It is true. My birth certificate, passport and driver’s license all agree. I’ve lived 7 decades. Most of the time, I don’t feel like what I imagined 70 to feel like back when I was in my 50’s. But, it is true. I’m there. I could write 70 things I’ve learned in 70 years. But you wouldn’t take the time to read them. So, maybe you will read just these seven.
Live Authentically – The easiest thing to be in the world is yourself. The hardest thing to be is what others want you to be or to try to mimic someone else. Your fingerprints are uniquely different from the other 8 billion people on this earth. Just be yourself. Be in tune with your values and passions. Learn what fulfills you. Prioritize what brings you peace. Self-awareness is one of the keys to living authentically.
Live with Intentionality – Purposeless living is meaningless living. I’ve spent at least the last 50 years being very intentional about my relationship to my wife, Linda. Linda and I were intentional with parenting our three children. We were purposeful about starting a church that had a clear mission and focus. We’ve been deliberate about our health. I’ve been specific as to how I would grow my photography skills. I’ve embraced aging and planning for the legacy that I want to leave behind. And by the way, intentionality should never be confused with intentions. As Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”
Listening is a Key to Success – There are many aspects and measurements for success. I could list a dozen reasons that success follows some and not others. But the top one is listening. David Augsburger, my wife’s late uncle, wrote it this way: “Being heard is so close to being loved that, for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” Leaders, parents, marriage partners, politicians and friends are successful when they learn how to carefully listen. Listening to those different than you in age, views, values and beliefs. Listening matters. It really matters.
Love Unconditionally – This is how I’m loved by God. It is a life-long process of learning to accept and give that kind of love. Love without strings attached is special. Not based on what someone does for you in return, this love is selfless. It’s the key to good mental, emotional and spiritual health. Receiving and giving unconditional love provides a sense of security in both childhood and adulthood. No human relationship is perfect. So, accepting and giving unconditional love involves acceptance and forgiveness. I’ve discovered that only God can ultimately give us the strength and inner resources to love this way.
Letting Go Can Be Better Than Hanging On – This can be counter intuitive. We naturally want to hang on to the familiar and comfortable. It takes courage and self-awareness that something is not serving us anymore. For me, it started with a decision to either stay at home in Oregon and go to a local college or move across the country and attend college and seminary in Virginia. While pastoring my first church in upstate New York, there was a decision to be made. Do I persevere beyond the seven years of a difficult and toxic environment or let go of the familiar to move 1,300 miles away to an unfamiliar setting to live out a life-long dream of starting a new church with no guarantee of success? Again, after more than two decades of unprecedented growth and success, should I let go of my lead role in the organization I started to let an untested younger leader lead? No matter if it is parenting children into adulthood, leaving the younger years behind to embrace the unknown of middle or mature years, letting go has ultimately proven to be better than hanging on. There is power in letting go.
Learn How to Grow Your Fruit On the Trees of Others – This is one of my greatest joys at this stage of my journey. Tasting the fruit growing on the trees of my successors and younger leaders is the best. Recently, I was awed to witness 20 of our top city leaders (city manager, fire chief, police chief, finance director, etc.) all listening to my successor teach on servant leadership at our monthly business leaders’ luncheon. For nearly three decades, I have planted seeds, watered them and tended to relationships with many of those leaders and their predecessors. Yet it was the growing connection of my successor with the current city manager that led him to bring his entire executive team to grow their leadership skills at our church. To know that I planted seeds that have grown into productive fruit-bearing nourishment for our top city leaders and thousands of others every weekend is so much better than the limits of keeping it all for myelf and doing it all myself.
Live With the End in Mind – Not just now at age 70, but for several decades, I’ve been asking this question of myself and many others at funerals I lead: “What do you want to be remembered for as a spouse, parent, grandparent, neighbor, leader?” You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you could make decisions today that may very well change the ending. If you only live out of your default mode, you may not be remembered for what you wish. Forward-thinking legacy-leaving individuals and leaders plan for both their future and the future of things and people they value. As a labor/delivery nurse for 33 years, my wife Linda, always encouraged her new parents upon discharge from the birth center to remember “the future is in your hands.” What outcomes do I want for this child, this family, this job, this role? Habit number two of Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is to begin with the end in mind. This learning is pivotal for your physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual health. It may sound obvious, but if you don’t have an end goal in mind, how on earth are you going to get there?
These seven learnings above, have brought me to a place of great contentment, inner peace, and satisfaction at this point of my journey. Whether I have two years or two decades left in my journey, I’m filled with confidence that I’ve lived out God’s purpose for me well, I’ve left a significant contribution to those around me, and I have no regrets. So, on to the next decade of purposeful living!
QUESTIONS or COMMENTS? Take a moment and let me know if you have any learnings to add or any questions about the seven I’ve included.