Posts Tagged ‘significance’

LEGACY 21: The Legacy of Asking Key Questions

July 13, 2018

It’s been several weeks since I’ve written a blog myself, but the idea for one popped up this morning when I awoke. We (my wife and I) are on our way to northwest Ohio (a 12-hour drive) to wrap up the affairs of her 93-year-old father, who died (preferable in my book to the somewhat euphemistic “passed”) this past Tuesday. In his waning days, he asked a relative, “What is the purpose of life?” The relative, definitely younger and less experienced in life, was taken aback and, not knowing how to answer, didn’t respond. She said she wished she had known what was going on and said something. I’m not sure that was the important thing. Can we ever really know if we say the right thing?

So I found myself thinking, “What are the key questions we should ask?”

What prompts us to ask? What is the purpose of asking? Do we really want answers? Or are we looking for something attendant—Relationship? Mere information? Satisfying our curiosity? (Why is it that children are always asking WHY? and we as adults stop asking?)

There are 2 kinds of questions—unimportant and important. Key questions definitely fit into the latter. But there are probably a host of questions that are important but not key. So let’s keep delving down into levels of importance and “key-ness.”

There are questions that identify information that matters, as opposed to trivia. There are questions that help influence decision-making. And there are questions that change our lives. I’m not a philosopher, so questions of epistemology (the theory of the nature of knowledge) I’m not qualified to begin to answer. How much can be known? The answer is the Question of the Ages: Who knows? (and if you respond in pat theological certainty, “God knows!”—how do you know that? And the begging questions, “Are there things He doesn’t know?” And on and on it goes…)

In my little, often-unknowing mind, there are a few KEY key questions for sure. My father-in-law asked one of them: “What is the purpose of life?” It can be asked in other ways or with other nuances: “Why am I here?” “How can I find meaning/significance?” “What do I need to be doing with my life?” Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING (according to a 1991 survey conducted by the US Library of Congress and Book of the Month Club, one of the 10 Most Influential Books in the US. See Wikipedia under the term “MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING.” A humorous footnote: The archived article, from the NY Times, has 13 total books listed. Five of them, including Frankl’s, are tied for 9th place. There is no actual 10th place book.)

Key questions revolve around key needs: purpose, relationship, legacy. What will I leave behind? (Why do I blog? What do I gain by it?)

My father-in-law was one of the most purposeful and effective men I’ve ever met. He lived a full and productive life and left a great legacy for his family and his world.

I wish I could ask him now, “What did you mean by that question? Do you have an answer? Was it the answer you expected? Is it the answer you wanted?” and “Are you still asking questions? If so, why?” And perhaps the most important one for me, “What question should I be asking right now?”

LEGACY 17: The Significance of Productivity

June 2, 2018

My son raised a question about my last blogpost (about Gary M. and NOT FITTING THE MOLD), the question of what my point really was. And reading back through it, I realized I didn’t make that clear. I’ll do that in a later post, but for now I want to go on. I’ve committed to writing a post every day I can possibly manage it, so this is today’s.

Part of posting every day is being productive. And productivity is important to me. It adds significance to my life, makes me feel useful and valued, and in many cases, creates tangible results in other people’s lives. Our company does electrical contracting, and I like being able to look back at accomplishments that are concrete and visible: a Cracker Barrel, a Firestone Auto Care, retrofit lighting in some major buildings in the Greenville SC area (Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Brookwood Church auditorium, a Carolina Handling/Raymond facility, and others), a large generator installation at local assisted living facility (Capstone R&H in Easley), etc.

Personal and business connections are also a way of being productive. I can scroll through my memory and enjoy events, interactions, conversations that have added value. They are too numerous to even try to list—I’m almost 66, and having just completed 25 years full-time in business and 45 years doing electrical work (41 as a master electrician). But having just completed a celebratory event in which I listed a summary of accomplishments, I was surprised at the “long obedience” Nietszche spoke of

The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.

