Yesterday I attended the funeral of the parent of a friend. It was a terribly sad occasion, but a happy gathering of people who came together to celebrate the life of a beloved father, husband, and friend of many. As each person shared their perspective, telling stories - often humorous, this man's life was honored for the many contributions he made to his family and his community, from having served in the military to coaching sports teams to serving on boards and in various civic positions.
During the nearly 3 hour service, his "day job" (a 30+ year career with one company, from which he retired with many accolades) was barely mentioned. In fact, the only way it came up was in reference to no matter what was going on at work, he never missed his sons' ball games or his wife's various activities.
As I listened intently to the beautiful remembrance of this man's life, a man I met on a few occasions but did not know well, it was clear what kind of person he was, and it was almost uncanny how closely his life reminded me of his son, my friend since college. A person whom I have greatly adored and admired over the years, from being the zany "team captain" of our friend group, a planner (and pranker) extraordinaire, to then marry and become a terrific husband to his wife and later an amazing father to his children. Yes, my friend has certainly lived up to the shining example his father set before him, and it occurred to me that these same words would likely be spoken at his funeral (in let's hope 50+ years from now).
It also occurred to me that if you asked me what he does for a living I could only offer "sales or something?" as my answer. This person, whom I have known for nearly 20 years and who I have looked up to, and been inspired by, even assisted me in choosing my major in college (funny story), does something for a living that I can't really put my finger on.
I can assure you it's not because he's not successful. I would be willing to bet that this person, like his late father, has racked up the accolades and has probably garnered lots of plaques and mentions in the company newsletter. But I don't know about any of it, because that doesn't come up in conversation. You see, friends often answer "How's work?" with "Great!" and then move on to the next, more meaningful topic like, family, or friends, or in this case, who the Saints recently drafted.
It's not to say that doing your best in all aspects of life, including your career, should not be a goal. It's not to say that being successful at the office doesn't lead to opportunities to support charitable organizations and contribute to the community at large. Certainly the more you are respected and celebrated in your professional career the more influence you can have toward promoting and supporting causes you care about. But remember, as you take business calls during family time and postpone vacations to meet deadlines, who will be standing at the podium at your memorial service. Will it be your friends and family, remembering how dedicated you were to making the world around you a better place, or your boss, recalling what a dedicated employee you were?
Chances are, the sacrifices you make in your personal life to advance in your professional life will not be remembered by those that sign your paycheck, and your resume will not be read at your funeral. Spend your time where it matters, and be mindful that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
"I never saw a dollar bill cry at anyone's funeral." - J. Lincoln Fenn