My three sons now reside in three different cities, and I’m an officially an empty nester. I was never in a hurry to have them leave, and now I sit at the laptop with hits from the ‘60s playing as I contemplate what the blink of four decades reveals to me. The lessons apply to all growth, whether personal, in a family or of an organization. No matter what the unit, growing up leads to growing on. I hope some of these thoughts apply to you, your family, business, chamber, church … and life to come.
Go easy on the credit and light on the blame. I’m exceedingly proud of my sons’ growth and development as the men they are now, and what they are becoming. I hope to have been a positive influence along the way; I certainly have enjoyed the role of dad more than all my others. But, I don’t take credit for how they have used the influences in their lives to be the men they are. My youngest noticed, and appreciated, that when his now-former boss said to me, “You’ve done a good job raising him,” I replied, “His accomplishments are his own.”
The same holds true for all those around us, whether they are family members, colleagues or team members. We hopefully have a positive, empowering influence on them, but their achievements are their own and they should feel good about owning them.
Similarly, we should not accept the blame for the failures and mistakes of those over whom we hold some influence. The greatest gift bestowed on us is that of free will. How we choose to use it is our own; likewise, those for whom we might want to claim credit, we cannot hold ourselves to blame for their foibles. Welcome to the human race.
Love is catch and release. Years ago, I wrote a piece titled Cutting the Monofilament. It considered the relationship between fathers and their children as they grow up and grow on. The concept is based on love, respect and the realities of relationships. The same truth applies to all with whom we have relationships. It is okay, and desirable, to have a genuine human love for those around you at work, in church, on committees, etc. Part of that relationship includes being able to let go in the hopes that there can be reconnection in the future.
I used to tell my team members that one of my goals was to have their résumé be stronger and their sense of empowering strengthened by having worked in an office I managed. If any one of them chose to move on, I felt confident they were able to do so with a stronger position than when they began working for me. You can love your team, your members, your clients, your competition … and not be afraid to release them. Love is catch and release. Life is catch and release.
The moment is what matters. My dad used to say that he didn’t want to be a day younger than he was. He wanted the day he had. A customer told me in 1973 at the grocery store at which I was a checker, “Don’t wish your life away, young man,” when I said, “I can’t wait to be 18.” Don’t wish to be a day younger or a day older. Growing up and growing on happens in the moments. The moments with family and friends, or in solitude … at work, at home or on a journey … are truly all we have. Remember them, write them down, soak them in. They enrich our lives and provide great lenses through which to view the journey of growing up and growing on.
Let others enjoy their moments, too. I used to tell team members that it was okay to take a walk, sit on a bench, etc., in order to find themselves in the moments in which they are most creative, productive, calm, relaxed and proficient. For one, her barefoot walks in the grass became well known. Genuineness comes in moments, not busy-ness.
Get out of the way. I had the gift of being able to help my youngest son move 1100 miles away as we experienced the adventure of moving. We drove out, I flew back. We both hurt when saying goodbye. Perhaps the flip side of “catch and release” is “get out of the way.” One of the great gifts we can offer to others is to help clear their paths for success … to get out of their way, and to help keep other forces from obstructing and impeding them. I told a former boss that my primary role was to keep the rest of the organization out of my team’s way so they could succeed by using their talents, gifts and spirit.
When you apply the first three rules, the last one seems to happen. In all our roles, there is much we can do to help others succeed. It is all part of growing up and growing on, which is a never-ending process.
Andy Williams’ rendition of Henry Mancini’s composition of songwriter Johnny Mercer’s Moon River provides a wonderful blend of wisdom and nostalgia as I consider the times I recall being the age of my sons and some of my grandkids. As they, and I, grow up and grow on, there always remains much to be seen: “There’s such a lot of world to see / We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend / My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me.” Wonderful journeys to you and all who you encounter along the way. Never stop growing.