I have to say that the productivity that has resulted from my “long obedience in the same direction” has made MY life worth living. I think it has made others feel the same. I have said many times that my goal is to get to the end of my life, so far as the power lies within me, with everyone feeling that they were better for having known me. There will be exceptions, obviously. Life isn’t perfect. Mistakes happen. But to do the best you can, and do the best you can to correct mistakes, is the best you can do. (Kind of circular, perhaps, but true.)

I told my pastor and his wife a week or so ago that the one thing I would want as my epitaph, to be spoken at a ceremony celebrating my life when I’m gone, is that my life fulfilled the quote by St. Irenaeus: The glory of God is man fully alive. I want to have been fully alive. I want to be fully alive now. I want to continue to be productive until I stop breathing. “Retirement” is an opportunity to be more productive in more ways than I’ve been before.

I like slogans like “Life is good” and “It doesn’t get any better than this” (in the positive sense that “This is great!” rather than the negative “It’s all bad, and it just doesn’t get any better.”).

I want to make people laugh longer and more often, love more deeply and more fully, live more vibrantly and jubilantly. I want to be deep-rooted with good-tasting and abundant fruit. Producing significance in our lives is our calling, our mandate. It can be our greatest joy.

This I want to be my legacy.


May 30, 2018

Maybe it was because Monday (5/29/18) was Memorial Day. Maybe it was just because I was trying to figure out where to go after exhausting the 16 LEGACY blogposts I wrote 3-4 years ago and had made the commitment to try to post every day if possible. And maybe it was just because it was time.

In LEGACY 15 I had mentioned a story Geneva Anderson had told in her speeches as a coach and in Toastmasters competitions, called “Light the Pink Candle.” Then I read a story (on Facebook)of another friend about a miracle of faith in the life of her 21-year-old autistic son. So I emailed Geneva’s son (Geneva passed away last December) and messaged the friend on FB asking permission to share their stories on my blog. Both agreed. So when I get copies I’ll be posting them.

This is the introductory post for a folder I’ll call FRIENDS’ STORIES. With art, the sum of the works of all the great writers/musicians/artists in a generation is greater than an individual (think Elizabethan literature & Shakespeare/Romantic-era music & Beethoven/Impressionism & Monet or Manet). So the sphere of my legacy includes inspiring stories I’ve heard from and through friends and family, or even other sources as I go along.

This could well be a never-ending legacy.


May 20, 2018

(Originally written 9/30/14. The grandson mentioned here is almost 7 now.)

Why is being consciously concerned about leaving a legacy important? Why does it even matter?

The only answer that even works is love.

A hundred years from now, who will remember me personally? No one, most likely. A century later, if any of us exist at all in anyone’s consciousness, it is as a name on a building plaque or tombstone or in a genealogy. Nothing remains. Anonymous dust. (Since I plan to be cremated, there won’t even be the tombstone in my case.)

So why bother caring? For the same reason that, in that unthinking heartbeat, without batting an eyelash, we would lay down our lives for the grandson we are taking to the museum. He matters that much.

True, he probably won’t be around in that same hundred years, but leaving him something significant, consciously, may make it easier for those he transmits his legacy to. Someone has transmitted their legacy, even if only genetically, to get me here, and others have transmitted culture, knowledge, and sustainability to get us all here. So somehow, it matters.

We have to love enough to leave a legacy. The only legitimacy legacy can claim is caring enough to make it happen. Deep inside, in our core, we care, enough to want it to matter. So we strive to leave something behind.

I can remember crying in my early school days, asking my dad—in my own mind— why he had had to leave me. (He committed suicide when I was 3.) But sometimes a clarity would come in, that perhaps he had left me more by leaving me—I had social security and veteran benefits for school that I would not have had otherwise. And who knows what negative memories I was spared? Maybe in leaving me, he loved me more than even he knew. I still pray for him—that is part of his legacy in leaving.

