No one ever deserved a monument for being monumentally selfish.
Sorry I am late with my usual early-week email. It has taken me days to recover from the weekend, but I had to share the big lesson I discovered in Washington D.C. before it got away from me.
On Thursday and Friday, I presented at the IDEA personal trainer conference in Alexandria, Virginia. Because I was so close to my nation’s capital, I took an Uber ride and braved the unusually bad weather to spend a half day walking around the area to see many of the famous landmarks. Although the presenting to hundreds of people and miles of walking in 60 mile-an-hour winds cost me energy and enthusiasm, those were not the reason I am tired.
At the end of my walk around 5pm, I was notified all flights going out of D.C. were cancelled due to high winds. The airports would be backed up for days. Although I am used to travel issues, getting home a day late presented a problem. In fact, it was not acceptable because I had to get home to celebrate my wife’s 40th surprise birthday party. Months of planning could be ruined. After hours on hold calling airlines and exhausting every option, there was only one choice: rent a car and drive 6 hours through the night to make it home and keep the plan together.
Even though I would not advise driving through the night without having slept in 24 hours, I do think driving is one way to clear your head and think. Since this south-bound route down I-95 and I-85 was the same one I rode back and forth to college, I was especially nostalgic. As the hundreds of miles and states of Virginia and North Carolina rolled by in the car, I had a revelation about what I had experienced earlier that day before the weather destroyed my original plans.
When I was younger, I couldn’t appreciate more than museums and freeze dried ice cream.
Over the summers when I was 10 and 11 years old, my family took a “vacation” to Washington D.C. In between swimming at the hotel pool in Alexandria, we would drive into the capital and visit the different monuments and museums. I particularly liked the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for its powerful jets and astronaut ice cream. I remember going up in the Washington monument and appreciated the big height, but now I realize I was missing the big picture.
Thirty-five years later, I am wiser. My path started at the Jefferson Memorial and I visited and spent time at a number of landmarks. Instead of just looking at the statues and quotes of the the Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Washington Monument, I asked deeper questions:
Did the people to whom these memorials were dedicated know these great monuments would be built in their honor?
Did those memorialized imagine, hundreds of years later, people would come to take selfies with their quotes and statues?
Could these heroes have imagined how their actions would echo throughout history?
I decided the answer to each of these questions was “no.” I don’t say this because the people couldn’t realize they were doing important things in their time, I just think the people featured weren’t acting to be memorialized. I think they were simply doing what they thought was right at the time. Could Lincoln, Washington or King have really understood the lasting impact they would have on history? I am not sure. Did the founding fathers of the U.S. think statues would stand hundreds of years later in their honor? Probably not. Would the soldiers who gave their lives picture the full depth of their sacrifice in the heat of battle? Hard to say. And why not? Because at the time, they weren’t thinking about their own personal benefit.
They were thinking and acting about something bigger than themselves!
At each monument, the people were honored for thinking and acting selflessly for a larger cause. Their actions are recognized for the concern for others more than their own desires. These monuments were to remember how their effort and sacrifice helped to change the lives of people they would never meet. These memorials remind us of a past-present that had an effect on our current-future.
The gale force winds closed schools, government buildings. As a result, the streets and monuments of D.C. were empty. This gave me the unique opportunity to be alone with and reflect upon why these monuments were erected. In the car that night I asked what it took to be honored with one….and the answer came to me.
What will your monument be?
On my long drive home I realized the people featured at each memorial had made tremendous impact. I also realized you are no different from them. You have the same 24 hours in a day they had. It’s not the length of time, but what you do with it that will decides how you’ll be memorialized.
And then in the car, I thought about what it would take to have a monument in your honor. By paring down the reason behind the other monuments to their essence, here are my 5 C’s for getting your own monument:
1. Find A Cause
Discover a need in the world that involves something bigger than your own personal desires. Match that need with your passion.
2. Start The Change
Begin to take the steps to create the information, systems or actions that will initiate the change in the world you would like to see. Get going.
3. Make The Commitment
Once you start, commit to the work and make the necessary sacrifices even after the initial excitement has left you. Stay focused.
4. Take The Challenge
When obstacles arise (and they will), take them head-on. Maintain enthusiasm.
5. Stay The Course
Remember why you started and keep pushing forward until change is created. Finish through.
The monuments of D.C. are there because those great people did something great for someone else. They had a bigger passion and cause and made the sacrifices to see them through in the good times and the bad. Every day is also your opportunity to do something good for someone else. You have the same potential for future impact. There is no particular skill that you do not possess to do this too. Thinking about the bigger picture and for the future of others is free. Making someone else’s life better is a great way to get remembered. And a great place to do this is by improving as a coach.
Want to be remembered by more people? I can give you some of the skills at my full-day mentorship called Coaching Greatness.
Coaching Greatness Dates:
Don’t think you can’t have a monument? Yeah, well I bet the the people I saw memorialized this weekend didn’t either.
I made it home at 5:30am. The party was a success and I know there were great memories created. My wife and kids saw my dedication and I know it made a difference. Although you may not free slaves, start your own country or fight in a war, you can still leave powerful “memories” for your family and community. That is what the word “memorial” is all about.
Yours in Strength,