With each passing year, Thanksgiving grows more important to me as I have come to better appreciate the things I should be thankful for.
In 2009 I posted a list of what I was thankful for. Most of those still apply, but I might switch out the TV show LOST for Fringe and the Walking Dead.
Harvard economist Greg Mankiw suggests we be thankful for the principle of comparative advantage. I agree and I am.
I’m also thankful for two observations and changes I’ve made in my own life in the last couple of years.
The first change is that I’m less concerned about failing. It still takes some work, but it has allowed me to try new things. Some of those things work. Some don’t. When one doesn’t work, I shrug my shoulders, try to learn something and move on. When something does work, it can be amazing.
These things I try range from little things like blog posts here, to the way I say “hi” to others or make business presentations and other things I’ll mention later.
The second change is based on the old “it mattered to that starfish” story. We’ve all heard this story many times. A beach with thousands of starfish washed up from a storm. A child throwing them back into the sea one at a time. A perplexed adult asking the child why, there’s so many you aren’t possibly making a difference? The child grabbing a starfish and throwing it back in and replying, I made a difference to that one.
Rather than trying to “change the world” I’ve been looking for ways to make a positive impact on the little world around me — in my family, with my friends and in my community.
A couple years ago a friend died. He was involved in many charities and organizations. I didn’t realize how many until I attended his funeral. The list was impressive and documented. I wondered if it was perhaps too much. The thought occurred to me that maybe he should have spent more time taking care of his health than trying to build a legacy, so that he could have been around longer for his family and for (maybe fewer) of those organizations.
That led me to make some good changes and tough choices. I find myself playing “pickup tag” with my kid and others at the playground. One group of kids dubbed me the “ninja dad” for my modest parkour ability.
I volunteered to coach my kid’s soccer team, which meant that he and nine others got a chance to play soccer, make new friends, learn how to win and lose and build some lasting memories.
I started a 5K run last year to benefit a charity that helps teach people to be self-sufficient and gives participants in the run an opportunity to run and be healthy.
Though I wanted to keep organizing it, I made a tough choice to pass off those duties to others so I could spend more time with my family and coach my kid’s soccer team. I took a smaller role in the 5K, helping out however I could. The first year had a good showing. The number of participants tripled in the second year and looks like it’s on its way to becoming a solid annual fundraiser for the charity and a new tradition for participants.
I’ve been happy with these changes. Many of these efforts will go undocumented. It may not appear to others that I will have a substantial legacy. That’s okay, because some kids on the playground may remember their game of tag with the “ninja dad”.