Thomas Kinkade-like window lights glow in romantic little cabins across the lake on this dark, rainy morning. Wood stoves warm the air as smoke dances from old red brick chimneys.
The lake is still, glasslike, and the only sound is the peeping of hungry baby robins in the nest in the rafters of this old screened porch. It’s a morning for a warm sweater, thick socks, and an extra hot cup of coffee.
Finally, after several intense months of difficulty, I’m able to sit here, relax, and reflect.
A week has passed since the end of my annual artists’ retreat in the Adirondacks. To shake things up a little this time, and to celebrate our 10th year, we held a grand closing party at a classic Adirondacks “great camp” (a term used for giant homes usually built in the late 1800s), followed by a world-class fireworks display on the lake overlooking the mountains.
In reality, these extras are not necessary. No one expects them. So why bother?
The reason for extra effort and expense is that the people attending will never forget those special moments. Hopefully, as they look back over their lives, those will be special memories preserved.
As we look back on our lives, we tend to remember the highlights, the special moments, the special feelings, the special places, and even the special things.
The Struggle for Memories
I can remember a family vacation, and overhearing my parents say they weren’t sure if they had enough gas money to get us home, yet the vacation was memorable. I’m sure it was a stretch to buy an Airstream trailer, and a lot of work to drive three hours every summer weekend to camp in the trailer and go out in our tiny OMC tri-hull boat, but these are my fondest memories.
I guarantee you that people who go on our annual fine art trip to Europe hold on dearly to the memories of unheard-of private access to the Sistine Chapel, after-hours private access to the Hermitage museum, or a troop of bagpipers emerging from the fog to serenade us as we said farewell on our last trip to Scotland. Yet in spite of the enormous cost and effort to make such things happen, they leave an irreplaceable mark on those who receive these gifts.
What are the things you remember from your life?
What are the special moments someone made for you?
What if you chose to live a large life?
More Work, More Pleasure
Living large isn’t about expensive things, it’s about extra effort, doing things that stand out and that others are not willing to do. A camping trip an hour from home is just as effective a memory if you make a little extra effort to make it memorable. Something as simple as s’mores by the campfire will last forever in the minds of your kids or grandkids.
It’s Our Turn
Now that I’ve lost both my parents, I realize just how large they lived, and how much time and effort they took to create great family memories. Though there are times I’d rather sit in my chair, feet up, watching a movie or checking social media, I know it’s my turn to make sure my family members are treated to memorable experiences, most of which are orchestrated with a lot of effort. I want that for my family, but also for my friends and my customers.
Always go the extra mile. Meeting expectations isn’t enough. Do the unexpected. Give people more than they expect in everything you do. This applies to family, friendships, and your work.
When I got my first job at McDonald’s, my dad sat me down and drew a chart. “This line is the expected. It’s what they want you to do. This line is below the expectation; it’s what most people do. And this line on top is unexpected. If you always do more than expected, the manager will give you more responsibility, and eventually more money if you deserve it. Don’t do what the other employees do, don’t just do what the boss expects you to do, do more than expected. Look for little things you can do that will be better than expected.”
What if we operated that way in all aspects of our lives? What if we gave more than required, more than expected?
More than expected in our jobs.
More than expected in our families.
More than expected in our businesses.
The reason should not be “I’ll do more so I get more.” Instead, it should be done with the spirit of generosity. “I’ll do more because people will have a better experience. I’ll do more because it’s the right thing to do. I’ll do more because I want people to have great feelings.”
My friend Lee Milteer tells me there are two kinds of people, civilians and leaders. Civilians do the required or below. Never anything extra. They feel they are owed something and never want to help “the man.” Leaders feel they are owed nothing and always do more than expected, even in what some consider menial jobs. Leaders don’t expect anything in return, they just do a little better because it’s who they are, who they strive to be. They care more about others than they care about themselves, and it shows up in everything they do.
Which do you want to be? It’s a choice.
You can escape your circumstances. No matter what you were born into, there is no requirement to cling to the way things have always been, or even the way you’ve always done things. The choice is simply a decision to change.
Though I don’t always accomplish what I set out to do, I strive to be a leader in my work, my volunteer work, my hobbies, and my family. In spite of the difficulty sometimes, I want to leave the earth with my wife, kids, friends, and customers being appreciative for the memories I orchestrated. I’m trying to instill this in my kids.
Looking back on the memories my parents and grandparents created for us, I appreciate it more than ever, because I know it took a lot of planning, effort, and sometimes money. But those memories are sweet.
What are you doing to create sweet memories for those you love?
How are you going the extra mile when it’s unexpected?
What can you do to do more than expected in your work, your family, your projects?
I’ve realized that the extra mile is indeed a key to a successful life, work-life, or business. It’s rarely easy to do things well, but the satisfaction of making things better for others is always worth it.
You can do this. I have confidence in you.