August 10 – The price of success is responsibility

August 10. “The price of greatness is responsibility.” (Winston Churchill)

I am sure when Churchill originated this quote he was speaking of significant world leaders, perhaps even of himself. As one of the key leaders of World War II, he would have understood well the weight of responsibility. While he was talking about those who attain greatness, I think that the concept can be extended to all those who have a measure of success.

In my own life I know that my successes bring with them responsibilities. To be a good father and husband, I must be a responsible bread winner, and I must manage my family’s resources well. To be a good leader/manager at work, I must be responsible for executing the processes of management to make sure that their needs are met. And the list goes on.

The mantle of responsibility can be heavy at times. When I am working on balancing my home life, or plowing through difficult HR processes at work, the burden is particularly tough. If I make mistakes, or don’t stay on top of my game, then others will suffer in some way. It can make for some sleepless nights, and tense afternoons.

On the balance, though, I enjoy having the responsibilities that come with my successes. I know that in order for me to enjoy the fruits of my success, I have to be willing to endure the difficulty as well.

My mind is meandering some this morning, perhaps because I am starting my vacation and the thoughts of responsibilities were left at the side door of my house for a week. But even in this more relaxed state the thoughts are never truly gone.

Yesterday my wife and I took an 8 mile hike. It gave us a lot of time to talk as we walked. One of the things she was dreaming of was taking a walk like this in 10 years when we are both retired. She was thinking ahead to how sweet it will be to have a vacation knowing that when we returned there wouldn’t be a mountain of work email, projects needing our attention, and pressures mounting. I smiled and nodded because I, too look forward to that time. At the same time I said to her that I have a lot I want to do in these 10 years, and I don’t want to wish them away.

She asked what some things were that I wanted to do, and I was short on answers at the time, the ones I gave were about my personal life. Since then I have had time to think and I realize that I also have things I want to do at work. I want to complete more projects, and I want to help develop as many people’s careers as I can. But I think another reason for my resistance to the 10 years slipping away (in addition, that is, to not wanting particularly to dream about being in my 60s just yet), is that I truly DO enjoy the responsibility. As much as I may hate the grimble of things like financial management at work, at the end of the day I do enjoy being in the game.

I am far to self-aware to ever think of myself as having the greatness that Churchill was referring to. I know my limitations, and I know that my sphere of influence doesn’t extend to the corners of the earth as his and others of his time did. But I also know that even to have success as measured with my own yardstick, I need to embrace responsibility. While I may make mistakes along the way, when all is said and done, I willingly embrace all that comes with those responsibilities.

Today my reflection is on coming back from vacation next week with a refreshed view of my life. I am going to have a great week, and when it is done I will not look back with sadness that it is over, but with joy for what we did. And I will look forward with anticipation for what is to come. I will likely never be “cedar point” excited about going to work, but I can approach it with a smile and a positivity that carries the day.

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