By many standards, I have led a very successful life. I worked my way up from humble beginnings to enjoy a long career well suited to my talents and personality. Early in life I made some wise investments that are continuing to pay off today, enabling me to live comfortably and enjoy my ‘retirement.’ And most importantly, I am fortunate to have built hundreds of strong relationships over the years that continue today.
I certainly have been blessed. But looking back on the years and the many challenges and successes, I know that none of it would really matter if it weren’t for those key things I’ve done that have been truly meaningful. Those moments in life where I’ve chosen to take a risk, or make a sacrifice, or go the extra mile in order to really make a difference in the world or even in just one person’s life.
Without those sweet moments of meaning, life would seem rather empty.
I had the privilege to experience one of those moments just a few months ago when giving a keynote presentation in Chicago. The designated charity for the event was the Wounded Warrior Project, and there was a wounded warrior who briefly addressed the audience and spoke about the Project.
As a proud American with many good friends who are veterans, I have great respect for those who have served our country in battle. On the spur of the moment, I thought of a way to pay a small tribute to that young man who had bravely given of himself to serve his country.
When it came time to give my presentation, I asked the audience to help me in showing our appreciation for this young veteran and his fellow wounded warriors. I handed a copy of my book, Presidential Leadership, to a person seated in the first row and asked them to please write a short note, thanking the wounded warrior for his service to our country.
From that first person the book traveled around the room, and by the end of my hour-long presentation, there were hundreds of notes and signatures filling the margins of the book. As I presented the book to the young warrior and saw the look on his face, I couldn’t hold back the tears. It was such a simple, easy thing to do, a kind gesture at virtually no cost. But it was a moment packed with meaning.
The young man was deeply touched, and said that he would cherish the book for the rest of his life, passing it on to future generations of his family. He and his family will cherish the book, and I—and the rest of the people in the room—will forever cherish the memory of taking an ordinary hour and turning it into an extraordinarily meaningful moment.
How about you, what is something you can do this week, this month, this year, that will be truly meaningful?