Honoring Your Past as You Build a New Future
Loss, disappointment, and failure have a way of becoming defining moments in our lives. They often introduce crossroads in life marked by decisiveness and choice, adjustment, and resilience. When you approach a crossroads, you have a choice to make: left or right, forward or backward. In my life, I have almost always chosen forward; however, there was a time in my life when faced with significant grief that choice wasn’t clear.
Of course, in those moments, you are balancing your current response in addition to expectations from those around you. After the painful loss of my wife, Marcia, I took my two boys and we disconnected from life – spending quality time with each other by traveling to several places to begin to process the grief we all were experiencing.
When it was time to return to work, I was a changed man. Our trip hadn’t been so long that I felt disconnected, but your perspective changes after such loss. I was different. I knew it was time for a change. It’s funny how resolve works. You decide to change one thing in your life and, all of a sudden, you see everything else as changeable too. Nothing felt permanent except for my family. Nothing felt certain except for my determination for and dedication to them. I decided to change my work, and by doing that, everything else seemed to be up for grabs. I don’t know if that is growth or grief, but it is important and profound.
I knew it would take some time, but I wanted to begin moving the company in a different direction, one where it could be sustained in my absence or put on the market for sale. I wasn’t sure of all the things I needed to do, but I knew I needed change. Marcia might have been gone, but I was still here. Our boys, and my daughter, were still there. As all life does, our lives were moving forward. That movement forward resulted in another chance at love and success. After loss and pain and anger, I found a new life partner and a new professional opportunity, both of which would forever change my life—again.
I have a quote from President Calvin Coolidge on the wall of my office: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
While Coolidge will probably never make the list of our country’s greatest leaders, there’s a lot we can learn from his belief in the balance of forward motion and introspection. Persistence and determination are the fundamental building blocks of resilience, a word that has always resonated with me. Some people have mottos; other people have codes and crests and core beliefs. For me, the word resilience has been a touchstone, a source of strength, and the lens through which I view my life. Coolidge was wrong about a lot of things, but he really nailed the idea that, no matter what, you have to move forward. And when the day comes when it’s time to take stock, when you reach a moment of confluence and great change and take the time to look back, the best thing you did—the best thing you could ever do—was to persist, to have been determined, to have been resilient.
We don’t look back at our lives and see the moments when we failed. We look back and see the moments when we overcame, no matter the odds. It’s not our failures or our successes that get us to where we are. Nor is it the lucky breaks, the big wins, or the random moments. We get to the present moment in our lives—any moment in our lives—by getting up in the morning and getting to work. Resilience is always the best course. Persistence is always the way. Determination is always omnipotent. Maybe not in the moment, maybe not in the immediate aftermath, but always in the end.