I was thinking about this guy the other day.
Ambitious from an early age, he was always pushing. He joined the military young. He wanted to do something important. He got married and started a family. But then his first daughter passed away at the age three from a terrible disease.
He moved his wife and children for a fresh start, but then failed multiple times at whatever he tried.
He would get so close to the top of an organization and would then get passed up for someone else. There was always someone more charismatic and popular.
When he finally got the top job, he was mocked mercilessly. He was too methodical. He wasn’t outgoing. He was out of touch. He would have major accomplishments and then within months would be blamed for endless failures. He was finally let go for someone younger and more engaging.
And that was to be his end.
Just a few months ago, news sites were running non-stop commentary on the president’s legacy. They recounted his WWII bravery of finishing his bombing mission, despite his plane being hit. They told of his love for family and the loss of his daughter. They told how he patiently served as Vice-President for Ronald Reagan, guided the world through the collapse of the Soviet Union as President, but was ultimately voted out in favor of President Clinton.
They focused on the billboards of his history, but we need to remember what was on the ground below.
Failure, dirt, imperfection, struggle, like the pain of childbirth (so I’m told) are overlooked after the fact. The problem is most of time that’s all we see.
When you think of your life, do you see your legacy?
Are you considering what will last? What will we remember? What will be the resounding note, long after your song has been sung?
Or are you focused on what might break? What’s not perfect? Things that won’t matter when we eulogize you 40 years from now?
Your life will not be perfect. You will make mistakes. You will be treated unfairly. There are things outside your control. But at the end, when it’s all said and done, we won’t care about those things.
We are not going to remember you for the time you yelled at your child.
We’re not going to talk about the deal you didn’t close.
We’re not going to recount how many business didn’t make it or what your credit score is.
We’re going to talk about your character and how you impacted us and how you made us feel.
What if today, you could lift up your head and think about that for a moment. Give yourself some space. Find a little grace. What if you made one choice today that prioritizes the things that will last — your character, the impact on others, and the feelings of those you love. Because in the end, these are what we will stand and salute you for.