The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
Memorial Day: What is Your Legacy?
April 2007. While in Washington DC on business, I spent some time sightseeing with fellow/former Army officers. One gentleman was the recently retired commanding officer of the 3D US Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) charged with guarding Arlington Cemetery, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
He gave us the most unexpected honor. He prearranged for a couple of us to lay the flowered wreath at the Tomb during the evening changing of the guard.
I still get the chills as I reminisce that moment: escorted between sober, armed soldiers; laying a measly garland of flowers before a solemn tomb; silently saying “thank you” for the millionth time to men of sacrifice with no identity, lost but never forgotten. The sight of our flag coupled with the singing of our national anthem generally brings tears to my eyes, so this honor was as good as it gets.
A sacrifice… never forgotten. Despite language, religious, and geographical differences, humanity shares a universal desire: to make life meaningful. Whether it means having an impact on a family, a village, or a nation, we all want our lives to count for something.
The Memorial Day Service my wife and I attended this weekend reminded me of the brevity and sanctity of life. Every song sung, every speech read, and each poem recited proved life was meant to be lived with relevance and significance. Am I living in such a way that beneficiaries will take time to reflect on my contributions?
For some, contribution means laying down life in battle to defend freedoms. For another, service and sacrifice will have a different flavor. Whatever we are called to do, let us impact people positively and serve the forthcoming generations.
I began to personalize these thoughts in terms of my career. “There’s no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” I don’t know who said that, but it’s a truism that helps me keep a healthy perspective. The world isn’t about me, but it does either gain or suffer based on my involvement, how much I give and take.
My new philosophy goes like this:
Let my employer be a better place for teaching, healing, and discovering as a result of my leadership. Let the decisions I preside over have lasting beneficial effect. May I treat others in such a way that their children and their children’s children will benefit. May I always keep the long term in mind to avoid compromise and complacency. Let me leave my employer a better place than when I arrived. May those who I serve have accomplished more than otherwise possible, furthering their careers and thus their impact. May clinical and business outcomes have been positively impacted and lives improved.
Though no one else might see it, my epitaph will read, “My service in healthcare mattered.” In the end, even if no one remembers our names, maybe they’ll still place a metaphoric wreath at a tomb in honor of all of us who served to make healthcare better.
What about you? What legacy will you leave behind?
Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.