We have to love our past adequately in order to value the future. The continuity needs to be established. It took me until I was age 60 to track back past my father’s father’s name, age, and residence listed on my dad’s birth certificate. I found a brokenness in the life of his father—my great-grandfather—that explained it. He had killed his mother accidentally at age 17, and died when his son was 12. That son, my grandfather, never married my grandmother, leaving more brokenness. (My father’s birth certificate says they were married, but I’m almost certain that was a cover-up, based on other genealogical clues.)

But out of all those brokennesses, and a multitude of others, the mosaic of my life is pieced together. I have to try to step back enough to discern the picture. And even then, I only catch glimpses of glory.

But I care enough to try to leave it for my son and daughter, for their daughters, and for this grandson who is not even my flesh and blood. He may never read this, but it matters to me. I love that much.


May 19, 2018

(Originally written 9/27/14)

I have been told I am one of the most generous people someone knows. I love to give. And that may be why I am where I am in life, as far as having not saved and having no cushion for retirement.

That may also cause a lot of people to disrespect my opinions about money and investing. So be it.

But I do not apologize for it. To me, the real value of money is its ability to bless people, to bring momentary happiness and satisfaction and relief from troubles—i.e., its currency, its ability to make relationships flow between people in good ways. Yes, it has propensities for evil use—and a lot of that is determined by its use, its application to specific situations. That application is a reflection of the morals, the values, the attitude of the person who is wielding its momentary and fleeting power.

The longer-lasting—indeed, eternal power, if it is to have any at all—is in giving. Giving graciously and gloriously—unexpectedly, serendipitously—gives money a real value (and here I think of the Spanish meaning of real: ROYAL). Money is at its best serving, benefiting, being used to add value to the overall human condition, furthering life and not death. This is why we honor philanthropists (even when their money has been ill-gotten)—somehow, they have laid hold of the principle of giving.

And in the final analysis, money is only one form of currency, often an expression of a truer one. Jesus commended the widow slipping her two meager mites into the treasure unnoticed as having more value that most giving—it reflected her heart, her desire to give all to God. We too can do that through the way we treat money.

He also commented on using this life’s resources to lay up treasures in another that will last immeasurably longer. One way to do that is to invest it in other treasures that will also be lasting into that realm—people.

One thing I frequently ask myself: What is the best way I can bless this person? Sometimes, if their heart is closed to me, the best way is to leave them alone. But more often, it is through the currency of kindness, of praise, of unexpected gratitude, of a different mindset—valuing them for who they are, who they are becoming, who they could be. And rarely is money the primary means of doing that—but it can be used as a part of a greater plan.

“Money is a great servant, but a terrible master,” someone said. Unless we have an underlying grid that tells us how to utilize money for good, money has no currency, no real or true value. But used for meaningful purposes, it can take on eternal worth.


May 17, 2018

(Originally written 9/23/14. As indicated before, the 3-year-old grandson mentioned here is now almost 7.)

Our culture makes a huge distinction between “unpaid” and “paid” in matters like services rendered. Perhaps this is due to an extreme emphasis on the supposed (attributed) value of money.

But as anyone in on their deathbed, or in a life-and-death struggle, will testify, money means little or nothing in such situations. Money is a currency of exchange, not a measure of worth. You can dignify it with fancy terms like wealth management, asset protection, etc., but in the final analysis, we seek security, significance, a sense of belonging, and other intangibles.

Net worth is not real worth. It’s that simple.

Why then do we denigrate what we do by saying, “I’m not being paid for it”? Some of the things I’ve treasured most have not cost a dime—the sharing of a bite of his cookie by my grandson, the beaming smile of my wife when I’ve surprised her with something she never expected, the simple pleasure of a fiery sunset that sets the evening sky ablaze with amazement.

Ultimately, everything is “paid” in some form or fashion. We become what we invest in, so even literally unpaid actions have dividends, sometimes tangible, but not seen as so until far down the road, or by others than ourselves.  Dan Ariely, in Predictably Irrational, makes a point that you can’t set a price on that incredible Thanksgiving dinner prepared by your mother-in-law—and that the moment you do, you cross social boundaries in ways that cannot be uncrossed.

