Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States. I regularly, meaning several times each year, go through a specific exercise to think about those things for which I am grateful. Even those among us who are disadvantaged or going through difficult financial or health issues can be grateful for having been born here or able to immigrate here to the United States. Almost all of us have much to celebrate this Thanksgiving. I think those of us who were born here have a special obligation to be conscious of our good fortune.
“Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”
A colleague shared this sentiment with a slightly different phrasing: “I didn’t hit a home run. I was born on third base.” I run into many business owners who forget that by them being here, in this country, they were born on third base. The business infrastructure, the financial resources, the human talent — all of that is here—and when we build a business, we take advantage of that infrastructure. Many, I dare say most, of us do not hit home runs. We make it home from third base. Even those born into poverty must be cognizant of the possibilities for success. It’s good to remember that even if you put in incredible effort to get where you are, others have provided means along the way. It is also essential for those who are successful to pay it forward by removing the structural roadblocks to the success of our neighbors.
Besides being lucky in my place of birth, I have been fortunate in my inherited health—at least as far as I can tell! I have very few ailments, and it is not because I’ve been a health nut all my life. I do not eat according to the latest suggested healthy diet. I did smoke cigarettes when I was younger. I still eat quite a bit of red meat (after 14 years of being vegetarian) and am not at my fighting weight. I jog regularly (I do not think what I do deserves to be called “running!”). Although it may be painful for others to watch me, I have no aches or pains after about 35 years of reasonably consistent jogging. I was lucky enough to run my first Marathon at age 65 and lived to tell the story! I owe all of this to genes, not anything I’ve done. I know I should do more to take care of myself, but hey, life is short. Although not nearly as short for us as life expectancy in some other countries.
So all in all, I have much for which to be grateful this Thanksgiving, just like every preceding Thanksgiving. I try hard to remember the reality of how much luck has played in what little success I might claim in life. Sure, I made some right decisions along the way. I have managed, with the help of friends and genetics, to survive the many bad choices I have also made.
Besides the luck of country and health, I also am grateful for the fortune of a wonderful family. We don’t get to choose our family; that’s part of the deal. But we do get a chance to make the most out of the family we are given. The images above are of an unusual gathering of my family at Thanksgiving 2014. It is
remarkable not in that we got together, but in that it is (I believe) the first orchestrated and championed by our children. They took on the mantel after the death of my father. It is something THEY wanted to do (I believe my sister is eternally grateful as she was usually the one to take on that task after my mother died). So this was the passing of the torch to the next generation. It felt good and right.
This Thanksgiving, we will celebrate with our son and his wife at one of his friends who, as again LUCK would have it, is an accomplished Chef. We are looking forward to that experience.
So this begs the question, of course. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Have you taken the time to realize the luck of the draw? If you have been dealt a difficult hand, what are the hidden gems for which you, too, can be grateful? If you’re a hired leader or business owner, how are you helping those for whom you are responsible? Are we paying back the debt we owe to those who went before us?
I wish you and your loved ones a healthy Thanksgiving and hope that you have much for which to be grateful.
[Lightly edited on 9/2020 for our new website.]