"For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on the earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth."
The passage above came from the memorial note handed out last Saturday, June 13, at the Celebration of Life for cyclists Ross Chafe and Kelly Blunden, who died in a road accident on May 31.
As I sat listening to some of the speakers that afternoon I kept glancing down at that verse of the nine-stanza poem and thinking about it.
In our busy days we leap out of bed, rush around making breakfast and lunch for the kids, hustle them out the door to get to school on time and continue our head-long rush through the workday, collapsing into bed as darkness steals across the sky.
Then, as you lie there, the lists of things not accomplished begins to float in front of your eyes, until they finally close... whew.
These busy times, the people we love and support, those we help, those who help us, the changes we work on for ourselves and our communities, the challenges we face, living our lives with kindness — these are some of the things that fill up the "dash."
And all the people we touch form that dash like a paper-doll chain across the years, their clasped hands connected by mutual interests, passions and needs.
It's a reminder that it is the people and our experiences that describe our lives. Yes, our professional lives are part of that, being a parent can be part of it, being an athlete, a mentor, a friend — these are the relationships that define the "dash."
It's a powerful metaphor for life — a useful one I would argue for all of us, but particularly perhaps at this time of the year when young adults are both graduating from high school and also university.
It is easy for students to get wrapped up in the pursuit of high marks, academic recognition and more. But just as in the real world what matters most are the connections made, the experiences gained, not from a book, but from life and the people willing to share their stories.
What is needed in today's global reality are creative, problem-solving youth. Over the last 100 years, according to the Harvard Business Review, "...the main operating model in management was to identify the best processes, or at least very good ones, and then have workers follow them to a tee.
But that is not the case today and so organizations, businesses, even schools at every level are rolling out training programs to build critical thinking skills.
"If organizations want to enable workers to bring not only their hands but also their heads to work, then jobs need to be redesigned to give people ownership of (1) how they perform tasks, (2) their identity, and (3) their time," states the Review.
A study of Millennials in the workplace by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that what they most valued from employers wasn't more money (that was number three), but rather training and development to improve their skills.
What did they value most after that time. This is truly the currency of the worker today. Everyone is looking for the work-life balance. People are craving it, and some companies are finding that by offering workplaces that put energy into these things employees are more dedicated and creative.
Why is time so valuable? Perhaps it is because it is the one thing that must be in place to discover all the experiences we want to fill out our "dash."
So as we reflect on our lives and the lives, dreams and hopes of both the young and old around us let's try and always choose kindness, chase out big ideas where we can, live life with integrity and endeavour to live the life only you were meant to lead.