So how do we overcome this bias towards bullion and bull markets?

  • Take the long view. Take Stephen Covey’s advice to imagine your funeral, and what 4 people in the different realms of your life are saying—then live your life in a way to make those 4 speeches state clearly what you wish your legacy to be. Starting with the end of the row in mind is one of the clearest ways to plow a straight furrow. Avoid being short-sighted in ways that will matter at the end.
  • Be thankful. Maintain an attitude of gratitude. As someone said, it’s “BE-Attitudes” that matter. Thankfulness transforms our lives in ways we could not have imagined, and keeps them fresh daily.
  • Clear up your thinking. Express yourself simply and authentically. Make sure you tell people you love them, and appreciate them. Value your enemies—they can help you improve your game.
  • Open up. Don’t wait until tomorrow to experience joy and laughter. There has been more laughter in our lives with this 3-year-old grandson in the last 2 years than in any decade of my life previous. Find delight in simple moments. Take snapshots to store in your mind—and on your electronics. Look at others’ pictures for clues on what you value.
  • There is a value in persisting that can only be found by persisting when persisting doesn’t make sense. You can only what’s beyond tomorrow by going there.

LEGACY 1: What Is MY Legacy?

May 6, 2018

(Note: I wrote the following, exactly as is, almost 4 years ago, 9/16/14. I had intended to begin posting a series of LEGACY blogposts, but for whatever reason, haven’t followed through. I am now 65, in business full-time 25 years, and thinking more about LEGACY more deliberately. Thus, I’m coming back round. I will probably post 1/day for around 2 weeks, all of them written in the fall of 2014 and a couple during 2015. From there, I will try to be more intentional about posting. If you are reading this, thank you, and I hope these posts, and future posts, create value and add to your life.)

When I joined a short-term mastermind group last year, we were given a pack of 50 or so cards with terms on them like PERSEVERANCE, MONEY, SUCCESS, FAITH, FAMILY, FRIENDS, etc. We were told to sort through the deck and pick the top 6 we felt were most important in our lives, and then to prioritize them. My top pick was LEGACY.

I’m not totally sure why. But I know the drive to leave something of significance is reflected in many of the choices I make, some even daily. I sometimes think of a time 100 years from now, when I won’t be remembered, which really doesn’t bother me, because I know I don’t remember people of 100 years ago or think of them really at all, unless I’m studying genealogy. Life demands too much focus, simply sometimes to put one foot in front of the others, to even think about legacy, whether it’s the legacy we received or the legacy we’re leaving.

But we do leave ideas. We impact the future by how we think, how we live our lives, the concepts we embody, the ideas we embrace. “Ideas have consequences,” someone said. Indeed they do. “The pen is mightier than the sword” remains true today, even if you substitute “gun” or “bomb” for “sword.” An ancient Chinese proverb, “The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory,” points out the importance of leaving a legacy in writing if possible.

So what do I consciously choose to leave as MY specific legacy?

  • Life is process. It’s ongoing. Keep doing it. It’s worth living. (My basis for saying this: My father committed suicide when I was 3. He had 3 bullets under the pillow his head was laying on—and they may have been intended for my mother, my younger sister, and me.)
  • Invest in people. People have eternal worth—even God invests His universe in their care! (Wisdom dictates following others’ ideas of what’s significant, and the same logic should apply to considering what God thinks is important.)
  • KISS—“Keep It Simple, SIMPLE!” Stick with what you know, are good at, do best. (Warren Buffett and Donald Trump—and probably many others—espouse this idea. Being too scattered dissipates energy, and results in no legacy of significance. Dan Ariely, in Predictably Irrational, points out an experiment that supports this line of thinking. Often the most successful are those who focus on one or two things, and do them superbly.)
  • Communication is key. Talking—and, more importantly listening—is uniquely human, what distinguishes humans from animals, at least with regards to leaving legacy. (Animals do communicate, but for the purpose of short-term needs related to survival. Humans are able to think conceptually in terms of future, past, imaginary and theoretical concepts, hierarchy, eternity—in short, outside themselves. We need to relate to legacy with that in mind.)

