Finding Relevance in the Passé and Cliché
A few years ago when I was asked to deliver the keynote presentation at an award’s luncheon, I was immediately honored and simultaneously humbled. Then I was somewhat frantic, hoping I’d have something at least half as inspiring to talk about as the accomplishments of the women who were being honored. Because as proud as I’ve been about my accomplishments and the work I’ve done, I’ve remained fairly quiet about it.
That’s because one piece of advice my mother drilled into my head growing up was, “When you boast, you roast.” That’s stuck with me. Although I have to admit, after I accepted the invitation, I did boast a little bit—or perhaps it was more laugh to myself—as I looked to the heavens and said, “See Dad, not bad for someone you thought was majoring in unemployment.” To him, a degree in English and writing in the 1980s was a degree with no opportunities. Where I would find work was his biggest concern.
But Francis Bacon said a wise man (or woman) will make more opportunities than he/she finds. Little did my father know that some 20 years later I’d make my own way. Key to that journey was a commitment to good work, quality work, and hard work. I didn’t just want to “Get ‘Er Done;” I wanted to do it right the first time, which is something he always said doesn’t happen by accident.
Thoughtfully planning actions and acting out plans creates a sturdy foundation for success. So do respecting and absorbing the expertise of those who’ve been there and done that a lot longer.
In preparing my presentation, the challenge became making that “sound and sage advice” relevant, rather than passé and cliché. The message needed to be inspiring and reawaken dreams for future success. It also needed to underscore the value of remaining grounded.
In the end, I was able to synthesize reflections of my experiences into a testament of the fact that the long-term dividends of time and effort, problem solving, and building a reservoir of knowledge and experience can be more satisfying than instant gratification. As Lord Chesterfield’s 1746 letter suggests, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” What’s most important isn’t HAVING great work to do, but doing great work.