On July 5th I completed my 29th year with IP and my 34th year of fulltime employment. I ironically started my first job out of school on July 5th and started with IP on that same day exactly four years later.
As I look back over those years, a few things come to mind:
1. Thankful: I have never been without employment when I needed a job. From 12-15 years old I was able to mow yards, I was fortunate to always have a summer job in high school, was able to work part-time in college, and have been very fortunate to have had steady employment the past 34 years.
2. Content: I have not necessarily enjoyed every one of these jobs over the years but I have learned to be content. One of the keys to this contentment is perspective. Focusing on the people provides lasting significance and meaning well beyond the job requirements or frustrations. I recall giving a facility tour years ago (actually in my second year with IP) to an executive who referred to people in the facility as liabilities. When I asked him what he meant by that, he referred to safety liabilities and said we were better with fewer. While I didn’t challenge him at that time, I did not and still don’t agree with any aspect of what he said. People are opportunities not liabilities. We have an opportunity to impact people every day and truly make a difference in their lives. That’s perspective and where I have learned contentment.
3. Unifier: One thing that I have learned over the years and is even more important today is striving to bring people together for a common cause/focus. While there seems to be more influences in the world today dividing people and causing disruptive divisions, we need unity more than ever. Finding common ground, shared purpose, team based objectives, and mutual commitment all drive unity. Tearing down the walls and building bridges has been and continues to be a primary focus for me.
So 34 years summed up in three words: thankful, content, and unifier. I write this not to draw attention to myself, but to challenge you in each of these three areas. I have struggled with each of these three over the years, but have continued focusing on developing in each of them. Take some time this week, reflect, and give consideration to the following:
Thankful leaders help others see the positives through challenges.
Content leaders can focus on the opportunities (people) in front of them in the moment.
Unifying leaders bring people together, heal divisive wounds, and create a better work environment.