A Watershed Week in the family

It is not often that I deter from my typical blog posts in the leadership realm to talk about personal issues, but today is one of those days and this is one of those weeks where that is what is appropriate.  I suspect there are ways to tie this personal story back to something in my core work, but I’ll do that if appropriate and not try to get to hung up on making this a work-related piece.

My wife and I will celebrate thirty years of wedded bliss (bliss for me, not sure about her) this coming fall and during that journey we have been blessed with two wonderful sons.  Our oldest son,  Daniel, graduated from Vanderbilt University two years ago and has withstood one of the most challenging economies in our lifetime to forge ahead in his career.  He celebrated his one year anniversary at ServiceSource a few months ago and he is ‘hitting it out of the park” there most every quarter.  They are fortunate to have him.  Our youngest son,   Matthew, will walk across the stage at Auburn University this coming Sunday afternoon at his commencement ceremony.  Matthew will then start his career in the commercial construction business with Turner Construction.  My wife and I are extremely blessed and quite happy for both of our sons, not because they have gotten jobs (a good reason), or because they graduated in 4 years (another good reason), but because they have persevered to reach their goals over an extended period of time.  I’ll touch more on this in a minute, but carrying forward to reach a long term objective is something that many in our society have no grasp of.

I listened to a sermon at Christ Community Church yesterday where Kevin Twit talked about the term “groaning” as in the labor of childbirth.  He told a brief story about how his wife went through substantial challenge in the birth of their first two sons, but the pain was well worth the effort when compared with the final product, the sons.

Our family, like many families, has gone through many labors as our sons have grown and matured.  I will not share many of the stories with you in this text, but one I can share came while both of the boys were younger while we were traveling on a  high adventure trip in Scouting.  We were part of a group that canoed for 7 days, 6 nights in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness area in northern Minnesota.   Boundary Waters July 2007 064  The BWCA is one of the most pristine, beautiful and quiet areas you will ever see, but with that comes a level of remoteness and challenge that many in today’s industrialized world never experience.  We had been out for a few days and it had been raining for 24 or more hours when we made camp for the night.  I could see in the eyes and faces of the boys that they were not excited about where they were, but I can also tell you to this day that they treasure the journey and the experiences in a way they will never replace.  The journey through pain is a necessary exercise to value the end result in many circumstances.    We could not see the beauty or enjoy the solitude without also experiencing the remoteness and the challenge of the area.

So too it is for us in our lives.  Many of us wish to experience success without the journey through pain and failure.  I attended a conference last week in Nashville that focused on innovation and one of the panels had speakers from Silicon Valley who said they would almost never consider funding a new venture unless they knew the leadership had experience failure in a meaningful way.  I can tell you that many of my greatest learning opportunities came from failure, not success.

I take pause today to smile and reminisce.  On Sunday we will celebrate the culmination of many years of hard work as Matthew Ryan walks across the stage at Auburn University in the loveliest little village on the plains.

What he must never forget is that this walk is but another part of the journey that began many years ago with his school work, his time in Scouting that led to the rank of Eagle Scout, and his four years of hard work at Auburn.

All of us are on similar journeys.  Take time today or this week to review where your journey is leading, where it has come from and why.