Lightning strikes a tree and alters the course of a stream causing two rivers to join.
You’ve heard of the butterfly effect, where one small creature flapping its wings and creating a small wind current causes a chain reaction that alters hemispheric weather patterns half a world away.
When I think back on my own life, there are a few of those major moments that changed my life. Had just one person, one event, one little part of the equation been altered, even the slightest bit, who knows how different my own life would be.
“A good life is a collection of happy moments.” -Denis Waitley
One of those moments happened in 1990. I walked into a crowded room, looked up, and met eyes with the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Everything slowed down for a moment, the world tipping on its axis, freezing time long
enough to suspend us for a few seconds. It was immediate. It was intense. It was like nothing I’d known before.
Only a short time later, this week in 1992, she stood in the back of a church, the light flooding in through a stained-glass window behind her. She seemed to almost float there, as if she were an angel who was given the option to become fully human and was making her choice by joining her life with mine. From the front of the church, I sang to her, and she walked up the aisle and then we sang a duet together. Our lives forever changed. Yes, it was exactly like one of those Hallmark movies, the story line either inspiring or sickeningly sweet, depending on your perspective.
Others are gone, too: aunts, friends, my other grandparents, who were so gracious that day. My grandmother looked in the camera and thanked my wife “for being one of us now.”
Time marches forward. I’m now that guy that can tell others how to make a marriage last twenty-five years.
There are other moments that stand out:
Buying our first home together. How we managed, I’m not sure, but we did on a shoestring budget. We remember our near panic when we received that first utility bill, wondering how we would pay it.
The birth of our daughter in 1997. We recall every single minute. My wife’s elated cry out to me when her water broke. Hours later, my daughter surprising the nurses by tracking me by my voice.
A health scare. Only months afterward, we were surprised again with another altering moment. I’ll never forget the doctor coming out, telling me that my wife had breast cancer, and that she was about to come out of anesthesia. We would have to tell her together. It was advanced enough to require radiation and chemotherapy. She lost her hair but never her spirit. In a few months’ time, her faith began to sprout faster than her hair, and she has never wavered in her belief.
“It is in our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” -Aristotle Onassis
Life-threatening disease. Years later, we learned she had another cancer. This one even more insidious, threatening once again to steal her away, to shatter the glass of our lives. We’ve learned to pray more in these moments. No one prays in good times quite the same as in challenging times. We don’t know the why behind them. Perhaps God uses them to get our attention, perhaps because we’re finally still enough to see what is always there, and yet we miss it as we race by the important on the way to the meaningless.
Then there are the career moments. When she left hers to fight cancer and stay home to raise our daughter. When my promotions started. Her belief in me fueled my success. From the outside, my job promotions looked miraculous. The truth behind them was more struggle, political battles, and more work than you’d want to know. Nothing came easy. And it seems we moved so often that my wife put our furniture on wheels. In fact, it was our move to Columbus from Nashville that opened our eyes into how much junk we were carting around, stuff from decades ago, some of it in boxes not opened in several moves.
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.
Lessons from Downton Abbey
After six seasons, the popular PBS series Downton Abbey has ended. As the series unfolded, we watched the characters evolve through many changes in their society and personal lives. As the characters changed and matured, there were numerous lessons and wisdom for life demonstrated in the show.
“Leadership through visible action is always effective.” -Bruce Rhoades
This is a guest post by my friend Lee Colan and his three children: Cameron, Grace and Lexi Colan.
Leader as Parent, Parent as Leader
The more I lead, the more I work with leaders, and the more I parent, the more I see compelling parallels between leadership and parenting. Leaders are parents, and parents are leaders. They are in different settings with parallel roles. To illustrate this, here is an excerpt from a refreshing parenting book that was written by three children, Please Listen Up, Parents: 12 Secrets YOUR Kids Want YOU to Know. This excerpt addresses creating connections – on its surface this is also a clear priority for leaders. What is compelling is the parallel actions for parents and leaders even below the surface. As you read this, consider how you can apply these insights from kids to your own team at work and family at home.
Even though our technology helps us stay connected, it doesn’t mean we are really connecting. A family is made up of real connections: connections between individuals, connections to values, and connections to a bigger purpose.
“The first duty of love is to listen.” -Paul Tillich
Show us how to make connections with other people.
Remember, we learn by example. Let us see you talking to other adults at the playground, park, or museum. Nudge us to interact with other kids when we’re feeling shy. Show us that it’s OK to say “hello” and strike up a conversation. Offer to host backyard cookouts and sleepovers with our friends. Encourage us to go on group outings and field trips with our friends and their friends. It’s a great big world out there, and the more connected we feel to it, the better lives we’ll lead.
“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” -Will Rogers
We also need to feel connected to our family values.
We’re navigating an endless stream of confusing messages from advertisers, coaches, friends, movies, teachers, TV, the Internet and more. Having clear family values keeps us grounded. Gen. Colin Powell once said, “The greatest gifts my parents gave to me were their unconditional love and a set of values. Values that they lived and didn’t just lecture about. Values that included an understanding of the simple differences between right and wrong, a belief in God, the importance of hard work, and education, and self-respect.” Our maternal grandfather and “family general” Ron Davis always says, “Family comes first, and they will always be there for you.” This phrase is more than just words for us. It helps to remind us of and reinforce our family’s values.
In addition to trying to live his values, our dad also wrote them down for us to make sure we knew them and had them in writing for safekeeping. Here are a few of them:
Everything starts and ends with our relationships – with God first, then family.
Respect the three P’s: people, property and perspectives. Leave people, places, and situations in a better condition than when you arrived.
Do more than expected before it’s asked of you. Anticipate others’ needs, and take initiative. Think of others more than yourself.
Give more grace to others than you think is necessary because, at some point, you will need more grace than you think you do.
Perseverance and hard work beat natural talent every day. Our trials are God’s way of molding us into who He wants us to be.
When we’re not sure about what to do or how to feel in a new situation, sometimes we think about our family values to see if they can help. The values might not cover everything, but they usually do a good job of pointing us in the right direction.
It helps to discuss family values so we can each interpret what they mean to us. Also, keep them visible (usually in the kitchen) so the whole family can see them, refer to them and remember them, and hopefully, live by them.
We also need your help to begin to figure out how our gifts – artistic, athletic, comedic, intellectual, mathematical, musical, scientific, social, or anything else – can make the world a better place. We’re just kids, but understanding how and where we fit in the world is still really important to us.
Our dad once explained to us that sports equipment like golf clubs, tennis racquets and baseball bats all have a certain spot that, when a ball hits it, gives the best result. Hitting this sweet spot creates a long drive down the fairway, a swift crosscourt return, or a powerful homerun. When the ball hits that sweet spot, you barely feel it. The ball goes where you want it to go, even farther and faster than normal.
“Don’t promise when you’re happy, don’t reply when you’re angry, and don’t decide when you’re sad.” -Ziad K. Abdelnour
We need your help connecting to our sweet spot in life.
When we were little, you asked us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now it’s time for the next step, which is, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Start by helping us answer two simple questions:
What am I passionate about?
Which tasks are easy and natural for me to perform?
You probably remember when you connected to your sweet spot in life. You knew you were “in the zone,” and other people acknowledged your skills and abilities. Maybe you connected to it when you were young, but it was probably a long process of self-discovery that lasted into young adulthood at least. So please don’t rush us. Watch for the right times to ask us these questions because those are the conversations that will help you understand us and really help us understand ourselves.
“There is one thing we can do better than anyone else: we can be ourselves.” -Arthur Ward
If you are going through one of life’s storms or what seems like an unending valley, you may not feel like you will ever experience a sunny day or a mountaintop again. These quotes are designed to encourage you through it all.
“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” –Charles Bukowski