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Showing Gratitude to Those Who Came Before You

“What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!” ― Victor Hugo [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]

By a show of hands, how many of you had someone in your life when you were young who made a positive impact on you?

I’ll occasionally ask this question of audiences when I’m presenting. My goal is to make clear both our reliance on others and others’ need for us, too. My hope is that each audience member recognizes that he or she didn’t become a nurse, CEO, sales professional, accountant, parent or anything else on their own.

No, there were innumerable leaders, guides, disciplinarians and sponsors who shepherded them – and each of us – forward.

Often, I give an example and add:

Maybe it was a coach who used discipline and tough love, less as a way of winning a game, and more as a way of teaching a life lesson.

Possibly it was a parent or guardian who taught you through their example of hard work, active encouragement, ever-present support or model of selfless love?

Perhaps it was a teacher who tutored you and worked with you when no one else believed you could do it?

Or maybe it was a friend or acquaintance who visited with you on a bus, sat with you during lunch or spent time with you during a season of life when you needed a friend?

I then invite everyone who has at least one person who fits the bill to raise his or her hand.

In every audience, I ask this question, in every country I ask it, every hand – of course – goes up.

Well, that’s what I assume will happen each time I ask.

What actually happens? A few hands are raised, but many of the audience members just stare at me.

So, then I add:

Oh, and the rest of you did this all by yourself?! You changed your own Pampers as babies? Grew and prepared your own food as kids? Homeschooled…yourself? You’ve done it all, on your own?

Now people laugh because they realize how far from true this is.

My friends, in our modern society we celebrate individuality and personal achievement. We lift high the premise that everyone should do, be, achieve, race, climb, sprint, earn and become the best they can.

And yet.

And yet, when we are honest about it, we realize we are the beneficiaries of not only all who have directly encouraged us but also those who came before us.

We humbly stand on the shoulders of the innumerable and nameless giants who proceeded us.

These are the individuals who risked, strived, emigrated, fought, learned, taught, created, loved and sacrificed. They shaped the arc of society and your family tree that lead perfectly to where you are today.

These are the individuals who gave in the past so that we might have the freedoms, advances and abundance of opportunities we enjoy today.

Recognizing this should fill us all with a profound sense of gratitude.

It should not keep us from pursuing all that we can be. Rather, it just keeps us humble in that pursuit.

It also demands that we recognize our sacred opportunity to be that encourager, guide, mentor or friend to others on their journey.

(A recent conversation with Matt Manzari reminded me of the vital importance of others in our journeys forward. Matt was a professional athlete who endured something so shocking that he should have died. Twice. It’s an amazing conversation around pursuing dreams, achieving greatness, following a deeper calling, losing everything, making sense of tragedy and faithfully rebuilding life. Join us here.)

My friends, in the midst of the trials we face individually and collectively, a great opportunity exists to slow down and recognize that we can’t make things better or move forward all on our own. Prepare for your next step by pausing to give thanks for those who proceeded you and impacted your work and your life. Then, embrace the sacred mandate impacting others, too.

Although it is a grand thing to be loved. It’s a grander thing still, to love.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

Who made a positive impact on your life when you were young? How did they do it? I can’t wait to hear from you in the comments below.

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