As parents in the thick of raising young children, we often have daydreams (ok fantasize) about the future when our children will be adults, out in the world taking care of themselves. Fascinatingly enough, these daydreams (or fantasies) often are triggered by the hectic pace of our lives. It’s like we’re picturing the finish line and can’t wait for it to get here. Recently, I had such a moment while dropping the kids off for school. As usual it was a battle getting everyone out the house, but we made it albeit a bit late. After dropping Riley and Olivia off, I glance back and notice London singing with not a care in the world. Here I am, literally and figuratively racing to the next thing on my agenda and she’s going through the soundtrack of Sing. What else was there to do but turn on my favorite track from that album, I’m Still Standing, and join her in the melody making. Together we had a blast all the way to grandma’s house. That turned out to be one of my best days that week.
Sometimes we get caught up in running our race that we forget what the race is about right? There’s a great quote by Lily Tomlin which says, the trouble with being in the rat race is, even if you win you’re still a rat. Ouch. Last night we watched the most recent episode of This is Us, a tear jerker every time but this week’s in particular was poignant because it’s the Super Bowl episode where the audience finally learns how Jack dies. What’s interesting though is that even though we already knew what happens (he dies), the entire arc of the story is told through the lens of his legacy. His impact on his family long outlives him. That’s how I plan for my life to be, and I use the word plan intentionally.
Turning to my wife afterwards, as we’re both recovering emotionally from the episode, I share with her my desire to leave a legacy behind me. I mention something about having letters written to each of the girls and her in case something should happen to me prematurely. But the truth of the matter is, I have no plans to go anywhere yet. There’s a quote that hangs in our house, you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. I’m as intentional as they come about letting my life be the only letter my family will need. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve memorialized so much of our lives in blogs and family home videos either. After the show (and post watching This is Us after the show of course) we ended up flipping through pictures of our life together since the beginning. We really have lived a full life already, and yet there’s so much left to accomplish.
That’s why it’s important for me to remind myself daily what I’m trying to accomplish: building generational leadership. This is my appointed race as a husband, father, and leader. In my own morning reflections, I ponder how I can live up to my values of dreaming big, being disciplined, and enjoying the journey. Doing these things helps me to take the everyday seemingly mundane tasks of driving my daughters to school, and turn it into an opportunity. You see, if I play my cards right, not only will the girls remember the last thing I say to them each morning before they climb out of the minivan (remember that you are a leader, and leaders make good choices). But they’ll also grow to embody this truth as adults through my modeling. Additionally, when they’re older and have their own races to run, not only will they demonstrate clarity of purpose and perseverance in pursuit, but perhaps they too will stop to sing along to Don’t you worry bout a thing… and remember how to enjoy their races as they run it.