I once visited with the commander of a military base who was truly on fire with this commitment to undertake a significant cultural change inside his organization.
He had been in the service for over 30 years, was a full colonel, and was eligible for retirement that very year.
After he had been teaching and training his organization for many months, I asked him why he planned to stay on and undertake such a major initiative – One that would require swimming upstream against the tremendous resisting forces of tradition, lethargy, indifference and low trust.
I even said to him, “you could relax. You would have a good retirement. Award banquets would be held in your honor. Loved ones and associate would celebrate you. ”
He became very sober, paused for a long time and then deciding to share with me a very personal, almost sacred, experience. He said that his father had recently passed away.
When the father was on his bed, he called his wife and son (the colonel) to him to say goodbye. He could barely speak.
His wife wept during the entire visit, the son drew down close to his father, and his father whispered into his ear, “Son don’t do life I like I did. I didn’t do right by you or by your mother and never really made a difference. Son, promise me you won’t do life like I did.”
Those were the last words the colonel heard from his father, who passed away shortly thereafter.
But he regarded them as the greatest gift and legacy his father could have ever given.
Late the Colonel told me privately that he had been planning to retire and relax. In fact, he had secretly hoped that his successor would not do as well as he did and that this would be obvious and apparent to all.
But when he had this epiphany with his father, he determined not only to become a change catalyst and building principles of enduring leadership into the culture of his command but also to see to it that his successor would be more successful than he had been.
By striving to institutionalize these leadership principals into the structures, systems, and processes of this organization, he would increase the likelihood of passing on his legacy one leader – generation to another.
But with his fathers incident, he resolved, as never before, to live a life of greatness, a life of real contribution, a life of significance – one that really made a difference.
*Debriefing of this Story*
All of us can consciously decide to leave behind a life of mediocrity or to live the life of greatness.
No matter what are the circumstances maybe such a decision can be made by every one of us.
No matter how long we have walked life’s Pathway to mediocrity, we can always choose to switch paths. Always. It’s never too late.
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From the book “The 8th Habit” by Stephen R Covey