Archives For Significance

handoff

Legacy. A word that can inspire people to greatness, crush them in despair or ignite generational wars. What is it? What does it mean? Why does it have such power…even for those of us that don’t think about it at all?

I intend on exploring this issue for the rest of my life. That’s because for the rest of my life I’ll be creating my legacy, reacting to other people’s legacy and trying to tear down some legacies. Heck, it’s like air. You have to breath and so you have to interact with it. It isn’t a question of importance. It’s a question of quality. If you live in a world with low quality air your life suffers. But if the air is clean and rich in good qualities, then you have more energy, health, better sleep, etc.

Think about it. The best things in your life are related in some way to it. Your wife? She is partially the result of the legacy of the family she comes from. Your kids? They are partially the result of the legacy of your family and the legacy you are creating as they grow up. Your job? It is the legacy of someone that started that company and the legacy created by those that have run it until now. We are all part of the legacy we were born into with the human race.

But go a level deeper. We are all part of a much, much bigger story that’s unfolding. Since I love trying to model things visually to help me get a better mental construct I just began playing with it and came up with the concentric circles approach.  (Sorry for the image quality.  Still learning the ropes with some of my programs.)

Legacy Circles

When I first began putting this together I naturally started with “You” in the middle and went out from there. But that just didn’t sit well with me. I think this is a much better way of looking at things. But my point is that when you think about legacy, it isn’t just yours that needs to be dealt with. You have to deal with the legacy you’re creating and how it interacts with all the broader legacy of the other circles. Where do you have barriers to overcome? How will your legacy fit into the bigger picture? What things can you benefit from in the legacy of others? For example, if you want to leave a strong legacy for your kids and ignore the impact on your community or from your community, your impact will be diminished or possibly have the reverse effect. Likewise, if you ignore the story that has been unfolding in your family line you will miss opportunities to improve the legacy you leave in your part of the family line.

Side note: Some of you will note that I’m missing a circle…the God one. That was intentional for a few reasons. First, I wasn’t sure where to put it. The instinctive place is the middle. After all, he would be the central point of the story. But isn’t he also involved in the lives of individuals directly? So his impact isn’t just something that ripples to us from a larger picture but, in fact, starts ripples within our lives. But putting him at any point other than the center would feel wrong too. Secondly, I didn’t put it in there because I think there are many people interested in the issue of legacy that aren’t thinking in terms of God. And a good discussion brings in many perspectives.

So here we are. A beginning point to a discussion about how to live not just a successful life, but a significant life. What makes up a significant life? How do you plan to get there? Is there even a difference between successful and significant? When is your life deemed significant? Let me know what you think and let’s do some exploring together.

Reflections

I remember so well when I first became a dad thinking to myself, “OK, so now I’ve got to keep from screwing up.” All dads trying to do this right have that thought from time to time, right?

Well, tonight I think I screwed up. I came home and just went into a fog. TV, a little dinner, a dose of impatience with my wife and kids and then an abbreviated bedtime routine that I feel like cut my kids short on what I consider to be particularly precious time.

Now I’m sitting here vegging out again and thinking to myself, “Did I just mess up my kids in some little way that over time will accumulate with all my other failures and land them in a large leather chair talking to a guy with a pipe?” Yes, I know that’s ridiculous. But it’s gotten me thinking about the role of failure in being a dad.

Maybe it would help to define how I think of my role as a dad. Simply put, I think my role as a dad is to teach my boys how to be men and to give them a great example of what one looks like. It may seem simple, but well, I’m a pretty simple person. Much more complex than that and I’ll start getting confused. Besides, I’m pretty sure that basically covers it.

With that in mind, how does failure play into the plan? Funny enough, today I also received an email that had a link to a YouTube version of one of my favorite commercials of all time.

It is because Michael Jordan didn’t allow failure to stop him that he was able to achieve the level of success he did. You may say that it was his amazing level of talent that got him there…and you’d be right. But I think the real point is that whatever our potential is we have to learn the lesson of failure for our potential to be realized. (You know that at some point “having potential” is actually an insult, right? You have to actually realize that potential sometime.) Failure isn’t the thing that stops us from achieving. It’s the rite of passage to our achievement. The minute you stop experiencing failure is the minute you have stopped trying to achieve anything new.

As a dad, the way I handle failure is going to be absorbed by my boys. Do they see me fail? Do they see me admit it? Do I apologize when I’ve failed them or someone else? Do I try again? Do I keep at it until I win? Whatever I do, they see and in large part, they become.

I think it’s my responsibility to fail in front of my kids. So tonight, yes I failed. But that means tomorrow I have a chance to become a better man and help my boys better know what manhood is. I can tell them I know I wasn’t the dad they needed and that I’m sorry. Then I can get better.

