Let Go And Keep Going

As our industry moves forward, dealing with change we didn’t ask for and challenges we’d rather not face, I submit we need only look at our dads and granddads from that “Greatest Generation” for the inspiration to carry on. They have shown us boomers, X-ers, Y-ers and Z-ers what the real deal is about.

About 2 weeks ago, we celebrated my dad’s 80th birthday. It was more than a milestone of longevity. In my mind he’s a remarkable example of survival, having continued to fend off the ravages of Parkinson’s for more than a dozen years—many adjustments, yes, capitulation, no.

As anyone who has had the misfortune of a close encounter with this disease knows, it’s an insidious affliction that slowly robs a person of their motor skills while leaving the mind well aware of the body’s deterioration.

My dad has weathered the disease pretty well, in my opinion. He lives independently at home, and while he can’t walk very far without resting, he gets around without the need for a walker or cane.

I think the vital ingredient in his refusal to knuckle under to Parkinson’s comes from his membership in that remarkable group that Tom Brokaw describes as the “Greatest Generation.” Like so many of his peers, he simply refuses to give up the fight.

However, in spite of Dad’s valiant efforts to stem the tide, reality must take its toll. On his 80th birthday, his driver’s license expired. This time, the Parkinson’s won because Dad knew he could not pass the test to renew his license.

I know several friends who have had the difficult task of taking the car keys from a parent, and the angst that goes with it, for both parent and child, can be terrible. I’m grateful that my dad made this easy.

I asked him how he felt about it, and he admits it wouldn’t be his first choice. But he tells me having spent his career in the insurance industry, he’s had to take people off the road, too. He knows when it’s time. It may be time, but it’s still hard for both of us. This is the guy who taught me how to drive a stick shift.

There is a process of acceptance that one must deal with as time goes by. It’s not caving in to change, but more like figuring out ways to deal with the change. The key is to have the right attitude about the situation.

From what I’ve seen so far in life, for many, aging is a test of character as much as anything else. How one deals with the inevitability of change, adjusts and tries to move forward defines failure or success.

Life lessons are certainly transferable to our professional sphere as well. Companies are made of groups of individuals, and the culture of acceptance or rejection of change is reflected by the attitude of an organization’s leaders.

Like aging, there is inevitability and irreversibility to the challenges encountered moving a business such as manufacturing forward. We can choose to adapt to change, invest in the future and continue going forward, or sit on the porch and wait for the end.

I take a lesson from my dad in his choice to stay out of the rocking chair and keep going. None of us knows how long he can continue doing this for himself, but it’s for sure that his legacy of not quitting under bad circumstances will go on in me and hopefully in my children.

To me it’s the passing of the torch, be it from generation to generation or from professional to rookie, which ensures the continuation of things. In families or companies, a culture that can endure becomes the legacy from which a future can be created.

My dad remains bright, engaged and looks forward to each day. He shakes a lot, but on the up side, finds himself drafted to make the martinis when his buddies come over for drinks.

Whether I live to see 80 or even 60, it’s about moving forward and trying to pass the lessons learned to anyone interested. My dad is a survivor, and although he’s bent a bit from age and disease, he’s not broken—never will be.

As our industry moves forward, dealing with change we didn’t ask for and challenges we’d rather not face, I submit we need only look at our dads and granddads from that “Greatest Generation” for the inspiration to carry on. They have shown us boomers, X-ers, Y-ers and Z-ers what the real deal is about.