Because…Show Beats Tell!
“What we DO in life,
echoes in eternity!” –The Gladiator
The one thing we all have in common is that 100 years from now, people will walk by our tombstones and have no idea who we were, what we did, or who we touched and influenced. The words don’t exist to adequately describe the briefness of our lives against the backdrop of time. It’s a precious few individuals whose accomplishments reach that rarefied air of “for the ages.” For the rest of us? Our legacies die out in a generation or two with a box of old photos or scrapbooks in someone’s attic as the only proof we were ever alive. The fireside stories our kids share of our exploits and memories soon give way to their own stories and memories as they become parents and grandparents. In the blink of an eye, our entire existence fades into the mists of time. Whatever reverberations our lives will have to future generations will be a function of the intensity and purpose by which we lived.
I have a pretty simple life with but two objectives. The first is to LIVE it aggressively, passionately, and with purpose. As a father, one of the most important lessons I can teach my kids is that the life I’m living is mine and that I’m merely sharing it with them. What better example than to teach your kids than that their lives are their own, to do with as they please and to live by their own passions and convictions. I’ve seen too many parents lose their life’s purpose once their kids no longer depended on them-underscoring the important difference between commitment and obsession.
Of equal importance is leaving behind a legacy of memories born of great adventures and experiences with friends and family-especially my kids. Again, given the brevity of our stay-there’s simply no excuse—ever—for not regularly over-loading the five senses God gave us and teaching our kids to do the same thing. What makes the stories and the memories so fine are the weaving together of the smells, sounds, sights, touches, and tastes of a well-lived life. Any reader of Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer knows that such memories and adventures are more a function of attitude and zest for life than affluence and possessions. An amazing journey needs only the will and desire to pursue it. The inheritance I will leave my kids will be their smiles and laughter long after I’m gone, that begin with the gleeful, “Do you remember when…..!?”
“Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights the way.” Anonymous
I’m purposely harsh on friends or family when I observe whining or complaining or self-pity in lives that otherwise have little to complain about. I believe we have a debt of honor to live our lives with gratitude and zealousness if for no better reason-there are so many denied that simple privilege. We need look no further than broken soldiers returning from battle or young children with terminal disease or fellow human beings dealing with any number of harrowing losses or unpreventable tragedies. As long as we’re above ground and drawing breath-we have a good reason to smile and have a second cup of coffee.
I gave a speech several years ago that ended with this great quote by Hunter Thompson that has long been a favorite of my son and daughter. It perfectly captures the essence of the message I long to leave them…
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “WOW! What a Ride!”