I recently traveled back to my hometown of Mobile, Alabama, to accept the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award at my high school and as I traveled to Mobile from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, (where I sit on the other side of the desk as a coach and teacher), I asked why me? Why, out of the hundreds (if not thousands) of graduates was I selected?
As I stood at the podium to deliver my acceptance speech, collected my thoughts and looked at the audience it became clear to me why I was chosen. It was the small group of people sitting in the audience who made an investment in me – my coaches. These coaches provided opportunities that helped define who I am, what I do and why I matter, and those moments came rushing back. After 25 years, it was obvious that each one of these people had dedicated their life to helping me create mine. And in turn, showed me initially what it meant to go your own way.
If I look back on my life, the group who had the single biggest impact on me were coaches, and as I scanned the room I saw those coaches who impacted me. Coaches know what matter. They know that feedback is where we learn the most. They make you have conversations you don’t want to have, and sometimes do things you may not necessarily want to do, in order to become something you didn’t think you could become.
Weeks before my return to Mobile I was flipping through some old magazines and I found one from St. Paul’s. It was the alumni magazine and as I scanned the pages I was drawn to one page that defined the philosophical approach of the school and I think it’s something we all need to understand. The line reads, “You can know everything in the world, but if you don’t know what matters, then nothing does.”
And it hit me. We live in a world defined by noise and blurriness that keeps us from exploring, much less knowing what matters.
We spend time being distracted. We put our faith in our manufactured self or the one that has to show up for work so we can make money, spend money and then make even more money. We live in America, the greatest country in the world, where we keep score with bank accounts rather than the impact we create. I have learned you can make a lot of money and you can spend it and I have worked with people who have done both. However, the greatest satisfaction I have received is when someone looks me in they eyes and says because of my relationship with them, their life is better.
People who go their own way may or may not have riches in the bank. But they also have a rich life because they have asked questions like, “Who am I,’” “What do I owe myself,” “What do I owe others,” and “What are the elements of a life well lived?”
People who go their own way know what matters and they help others figure out what matters to them, too.