We just celebrated Easter, and we’re in the middle of celebrating Passover, and we’re at the beginning of a new month. Can you believe one quarter is already done in 2015? April is known as the month of Easter and taxes, it’s a time of reflection and hope. Taxes remind us what happened over the past year, things that were good, things that challenged us and things that will affect what we do in the future. While Easter reminds us that we’ve got a future, whether because of spring and the promise of new life, or because of your spiritual beliefs. Both looking to the past and looking to the future is important, as is living in the present.
When we talk about the past it gives us a chance to remember, to plan, and for some of us, to deal with our demons. For just about all of us the past shapes our present and future, most of us can’t enter a hypothetical witness protection program and just drop everything that we used to be and like. But if all we do is live in the past we’re missing out on the present. We can certainly do things in the present to change the course we’re on so that our past doesn’t remain our present or become our future. But as I said on the Life and Spirituality blog today, we have to make a conscious choice to create a new future by doing things different in the present. When we’re given a second chance, a chance to do things differently, if we don’t take it we’re choosing to continue living our past rather than our future.
What ultimately matters in life is whether you’re able to look back on your life on your deathbed and know that while you made plenty of mistakes, you didn’t let the past hold you back, but rather moved on into the future day by day, knowing that better things were waiting. No life is perfect, no one is able to say they’re 100% proud of every minute of every day, but when we’re invested in making today a better day and tomorrow a better reality for our future generations the past doesn’t matter as much, it’s the future that counts.
“It isn’t where you came from, its where you’re going that counts.” Ella Fitzgerald
Today in many parts of the world two events are being honored: Passover and Good Friday. Both events remind us of challenges, of pain and unhappiness, and that the journey isn’t always easy. But they both are just the beginning, because Passover is really a celebration, and Good Friday is a precursor to the celebration of Easter. You’ve probably heard it said before: that the darkest part of the night is just before the dawn. Many times in our lives we’ll feel like we’re at our lowest point, only to rise higher and stronger than ever. Over the past few years it seems like we’ve just been talking about the tough times, about the failures we’ve been with our partners, the messes we’ve made at our jobs, the mistakes we’ve made as parents, and ways we’ve let the rest of the world down.
But this weekend is an opportunity to celebrate. Yes, you may look at it as a challenge with family that always stresses you out descending on your world. Yes, it’s always a little stressful to think about cooking for double or more than you usually do. Yes, it’s stressful if you own a business that does extra or special business during this time.
But I believe it’s important to take time to celebrate. Maybe you won’t be able to celebrate this weekend because of how busy you are with work, so take time next week or next weekend to celebrate with your partner, kids and those you do enjoy spending time with. Don’t lock yourself into celebrating only when the calendar tells you that you can. It’s not the calendar date that makes the day or event special, it’s the people you’re with and ability to celebrate life and the blessings you have.
One of my favorite leaders was Nelson Mandela. He’s a man who overcame great odds, never let his past hold him back but never shied away from the reality of his past, and he was someone who had a great vision that many people could identify with and supported, which brought him to world fame and helped make South Africa a great nation. One of the other leaders I admire, Robin Sharma, shared this about Nelson Mandela:
“I heard Mr. Mandela only became Nelson Mandela during his years in prison. In other words, it was the solitude, degradation, devastation and inhumanity of that time in confinement that made him who he became.”
Just about every day we mess up in some ways. Sometimes it’s unintentional, sometimes we do it intentionally, and other times we know that the results probably won’t be what we want them to be but we do it anyway. I think back to my early school years and what today was, April Fool’s Day. It’s a day that makes myself, and many others, shudder with the memories. No one really likes being played for a fool.
I don’t know many people who are proud to say that the lowest-of-low moment was what got them to the success they have today. But as leaders we need to learn from those moments. We need to learn from the mistakes, from the failures, and sometimes we need to be able to laugh it off. Every moment of our leadership can’t be toe to the line. It would be awful boring awful quick, and not many people like to work with or buy from those who are boring, miserable or bland. Instead we need to remember that we’re alive, that today is another day to be thankful and celebrate. Stand strong because you have overcome the past, yes, but even more so let it be the motivation you need to lead and live life fully and passionately.