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Making a Difference

Posted Jun 18 2013 6:00am
Although I usually reserve Thursday for personal blogs, Father's Day was a time for reflection that enabled me to put aside the endless emails, operational tribulations, and budget season stresses to think about what really matters.

In my 51 years, 2013 marked the first time I've had no father with me on Father's Day.  For the first time, I've taken on the mantle of "alpha" father for the family.

I celebrated Father's day with my wife and daughter, enjoying a Japanese lunch and helping my daughter rewire the kitchen in her new apartment.   She rents one of 4 units in a 1910-era shingled house in Medford.   We braved the dungeon-like basement to find the old breaker box and located the power controls for the kitchen.    I taught my daughter how a GFCI receptacle is wired, carefully isolating the Load and Line sides, the hot wire, the common wire, and the ground.    We then built new kitchen shelving for her pots and pans.    It was a perfect Father's Day, serving those around me and making my daughter's life easier.

I called my mother, as I have done every day since my father's death, to check on her progress.  She's gardening, taking daily walks, and keeping her brain busy with numerous cultural and social activities.

So, what part of this inspired me to think about what really matters?

Will my tombstone read

"He balanced his budget 20 years in a row"
"He addressed all regulatory requirements for over 2 decades"
"He completed all his annual operating plan goals and more"

Unlikely.

If in some small way, I empower my daughter to fledge from the nest, taking responsibility for running a household and finding her own way in the world, I will have created a legacy that could last for a century.

If in some small way, I enable my mother to maintain her wellness, learn new technologies, and experience a rich "act two" after my father's death, I will have made a real impact on her life.

Both are examples of making a difference.

As I look at my weekly calendar, about half my waking hours are spent on operations, a quarter on planning the future, and quarter in service to my family and community.

It's the last quarter, when I give my time , that has the greatest chance of impacting the long term future of those around me, accelerating the progress of the next generation, and catalyzing good outcomes in the world.

While balancing a budget is a must do, it's quickly forgotten.   You're only as good as your last budget cycle or your last successful project.

However, if your family, your colleagues, and your students feel inspired by something you've said, a situation you've created, or a barrier you've broken down, then you've created a memory that can last a lifetime.

So next time your equanimity is challenged by a person, situation, or event in your job, remember that such issues are transient.    Focus your emotional energy on that which really matters and you'll make a difference.   That's the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow (photo taken at Unity Farm a few hours ago)
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