Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Most Important Things

The secret of a good life is to have the right loyalties and hold them in the right scale of values.
- Norman Thomas

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he was walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle.

As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow’s flight, and then young Frank’s tracks meandering all over the field. “Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle said. “And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that.”

Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life. “I determined right then,” he would say with a twinkle in his eyes, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”

It’s easy to get so caught up in the grind of life that encompasses all of us as leaders that our tracks don’t wander quite as much as they use to. Yes, it’s important to keep your focus and to reach your goals and see your dreams come true, but allowing your tracks to wander will make the journey more enjoyable.

Imagine with me if you will the tracks that you have left thus far on your journey. Are your tracks like that of the uncle; a straight set of tracks that lead toward a desired goal? Or perhaps do yours resemble those of Frank who took the scenic route to the same destination?

When arriving at their desired destination, I can only imagine the stories Frank could have shared with his uncle as he strolled by the fence to observe the cattle or of something observed by the edge of the woods. Through the eyes of the young architect, or through your eyes as a leader leaving your tracks, the possibilities are endless.

A first-grader wondered why her father brought home a briefcase full of work every evening. Her mother explained, “Daddy has so much to do that he can’t finish it all at the office.” “Well, then,” asked the child innocently, “why don’t they put him in a slower group?” The father may not necessarily need to be in a slower group, but like many leaders, needs to start making a different set of tracks.

Wright said he adopted his philosophy not to miss most things in life based on that experience with his uncle. As you set out to make your tracks as a leader, here are some ideas on moving forward.

Don’t miss the simple lessons. A lot of people are looking for the next big experience that will satisfy them. I’ve found, especially living along the Atlantic coast that a sunrise or sunset walk along the beach is one of the most spectacular things I can enjoy. Life, as Elbert Hubbard said, “is one damned thing after another,” which is why enjoying the simplicity of it is so rewarding. There is nothing more humbling than a walk along the beach to serve as a reminder that if God can keep the oceans in-check He can also make order out of my life.

Don’t miss the simple joys. Misunderstanding the source of joy is what causes most to miss it. Sister Mary Rose McGeady said, “There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone’s life.” Simple joys are found in what we do for others as we make our tracks. When leaders remember to spread joy it will make someone else’s load lighter.

Don’t miss the simple paths. John Hope Franklin said, “We must get beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths…and tell the world the glories of our journey.” The simple paths may not lead you where you expected, but that is the beauty of them. The simple paths become spectacular when you realize they are not accidental but destined.

Start making your tracks, the world awaits the glories of your journey!

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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