February 6, 2008

Doing Well Just Isn't Enough

In college I was part of a group of guys that met regularly to keep each other accountable in our lives, our relationship, and our walk with God. One of our goals, or mottos if you will, was "To Be Good Men Speaking Well." I was reminded of that motto today when I read this speech given Anna Quindlen at an American University graduation ceremony. For a while I lost track of my priorities and mixed up what was really important in my life. The desire to do well surpassed the desire to do good. Looking around it is easy to see how doing well can take precedence over doing good. We put our faith and happiness in the next promotion, the bigger house, the nicer cloths, and the newer car.

But the promotion, house, cloths and car can't give back. They just lead to the newer car, bigger house, and next promotion. Today reflect on what you are known for. Are you known for doing well or doing good? I'm not against doing well. I want to do well, but when all is said and done doing good will create more happiness and a longer legacy for you and those you are good to.

Speech by Anna Quindlen:
"I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. You will walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree: there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank accounts but also your soul.

People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is cold comfort on a winter's night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've received your test results and they're not so good.

Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my work stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the centre of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I am a good friend to my friends and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cut out. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I would be rotten, at best mediocre at my job if those other things were not true.

You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are. So here's what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger pay cheque, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze at the seaside, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water, or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a sweet with her thumb and first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Write a letter. Get a life in which you are generous. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take money you would have spent on beer and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good too, then doing well will never be enough.

It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, and our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of our kids' eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of to live.

I learned to live many years ago. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and try to give some of it back because I believed in it, completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this: Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the back yard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived".

4 comments:

Andy said...

tldr :) I love you. Thanks for being my friend

Kevin Sturm said...

I count myself lucky to be. Can't wait to hang soon.

Matt said...

Kevin--
I'm glad my wife found your blog. I love reading people who can be successful in business without sacrificing what really matters. I look forward to following this blog regularly.

Kevin Sturm said...

Thanks Matt. I need to get on the posting side of things. Been slacking lately!