Last month, I attended the first high school graduation at a school my father had helped found nearly 20 years ago, which now serves over 350 students in grades Pre-K through 12. The first graduating class was three young men, who proudly represented the school — its past, present, and future. I was thrilled to see this evidence of my father’s legacy. Lives were changed forever because of his decision to build this school.
As part of the day, the three seniors were asked to tell board members and parents a bit about their future plans. It was impossible not to notice what these three graduates had in common.
They had decided that their life would be in service to others.
The first graduate explained that his life goal was to become a director of a youth camp. Camp had been essential to his formation — and he wanted to serve future youth.
The second graduate, the valedictorian, would attend a military college and then serve his country. He had received a full scholarship for his decision to serve.
The third graduate was a musician who plans to study music production and help others accomplish their dreams.
Whether in for-profit or non-profit, these students had decided to serve as their first priority.
What are you thinking as I tell this story?
“Naive young men about to be set straight by the real world.”
“Wait til they see the paycheck of those who serve others.”
“Mercenaries produce results; work is about winning.”
Ready to dash the hope and optimism of the young with these conclusions from your life experience?
Before you do…
Is there an even deeper level of resistance to this idea of our young people dedicating their lives to serving others?
Is it because we know that we have not given our own service a moment’s thought? And if we did, we would be faced with some difficult conclusions about ourselves? Did we meander through life without a sense of purpose — did we waste the one chance we got to make a difference for others?
“What is the use of living, if not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will I’ve in it after we are gone? ” -Winston S. Churchill
For me personally, it took a major midlife re-look at my beliefs, and convictions to conclude that serving others was the best path forward. My awakening was brought about by facing the life threat of cancer at 45 years of age. To this day, I’m grateful for the wake-up call.
It was during this illness that I was forced to contemplate the purpose of my life. And as Rick Warren is quick to tell us in Chapter 1*, the purpose of your life? It’s not about you — your personal happiness, success, or well-being. That is an empty destination… far short of what God has intended for your life. You were designed with a purpose, and there is a plan for you to serve others to accomplish that purpose.
Whether you believe that or not, you probably know this deep down in your heart:
The only legacy of your life will be how you used your gifts to serve others. The only memories left after you depart this earth will be memories of the lives you gave your heart and soul to.
That alone might motivate you to consider your purpose in serving others.
But if it does not, here’s another thought…
In the real world, serving others is a path to superior performance.
If you remain skeptical, you might want to review the data that supports the statement. I’m not the only author or only proponent of this notion — it is well documented with financial performance data and analysis from people with degrees from Harvard, MIT, and Wharton.
Is that enough to get your attention?
Serving others. It is your only legacy. And the best path to performance.
Perhaps the commitment of those high school graduates to serving others can give you hope and optimism that your own life could leave a legacy. Perhaps their young idealism can point you towards the path to superior performance.
It’s never too late to adopt the premise and see for yourself.
Serve well. Serving performs.
*Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren