REFLECTION: It seems that part of living is learning to say good bye. I bid farewell last week to a former colleague and mentor, Harold Baker, with whom I had worked at the U of S years ago, and with whom I had kept in touch over the years. Harold, as testimonials at his memorial service confirmed, was a kind man, a gentleman, a selfless giver, a mentor, a teacher, and, above all, a community builder.
When I was in my early 20’s, and Harold was already a couple of decades further down this road of life, he and I were teamed up as staff partners at a youth development event. While our assigned group of thirty teenagers chatted and milled around us, we settled into the front seats of our charter bus for a short road trip to an out-of-town venue. As the bus reached the highway and headed for the open road, Harold turned to me and inquired, “So, tell me, young lady, exactly what do you intend to do with your life?”
Now, I’d heard a variation or two on that question before. From the time we can talk, as children, we are quizzed by the adults in our lives. “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” But this was not that kind of question. There was no condescension, no playfully poking fun, no making light conversation.
It was a simple, sincere, inquiry that carried a raft of implied messages – these amongst them. That even at this young age and early stage in my career, he saw me as capable of serious intentions and grand ambitions. That it was not too early – nor too late – to lift up my eyes and set my sails. That my plans might include a contribution or two to the lives of others and not just focus on my own self interests.
For me, it was a game-changing question. It prompted a conversation that drilled to a much deeper level of thinking. The impact of that question stayed with me through the years. It was a question that popped to mind recently when I read several bits of new research describing the importance of meaningful work in developing a sense of engagement in people’s lives and workplaces.
ACTION: So, when was the last time you asked yourself – no matter how many years you think might lie ahead – “Just what, exactly, do you intend to do with the rest of your life?” In the end, it’s up to each one of us to set our sights on a meaningful future – to chart the destination, map out the terrain, and gas up the vehicle for the road ahead.
We also share that road with others. Every day, we are in contact and conversation with colleagues, friends and family. Many times, you and I might have an opportunity to introduce a game changing question that will trigger others to think differently about their situations, their prospects, and life’s possibilities. How often do we take the chance, and how often do we miss the moment? (That’s just the kind of a question you could count on Harold to ask.)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Finding meaning can be more important than finding amusement.” – Marshall Goldsmith
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: Marshall Goldsmith, whom I’ve mentioned in previous editions of Pause, coaches organizational leaders around the world. His recent work is focusing not on what organizations can do to engage their employees – but rather on how individuals can take responsibility for engaging themselves in their lives and their work. Link here to read a bit more on Goldsmith’s latest thinking about What Makes Workers Happy?