Failure. Maybe one of the greatest arrows I have in my arsenal in driving a lesson into the hearts of the future men I’m raising. Never to be used as an excuse or as a cop-out.

Why-Do-We-Fall-Mr.-WayneAs one of my favorite movie dads asked his son at one point, “Why do we fall down, Bruce? To learn to pick ourselves up again.”

footloose1

“I want to dance in Logi’s room!” (That’s Caleb’s pet name for his kid brother Logan.)

It’s T-minus 20 minutes and counting until bed time. With bellies full of Chic Fil A and more energy than can be spent in any day, mom was ready for some down time and the boys were ready to move to the beat. Next thing I know Kanye West is in the room and I’m dancing in rhythmic circles with my 3 year old to the sound of Love Lockdown. Boom boom BOOM boom. Boom boom BOOM boom. Boom boom BOOM boom. “I’m not lovin’ you. Way I wanted to. What I had to do. Had to run from you-u. I’m in love with you.”

Squatted down, hands smackin’ the horse as we jump forward in circles and laughing uproarously – it’s the toddler dance off. Showing off all the moves. From the horse rider to the swim to the 80’s hip hop retro moves we break it down for none to see. Logan, who’s been playing with train’s in the play room decides it’s time this thing got started for real. Toddling in, he tosses his best moves down like 4 aces in a backroom poker match. Jumping up and down and pumping the arms like he means it, now this party is moving.

I scoop both the boys up, one in each arm, and we’re jumping and dancing together to the magical sounds of Counting Crows singing the theme song from Shrek. They’re looking at each other and laugh/screaming. I’m pouring sweat and loving every second of it. The song ends and we’ve hit bedtime. Climbing into bed, I talk with each of them for a few minutes and treasure the moment.

This is every day life the way it was meant to be. Small memories that only take minutes to create but last a lifetime. Joy arising from simple opportunities taken to enjoy each other. Legacy built in my life and theirs. It’s moments like this that remind me that it isn’t just me building value into my boys but just how much value they add to my life. They help me remember that the “important” stuff I did at the office really doesn’t matter that much. They help me let go of all the good and the bad that fighting to make my mark in the world brings with it and just simply…love. By the time we’re done my joy is unshakable and I walk downstairs to hang with the woman of my dreams and write this post. Speaking of which, I’ve gotta go!

The other day I was with some friends and we were discussing what makes a life look different from others. Specifically, being Christ-followers, we were talking about what could make our lives look noticeably different than non-followers. Now, I know this is a risky topic to take on because of the incredibly emotional nature of the discussion. But I think this is relevant for anyone really. Don’t we all want to live a life that is somehow different than the masses of humanity?

MatrixWe’ve all seen the Matrix. And if you haven’t, stop reading this blog right now and go rent all three of them and get to work. Seriously. (Me tapping my fingers as some of you leave…) Okay, now that we are all on the same page, don’t you sometimes feel like Neo? Not that you live in a matrix and the real world is at war with artificial intelligence. But that when you look around you it appears so many people walk around in almost a drone-like trance. If you ask people why they do things and they were honest much of the time I think you’d end up with something like…because. That’s it.

Don’t you want to just shake them? Yell in their face to start thinking and wake up? But that is exactly the issue. Have you first asked yourself if you are walking in the same trance? There is a reason that daily life seems so unchanged and mundane throughout history. Yes, the environment changes. The clothing changes. The technology and organization changes. But fundamentally not much really is different from 1,000 years ago. We are born and want to grow up fast while our parents tell us to slow down. We play, learn and strive to be a man or a woman. We seek out independence and freedom from the bounds of our childhood homes. We seek out work. We find work. We look to advance in our work. We build stuff. We seek for even more stuff in our lives. We want connection with other people. We meet that special someone. We have kids. We complain about having no time to play anymore. We complain that youth is wasted on the young. We pay taxes. We die. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Wow. I’m not really that much of a downer I swear. But isn’t that the thing we fear? Pointlessness. That if you strip away all the Facebook bluster about how exciting our lives are and take away the occasional fun experiences our lives just about follow this kind of progression. This is where we stood the other day asking the question: What makes our lives look any different from other lives?

If this were an easy answer I wouldn’t be putting it in a blog post. I’d be putting it on a piece of paper in a bottle and selling it for millions per bottle. I can’t solve this. The best I can do is give a single perspective in a maze of views. The single thought that I have had since that night is this: Our actions should hint that our minds are focused on something other than the things that make this life better.

Here’s the point: if this life has looked the same for so many for so long, should start looking elsewhere? Maybe you believe that there is no afterlife and there is no God. OK. But can you at least see that living for the betterment of mankind as a whole (i.e., beyond your life) is carries a greater legacy than anything else you could do with your life? And if you are a believer (of any sort, really), shouldn’t you be focused on the next life more than this one? Simple math tells you that even if you live 150 years on this earth that eternity is waaaayyy longer than that.