That’s all for now. I want to keep these under 500 words.

Genius, Unencouraged, Withers

May 8, 2012

Too often, I fear, we fail to recognize the small stirrings of genius in each other.

I was made keenly aware of this this past week in a small exchange of conversation between my wife and myself.

And sometimes it is because we are so used to the particular gifting we have but have gotten used to.

Here’s how it played out. While riding somewhere, I said something that for me was within my usual way of thinking of things, some observation about what was going on that, for me, encapsulated an idea, painted the bigger picture in what was going on. To give you an example, our son and daughter-in-law have been teaching their 9-month-old son to clap his hands when he accomplishes some major (for him) feat of growth—rolling over, grabbing something, making a sound that is recognizable to us, etc. I thought that was an admirable and praiseworthy way of helping him grow, but the way I said it was, “That’s neat! They’re teaching him to celebrate little things!” It was, for me, just a simple statement, nothing profound, but it moved my wife. “I would never have thought of it that way,” she said in amazement.

And then that old self-denigrating, self-deprecating little demon that leads to envy (we all deal with it) started hounding her. “I wish I could do that. You are so good at that, but I never think of things that way.”

I tried to head it off at the pass. “You are gifted in so many other ways, Sweetie,” I suggested—and she really is. And then I had a thought: “Why don’t we pray that you get that gift?” So we said a short prayer to that effect—nothing elaborate, just a simple request.

Twice later in that same day, she made observations that were on the same level of brilliance to me as what I had done earlier was for her. And I pointed it out to her, to her amazement, I think. And I’m sure she has done it more than either of us had been aware of in the past—we simply hadn’t noticed.

I do have a gifting with words, and I’ve been told that more than once, but it’s something I’m used to. I live with it, breathe it, glory in it, am tormented by it. It’s my atmosphere, my milieu, my life-breath. But I noticed that she has sparks that are just as brilliant, moments of insight, flashes of luminescence that surprise and fascinate me—but I seldom comment on them because it’s so commonplace for me. And the same genius in her, unnoticed and uncomplimented, withers and atrophies, wastes away, simply for lack of a little watering, a few well-placed kind words.

Far too many people live in a “home on the range, where seldom is heard an ENcouraging word”—not intentionally, but simply because we walk blindly—bludgeoningly, it turns out—through this life, not building up our fellow sojourners, and as a result allowing each other to wither in a dry desert of un-notice. We grow up that way, with no one feeding our deepest longings for significance, no one teaching us that we can, simply by our words, make a difference. We starve each other of part of our humanness, and kingdoms fall for want of a small nail. We don’t mean to—it just “happens.”

I think of two powerful images of this lack. The first image is from a scientific experiment (I can’t imagine doing this—it pains me to even think of it) in which they taped a patch over a new-born kitten’s eye (fortunately, only one eye) to see if it could learn to see, having known only darkness. It couldn’t—for the entire remainder of life. The other is a parable, a definition of heaven and hell based on how we treat each other: If we couldn’t bend our arms at the elbows, and had to try to eat, hell would be trying only to feed ourselves—heaven would be feeding each other.

I’m not sure we can undo all the patches we have been subjected to, whether deliberately or through circumstances. But we can try to learn to live in that parabolic heaven now. We can learn to celebrate little things.

We can help each other find our way on the path we all trod that Victor Frankl called “Man’s Search For Meaning.”

We can.

Notice. Become.

Aware. Alive.

Hearing God and Reflection

April 9, 2012

Hearing God and Reflection.

Incredibly good blog on hearing God through reflection!

Sam Williamson’s blog “Beliefs of the Heart”