A Christmas Reminder
On November 3rd I had the privilege of delivering the keynote at the Indiana YMCA State Leadership Conference. I began the message with my very favorite poem by Emerson:
“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
As I shared with the 300 leaders that were in attendance, I typically end any workshop or keynote that I deliver with that poem, but I wanted to start with it because I believe it spoke to them about who they are and what they do. And while I have presented to well over 250 organizations since I retired 13 years ago, there are so few people who have the opportunity in their professional lives to connect the dots between what they do every day and the impact it has on people’s lives. And as I said to those 300 leaders who were in attendance, that is their gift and that is their blessing!
I was convinced at The Berry Company that we did not sell advertisers bigger ads or expanded yellow page advertising programs; we sold them dreams. When their advertising was most effective, it generated increased inquires leading to increased sales and greater financial rewards. This could be, and was, life changing! When we strayed from that philosophy, we were simply just selling ads.
As the Christmas season is upon us, it is a wonderful time to reflect on our blessings. It is also the time of year to be reminded of those who are less fortunate. When I chaired the United Way campaign in 2003, it truly was for me a life changing experience – an epiphany! Being a sales guy, it was very important for me to understand the product we were selling. In other words, why would or should people choose to support United Way? To that end, I visited all 65 agencies that we were supporting and for the first time in my life I truly witnessed hopelessness. Whether it was Daybreak, Artemis, Mercy Manor or the other 63 agencies I met and heard stories of, there were people who were either born into a circumstance or got into a situation and could not get out without a helping hand. Every United Way speech or appeal that I delivered would always end with the same message, “To the whole world you may be one person but to one person you may be the whole world.”
To quote Edward Evert Hale, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything but I can do something. I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
Our greatest gift is the power to choose. Whether it a smile, a friendly word, a sympathetic ear, or a helping hand during this holiday season, let us all be reminded that the most important thing in the world is to be important to someone.
Pete Luongo is retired president and CEO of The Berry Co., Leader, Lecturer, Public Speaker and Author of “10 Truths About Leadership … It’s Not Just About Winning”. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.