accurate communication within your organization.”

To close, Kelly discussed the hardship he faced in a situation when communication and planning were not options, the shooting of his wife, Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Though incredibly painful, he shared how the two worked through the rehabilitation process, and together overcame the adversity of the tragic event.

Though hardships inevitably arise, some more easily planned for than others, both speakers focused on the optimistic outlook of the future and the value gained by overcoming life’s challenges.

For more from NADA 2013, check out our other session recaps here.