But here’s the thing, how many of us live day to day thinking about life beyond the here and now? I’d wager the number is pretty much zero. Why? After millions of years of being on the earth (or thousands depending on your persuasion), learning how to deconstruct DNA and build computers that can almost think as well as a human, why have we not realized that optimizing this life means thinking beyond it? I’m not saying this is a new thought nor am I saying this is particularly revolutionary. It’s not. And yet you and I don’t live this way.

The question I’m asking here is what does your life point to? What does my life point to? When I’ve died and been gone for 100 years, what will it have mattered that I was here? Maybe I’ll attempt an answer to that at some point. For today, I’ll just let that question sit.

Ripples

Since my last post on this I’ve gotten to thinking – maybe this whole issue is deeper than just wanting and needing. What if this is more foundational? I feel a need to dig in for a while in my own thoughts on this.

The reason I think this is so important is because I deeply believe that a dad’s life is always forming the future. We are always teaching. You and I. Like it or not we are always role models. If we covet, we pass that along. If we show honor to people around us, that becomes a part of our legacy. Our ripples becomes the waves that push generations in the direction of our hearts. And I’m not talking about coveting in the sense of that XBox you just had to buy (which is the 3rd game system you have) or that one time you opened the door for that lady. I’m talking about the patterns of our lives. The rhythm our hearts have developed. What repeatedly goes on in our minds and hearts which makes us who we are.

Because men, our kids are learning. If you aren’t involved with your kids they are learning to leave. To abandon responsibilities. If you are around but you think your kids don’t know about that thing you’re hiding from them, they are learning to lie, hide and live secret lives. Because it does come across that they don’t know you for real. Maybe not today, but eventually they see it. That’s the thing about rhythms, they’re not like events. You can hide events. You can’t hide rhythms.

So I’ve been thinking about what my rhythms are. Some good, some bad. For example, some good rhythms I think I have:

  • Persistent seeking to become better…spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically
  • Genuine love for my family
  • Desire to be significant and not just successful
  • Willingness to sacrifice for deeper relationships
  • Disciplining myself to develop good habits

But then, others are really bad:

  • Selfishness
  • Arrogance
  • Willingness to justify my own darkness
  • Quick-temper

Each of these things are like rocks I’m throwing into the lakes of my children’s lives and those around me. They create ripples. They send shock waves into their lives that impact who they are, the choices they know how to make and the relationships they have. And to be frank, that scares me. It scares the crap out of me. Because even the things I don’t see will help or hurt my kids. Maybe even more so than the things I’m conscious of.  The worst of it is that there is definitely a lot I don’t see – and don’t want to.  

In the end we can only do what we know to do. But I have to give that statement two caveats: we can always increase our knowledge of what to do and we are most likely not doing all we know to do. In a way, I find this greatly encouraging. This is something we can get our hands on and get to work with. This is practical. It’s not some head job that we have to work through. If I’m selfish – I simply start consciously putting others before myself. And I ask others to hold me accountable to that. If I’m arrogant, I ask people to call me out when it rears its head. And I also learn to ask myself about an action I’m about to take, “Is this intended to make me look good or someone else?” And if it’s for me, I just don’t do it. At least for a while until the beast is tamed.

Now it’s time to close down the computer and get to work. It’s one thing to write about this but it’s another to really experience life change. So this is me asking anyone that knows me to help me be true to my word here. I need help and I want to win this war. My kids lives are at stake…and so are yours.

I’m Nick Fury

July 22, 2012 — Leave a comment
Nick Fury and the Avengers

One of the best movies of all time.

The Avengers. Easily one of the greatest movies of all time. If you disagree, I’m sorry but all relationship bank account we had before now has been drained. You are dead to me. (Of course I’m kidding, Mom. Love you!)

After seeing a movie that epic you can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be one of the Avengers. Personally, I think I’d want to be Thor. Maybe it’s because my wife has a bit of a thing for him. (Though she heartily denies this.) Yeah, Iron Man’s cool but I just have a hard time with his outright arrogance and selfishness. Captain America runs a really close #2 to Thor and only loses out because Thor can fly and travel inter-dimensionally. Hey, don’t act like you wouldn’t want that. The others are cool, but clearly these guys take the cake.

