Giving Thanks – For Our Ability to Shape the Future

This has been an incredible year for me, one that welcomed the birth of my son, saw the end of a 10 year tenure at my job, and the launch of my own business.

My life has been about transitions recently, and about refocusing my life during my 37th year. It has been about considering where I want to be at age 47, and 57 and 67, and making decisions accordingly. Decisions about long-term value.

Dan Blank As Thanksgiving comes around this year, I find myself reflecting on my goals and my work. On what I am thankful for. And on those who inspire me.

Last year, I wrote a Thanksgiving post appreciating some 20th century luminaries who are still with us, some in their ninth decade. And these are the people I think about late at night, which is when I am writing this.

I think about what Mickey Rooney has experienced in his many decades. I think about the wisdom that Nelson Mandela can share. I wonder at how they are not just names in Wikipedia, but living breathing souls, those who are experiencing 2010 as much as they experienced 1923.

And they will always be remembered. Their work will speak for itself, and will cast a glow lasting generations. And as I think about these things, there are some questions I pose to myself:

What are we building?

Building that is greater than ourselves.

That will speak to future generations, long after we’ve lost our voices.

That will reflect a deeper truth that goes beyond trends.

That gives and doesn’t merely take.

That creates value beyond money.

That is both simple and multifaceted.

That inspires, creating exponentially more value over time.

That takes a lifetime to build, but a moment to appreciate.

That can’t be measured in quarterly reports.

That both an 8 year old and 80 year old can understand.

Whose value is 100 times greater than the ingredients it took to make it.

That will last long after we are gone.

I consider these questions with regards to my work – what is the body of work that I am creating? How can I move beyond the trap of trading time for money?

As I reflect on my first Thanksgiving as a father – considering what my actions will say to my son in future years, I find myself pushing harder and harder to answer these questions. To no longer put off the hard decisions, the hard risks. I find myself stepping into the unknown more frequently, afraid more of doing what is expected – of doing the safe thing – than of any failure I may meet as I explore new paths. What seemed like the safest route in the past – an expected role with a steady income – now seems like the most dangerous; the one that will have the least affect on the world my son will grow up in.

And mostly, as I talk about these things more and more with friends, I find that those around me are facing these questions in their own way, often quietly. Hoping to explore deeply buried goals, to break out of ruts they’ve fallen into, move closer to their passion. And I simply hope that intention meets with action as they move through their lives. That one day, someone far away from them will reflect on the work they have contributed, and be thankful. Thankful to someone they never met – for what they have given the world.

I had a moving conversation with an 88 year old family member yesterday. She talked about how isolating it is to feel that you can’t truly connect with other generations. As she put it:

“I have a past; they have a future.”

Those words are both chilling and inspiring. And a direct challenge – to take responsibility to shape that future.

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