“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge…” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
NOTE: In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., on the anniversary of his birthday, I wanted to use his quotes to set up this leadership message. The equal rights movement lead by Dr. King will forever shape the world. But his teachings and the wisdom he shared through them are just as impactful.
Several of you have asked about the status and progress of my father’s recovery, so I thought I would provide an update while offering the lessons I have gained through this progress. For reference sake, my father was involved in an accident in October of 2013 – one in which the prognosis was grim. He suffered a cranial hemorrhage, the type that requires surgeon’s to remove part of your skull to relieve the pressure. This type of injury is similar to a massive stroke in that your brain sits in a pool of blood for a period of time before the pressure can be relieved. It can literally drown parts of the brain.
The result of the accident and the cranial hemorrhage left him initially paralyzed on the left side of his body. That was the reality we faced once he came out of his coma. Frankly, just the fact that he survived the ordeal was enough for us. Paralysis or not, I still had my father and I was beyond grateful.
But this isn’t a message about accepting a new reality. It’s a message about strength. About courage. About commitment. And about recognizing the new reality, but the determination to change it.
My father is the product of two amazing people. The first was my grandfather – the kindest, most caring, most patient man I have ever met. I’ll never forget the words of wisdom he gave my father (and who passed that along to me) – “The secret to being happy in life is embracing who you are – personally, professionally, and socially” he would say. “Be happy with what you have, not in envy of what you don’t.” I’ll save a great story on him for another message.
Then there was my grandmother – a feisty, determined ‘four-foot-something’ woman of French descent, whose bite was just as bad as her bark. If she wanted something done, by God it would get done. She had more determination and drive than anyone I have ever met. Not in a bad way, but in a way that made you feel confident. She just wouldn’t give up.
My father gained the benefit of this wonderful combination. The ability to be comfortable with who you are, where you stand, and the reality of your current situation. But the drive and determination not to give up. Not to quit. To insist that there is hope. There is opportunity. And it can only be achieved if you have the courage, strength, and commitment to get there.
And so we come back to my father and the progress he has made since the accident. You see, during his first few weeks in the hospital (and again during his months in rehab) the doctors, nurses, and therapists kept telling us to accept this new reality and prepare for a life with his paralysis. “But you don’t understand,” we would say respectfully, “Al is determined – if there is a will, there is a way.”
Yesterday we brought my father to our house for the Sunday football playoff games. And as he slowly stepped out of the car, stood upright (ok, maybe partially hunched over), and walked in to my house I couldn’t help but smile. For now, he walks with the assistance of a walker – but we all know that’s a short term ‘crutch.’ From where he was a mere 4 months ago, he has changed his reality. Slowly – painfully at times. But he has changed it nonetheless.
As leaders, and more importantly as human beings, we often allow the reality of the current to overshadow the promise of the future. But we must never do so. We must have hope, we must have faith. And we must recognize our ability to change the reality if only we can draw upon the strength, courage, and commitment to do so.
I’ll leave you with one last quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which summarizes it best…
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.