I recently heard a pastor tell the story of a young woman that had her mother removed from the home due to drug use, several years later have her grandmother pass away from cancer, live on the streets of Jackson MS for months, taken into foster care at the age of 13 and through a series of events get a full academic scholarship to Cornell University and Johns Hopkins Med School. This woman is now devoting her life to treating and seeking a cure for the cancer that took the life of her grandmother. While that was an incredible story of overcoming almost hopeless odds, the question he asked next is what really hit me. He asked: “Now what are you doing with your life”. I don’t recall much else that he said for the 30 minutes that followed. I am sure it was good stuff, but I have that about that question every day since that morning.
It’s not the first time I have dwelt on that issue. Several years ago I came across a best-selling book titled “The Purpose Driven Life” written by Rick Warren. I read that book, studied that book, and even taught classes on that book for several years. One of the key messages of the book is to realize and act on our ability to impact the lives of other people in a meaningful way. Many of the leadership principles that we discuss are covered in Warren’s book. I say all this not to get you to read a book, but rather to remind anyone in a leadership position that we really do need to pause from time to time and evaluate what we are doing and why we are doing it. It is likely obvious that as I get older that I spend more time contemplating my impact and significance to others.
All of us have an opportunity to have an impact on people at home, at work, and in the community. But do we really take advantage of those opportunities, or do we look to the path of least resistance and just get through the day, day after day?
More specifically at work, think about the keys areas that we focus on and why:
1. Getting our people home safely every day so that they can live a full life without injury.
2. Taking care of our customers at high level so that we continue to have demand for our product and jobs for our people.
3. Running our business at high level of reliability so that we can lead profitable businesses and provide stable jobs for our people.
Don’t miss what comes after the “so that’s”. That’s where you find the meaning and purpose in your leadership. That’s where all those mundane, seemingly insignificant conversations, confrontations, challenging discussions, etc. take on meaning and purpose. It’s the everyday attention to detail that makes a difference. Are we consistently observing, challenging, questioning, correcting, exhorting, and, in general, investing in those people that we are leading? At home….at work…..in the community…..
So I ask you the same question: What are you doing with your life?