Opposable Thumbs? There's More...
There is one peculiar thing that sets us apart from every other species on this planet. Most scientists would say it's our opposable thumbs. Some religious leaders would argue it's the existence of a soul.
But I think there's something entirely different that sets us apart. I'll give you my theory below, but first I want to share something personal with you.
Recently, I had a birthday. It seems like each year I'm blessed to walk this earth, I'm forced to face my own mortality more and more. Taking a flight of stairs isn't as easy as it once was. I seem to need more sleep than in the days of my youth. Looking in the mirror I cannot help but to be reminded that I'm aging. God-willing, I have many years left in me yet, but it's caused me to stop and reflect on my life.
This Italian Proverb is a reminder that there is one very significant side-effect to life; no one makes it out alive. Regardless of your station, wealth, or accomplishments - the end result is the same for all of us.
As countless people before me, and countless others after, I've begun to ponder the meaning of life and what really matters most.
The conclusion that I've come to for myself are three key questions:
1. What positive mark can I leave on this world?
2. How can I be the best father and husband I can be?
3. How do I want to be remembered?
I sometimes joke that the reason we live off-grid in the mountains, behind a bomb-proof gate, is for the sole purpose of keeping my daughter away from boys when she gets older.
In reality, I know she will grow up and then age along with the rest of us. When she has children of her own, what will she tell her kids about me? It is my hope she says something like, "Grandpa was one of the most honest, kind and noble men I've ever known. Through some sort of maddening obsession or plain and simple wisdom he seemed to always be prepared for anything!"
I also know that legacies aren't freely given - I'll have to continue to work each and every day to live up to the memory I hope to leave behind.
So, what does this little anecdote have to do with setting us apart from every other life-form? It's not what any textbook or religion will tell you...
To discover what makes man separate from "beast," so to speak, I had to make some observations about man's best friend.
I once adopted a dog from a rescue shelter and I learned very quickly that he didn't care for most men. It was quite obvious that he remembered being abused by a man at one point during his life, and as a result "fight or flight" kicked in when another man came around the house, even those he knew.
My dog remembered what had happened to him in his life and used that memory as a defense mechanism to protect himself. As any dog owner knows, they are incredibly intelligent animals. But even my dog, who I would argue is smarter than average, couldn't remember things learned from his grandfather, or his grandfather's father.
We are the only species that has the capability to study, remember, learn from and apply history to our everyday lives.
Humans have been granted the ability, and in some cases the obsession, to study and learn from the past. We aren't limited to only retaining animal "instincts" or lessons learned from personal experiences. It's one of the reasons we put together a collection of real-life stories from those who lived through the Great Depression in my book Droughts & Dreams.
As educated people we know all too well that too many folks refuse to study history, and that is precisely why history usually repeats itself.
A little while back we put together an incredible 15-minute video on some of the lessons we've learned from the past, and how we apply those lessons every day as a company. I'm confident you'll enjoy it - and learn from it as well!
That video makes me proud. Proud that our company is full of passionate, dedicated people; proud that we can serve people who understand history and what it means for us today; proud to make a significant difference in as many people's lives as possible. I hope to continue to build on this legacy next year and for many years to come.
One last thing - I know many of you will be travelling for Christmas. Remember to stay safe out there, and I hope you thoroughly enjoy the time spent with family and friends.
From snowy N. Idaho,