We all make waves. Some of us are just more deliberate than others.
If you have been reading my messages, you have discovered my weekly goal is to share a profound idea picked up from a simple moment. This job forces me to look back on my experiences to see what I have learned. This need to have something of value each week for you has made my life more valuable to me. This weekend I was reminded it is not just what is in front of you, but also what you leave behind that counts.
I spent the weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. After presenting for 7 hours Saturday in the Georgia World Congress Center, I finished the event talking with the attendees. Although I didn’t know him, I was waiting for the last person to talk to me. When he introduced himself as the “guy who emailed you the other day about your podcast,” I immediately recognized him. After a nice discussion, we talked about the creative process how I come up with my ideas. That was when I realized I still didn’t have an idea for this email (and I was running out of time!) Although I didn’t show it, I started to feel the pressure of my self-imposed deadline. I did, however, have a good excuse for being late with this week’s idea.
When I am “on the road” I usually travel solo. This gives me plenty of time to think. A few trips a year, I change things up and take my daughters on a “little adventure.” Even though the trip might only include a hotel room, watching me present and a dinner, these quick trips have created long-lasting memories. Since Atlanta was a 4-hour drive from my home, I brought my daughters Kristina and Keira along. Because I was so busy focusing on them, I found I wasn’t as focused on finding my “big idea” to share with you.
This Atlanta trip wouldn’t be just a hotel, presentation and dinner with my girls. When we rolled in after midnight on Friday (I had to help coach my oldest daughter’s track meet before leaving home) I saw we were staying next to the Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium (rated the #1 aquarium in the United States). As I got them ready and in bed, they had already conspired and confirmed the aquarium would be a “must” on the trip.
The next day, my kids had fun helping with my speech and workouts. During lunch, we rode the Sky View Ferris Wheel and got a “bird’s eye” view of the area. Not only were we right next to the aquarium, we also were near CNN and the College Football Hall of Fame. Both of these were unfortunately voted down when I lobbied for them. Their plans centered around that aquarium.
After playing in the water at Centennial Olympic Park, dinner and some video games at a place called Game-Ex, the kids hit the sack. We had a full day and a great time. The only downside was I still didn’t have an idea for you or this email. Although it was inspiring to walk Centennial Olympic Park and see where the Olympic Flame was housed, I was looking for something different. I have written about the Olympics recently and wanted something more personal to share. Even though the pressure was building, I have learned you can’t rush or fake an idea. It must be inspired and deliberate.
Since we had to leave by 2pm for the drive home, we got up early, got breakfast and were first in line for the Georgia Aquarium when it opened at 9am. Having been to many aquariums over the years, I didn’t expect this one to be much different. I was wrong. From the interactive activities, the easy to follow layout and 3 whale sharks, this aquarium proved it was modern and unique. But when we entered the giant indoor stadium and watched the inspiring dolphin show complete with its own “splash zone,” this aquarium lived up to its #1 ranking.
After three hours in the aquarium, I still had no idea for you. Since my attention was so focused on the kids and the exhibits, the pressure continued to mount. Most of the time the ideas come to me from either hearing or seeing something. This time, my idea finally showed up by actually sitting on something!
While the kids stood waiting for a final penguin show, I sat down on a bench to “bend my legs” for a few minutes. While sitting, I again realized I had to find an idea soon. As I tried to concentrate among all the action of the aquarium, my focus was broken by an uncomfortable feeling in my posterior. As I looked down to see why, I realized the sharp letters carved into the seat and back of the bench were leaving an impression on my seat and back! I stood up, read the inscribed words, and my “moment of inspiration” was found!
Here’s what was chiseled into the bench:
“History is written by those who make the wake. Not by those who ride on it nor by those who watch safely from the shore.”
Like magic, the idea appeared right under my behind! Not only did this quote summarize what I had been doing all weekend, but it also described how I have been living my life the last few decades: taking deliberate actions to leave the wake I wanted behind me.
On this trip with my kids, I had left behind the trail of memories I desired. I was only able to control my “behind” because I looked forward using a simple process. If you aren’t happy with your history, here are 5 simple steps to change it in the future:
5 Ways To Leave The Right Wake BEHIND You
1. Get Off Your BEHIND
You have to be in the water and moving to make a wake. Hanging safely on the shore or just floating along through life does nothing. The first step in making your wake is to get in and get moving.
2. Recognize The Size Of Your BEHIND
The “little things” you do create today will create “big waves” in your future. Once you understand every wake counts, you will realize everything you do or don’t do matters. Your actions and inactions, therefore, are both going to have consequences.
3. Plan The Future Of Your BEHIND
Since you decide the direction of your life, you also control the wake you leave behind. Now that you know you have no choice but to create waves, spend time thinking about what and how big you would like them to be. Hint: if you are deciding to get going, might as well be in the positive direction.
4. Work On Your BEHIND
Once you are moving and have decided where you want to go, nothing happens until you do something about it! To leave the wake you want, you need to take consistent action in that direction. Deliberately do things today that will leave the world better than you found it tomorrow.
5. Look At Your BEHIND
You can’t live your life in the rear view mirror, but occasionally you have to look back to see if you have been correctly moving forward. Examine your current wake to see if you have been moving in the right direction or if it is time to change course.
Everyone wants to be remembered. Essentially that means everyone wants to leave a memorable wake. The bench that inspired me was actually there to memorialize the philanthropy of Bernie Marcus and his wife Billi. Marcus, the co-founder of The Home Depot donated 250 million to the state of Georgia in 2003 so the aquarium could open debt-free. Today, in the powerful wake of that gift, over 2 million people a year get to create wakes of their own.
What will your wake creating “gift” be today? Use the 5 steps above and make some waves.
P.S. Who says you can’t find inspiration to move forward while sitting on your behind?
If you thought sitting to find my last idea was strange, it may sound even crazier my next one came to me compliments of Coca Cola.
Stay tuned for “Part 2” of the story later this week…