But then sitting there one day it struck me…I’m actually not any of the Avengers. I’m the guy with an eye patch. Nick Fury. What?! I don’t wanna be Nick Fury! (except the awesome name) He’s a spy that no one trusts and has no special abilities. He’s not particularly amazing in comparison to the team running the show. But there it is – I’m more like Nick Fury than any of the super-heroes.

nick-fury

Think about it. Fury is not the most powerful person in the room. He isn’t able to control the powers he’s dealing with. But he successfully brings out the best of amazingly powerful beings by helping them come together as a team and have a cause. He creates the right environment and finds the right “push” to help them become more than the sum of their parts for a greater purpose than they have previously known. He is a planner. A thinker. A man that is hopelessly outmatched by those he leads and yet still must find the courage and the will to lead none-the-less.

Maybe you think that is a bit dramatic. But maybe it isn’t so out of line with reality depending on how you view being a dad. My kids will very likely grow up to be more powerful than I ever was (if I’ve done my job). I absolutely can’t control my kids lives. (In the sense of guaranteeing how they turn out, the choices they make, the destiny of their lives.) My job is to take this incredibly powerful and yet intensely fragile group of individuals and turn it into a team. A team of love, valor and purpose. A team that comes together when times are bad and challenges each other to stay the course when times are good. I have to observe each member of this team and know what buttons need pushing at times to help them find out just how powerful they are and I have to give them opportunities to overcome their demons.

Yeah, I think I kinda like this. From now on you can call me Fury. I think something epic is about to unfold.

Kid Pitching a Fit

Gimme!!

Ever heard it? It starts as a slow but familiar request.

“Please, please?! I want this so bad.” It quickly escalates in urgency.

“I’ll do anything! I really need this!”

You know what I’m talking about. That grating, high-pitched whine that makes the tension in your shoulders build almost immediately. The pulse quickens, lips press together, eyes close in a desperate attempt to imagine a happy place. Then when you open your eyes you stand there a bit taken back by the fact that the person you’re staring at is…you.

I heard a talk the other day about coveting. I know. It’s a pretty old fashioned word that likely brings up thoughts of an angry guy on a soap box screaming about something to do with brimstone and sulfur. This talk was different. And it got me to thinking: just what is coveting? Maybe it’s what happens inside of me when I want something and it goes from a desire to a “need.” Not a legitimate need, mind you. But one of those “needs” that leads to choices I would advise a friend against making. Then the speaker made this point: we’ve taken covetousness and turned it into a value. When we see someone NOT driven we call them unambitious and look down on them.

Of course, my first reaction to this was that it was probably true for someone else. But the more I think about it I’m starting to wonder. When I see people that are satisfied in life, what do I think? Do I admire them for having the maturity to know their needs are met and to be happy with that? Or do I think that in some way they really just don’t think they can do any better and given up? Is their contentedness something I want to celebrate and use as a reminder to not allow myself to be caught up in the lie of the American dream that says I need to have it all? And when I think about all I have, do I tend toward thinking I’ve gotten closer to reaching satisfaction? (I’ve rarely had that feeling, by the way.)

Funny thing is, when I stop and think about what I want my life to have looked like when I’m 80 it never has a lot to do with money or stuff. Granted, there are aspects of that dream that are material. I’d love to have a house my kids and their families could visit and have great times in. I’d like to be able to travel and even pay for others to come if they couldn’t afford it. Be able to eat at nice restaurants around the world. But those are really small side items.

Maybe you’re wondering where I’m going with this. I guess I’m thinking about what kind of attitude I’m passing on to my boys. I mean, my responsibility as a dad is to help them know what it means to be a man, how to be one and to give them the tools to live a significant life. But if part of what rubs off on them is well, covetousness, that seems like a step backward from those goals.

My challenge is blindness. Am I blind to what I don’t see? Kind of like what the speaker said, “We’ve taken covetousness and turned it into a virtue.” Have I lived so long in a culture that looks at this issue as a non-issue that I’m not able to see its subtle influence on me? And this is such a polarized issue that it’s really hard to get good feedback. One side of the fence says all is well. If you’ve made it you’ve earned it. Spend as you please. Give a little away to appease the guilt and just keep on going. The other side is equally as intense. Sell it all! Move into a field somewhere and forgo all earthly delights! Material things are the devil! (Imagine the Waterboy’s Mama here)


Waterboy's Mama

Material things are the devil!

When my kids get older and they are able to look back on their days under my leadership I want them to be able to say that they didn’t just learn how to be polite and do good things. More than knowing how to make money. Beyond the basics of having the right behaviors. I want them to be able to say they “caught” my attitudes and that they are thankful I had the right ones. That my heart was not only good but well trained.

And so I find myself asking, “Where do I start to evaluate my heart?” And what other issues are buried down in my life that are so normal that they are practically invisible at this point? I wish I had a neat bow to tie around this post. Instead, I just send it out as more of a reflection. This is bound to be a tension I’ll wrestle with the rest of my life. At least I know I won’t be solving it today.