One Question that Could Change Your Life Forever
I recently saw an article in Entrepreneur Magazine entitled, “The One Question that Could Change Your Life Forever.” Now that is a very powerful statement, one that evoked a strong desire to read the story.
It related a discussion between a young entrepreneur and an older man who always seemed full of energy and enthusiasm. “How do you do it?” The elder responded. “I have always asked myself, ‘If today was the last day here on earth, would my life matter?”
Simply seeing that put in such a concise fashion provoked in me the thought, “Well, would it?” This is a question I’m not really sure I want to answer, for fear I may come up wanting. Yet, it is a question we ought to address…often.
Is it simply enough to go through the motions, to live your life day after day without considering the impact we do have; or more importantly, that we could have had on those around us.
Most of us live in a world of “somedays.” There is always tomorrow to take up the pursuit that brings real passion. We are so busy living our daily routine that we forget to actually “live” life. Hellen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” If she, with all of her disabilities, could make such a statement, surely I could give more.
The Army recruiting slogan is “Be All You Can Be.” Are we? My father sent me out into the world with the admonition, “You will be successful; never doubt that. Your great challenge in life is going to be to try to figure out the best ways to use the gifts that God gave you.”
I have never forgotten that talk. It was almost a curse. It leaves a constant gnawing in the back of your brain. It never allowed for complacency and never left me much peace.
The harsh side of such realization is the constant feeling of inadequacy. This was reinforced by my family heritage. Like most men of my generation, I lived with a demanding father, something to be expected from a career military officer. I sometimes felt like we were another set of troops to command.
Although I know he loved us, there were few displays of affection, something I have perhaps over-corrected in my own family. He set very high standards that he expected us to meet with scant praise for success, but clear rebuke when a shortfall occurred.
Under such circumstances, one cannot help but wonder whether you are truly being everything God designed you to be. How would you know? What does it take for such a demonstration of accomplishment? To say, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” somehow rings hollow to a searching heart, regardless of its applicability.
As a business person, I have been blessed with success. I have been able to employ a significant number of people along the way. I have created beautiful buildings. But, still that seems lacking. Life ought to be more than an accounting of figures or some mark upon the land.
I look at others who have had yet greater success. People who have had significant influence on public policies, domestic and foreign. I have classmates from West Point that have commanded great armies at war. Against such a backdrop, any accomplish seems to pale in comparison.
I think I am not alone in such measurements. All of us have known someone who has reached great heights, leaving us wondering how we fell off the apple cart. I think comparisons are necessary to keep us motivated, but they can lead us astray.
I am just as impressed with those who have touched lives in a more intimate way. Locally, there are selfless individuals who work with the under privileged both here and abroad. While perhaps not deeds of “daring do,” they profoundly impact lives one at a time. That is accomplishment of note even if not written in a history book.
Perhaps the most important legacy we can leave is the next generation. There are none we impact so much as our children. I tried to learn from my own experience and pass that on. They received love and understanding that seemed missing in my own childhood. I encouraged, but perhaps was as demanding in my own way. Whether any of that was “right” I do not know. They seemed to have turned out OK and I am very proud of each of them.
In an ironic twist, I did “bless” them with the same charge my father left with me, “ the challenge always to try to figure out the best ways to use the gifts that God gave you.” There needs to be motivation and drive in life, but I hope did not leave them with my sense of inadequacy. We can but do the best we can.
I had forwarded the article that started this train of thought to some friends. I made this concluding comment that seems apropos, “I don’t know that I have actually changed things, but I don’t think I left much on the table….and that is truly something I can live with.” And so we beat on, boats against the current…