Some of the best quotes, I find, provoke a double reaction: first humor, then pause. A friend of mine, who knows I collect good quotes, recently sent me one that does just that.

“Today’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster.” –Alva O. Way

I was intrigued by this statement, so I Googled Alva O. Way. My first hit was the man’s obituary. Al Way was a very impressive man. When he passed away in September of 2010, he left behind a legacy from an impressive career of leadership roles at General Electric, Honeywell, American Express, Travelers, Eli Lilly, McGraw Hill and Ryder, just to name a few. He was active in the community and with his alma mater, Brown University, where he presided over the Campaign for the Rising Generation, which raised over $527 million. He generously supported numerous charities in education, medicine and the arts.

So when Alva O. Way said the quote above, it came from a place of great wisdom and experience. Although I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Way, his obituary in combination with this quote communicates that he had an understanding of his own mortality. He understood that you can’t take it with you when you go; there are no luggage racks on hearses.

Wealth, fame, success, beauty, even the breath we breathe, are all fleeting. We try to hold on to them, but they will escape our grasp. Instead of clinging to these fleeting things, what if we all focused on the legacy we leave behind when they are gone?

What a different world this would be if people stopped worrying about that which is fleeting and instead focused on that which endures! What if we all gave our children as much attention as our Blackberrries? What if the amount of money paid for plastic surgery could be used to send poor kids to college? What if more celebrities used their notoriety to draw attention to needs in our society and in those abroad? The result would be a more effective world, a world where more people would be famous for the right reasons… where more people would appreciate their own God-given beauty and talents… where more people would achieve their dreams, pursue excellence and find success.

Though I did not meet Al Way, I would really like to live in a world that shares his perspective. It’s not just about what we accomplish when we’re here that makes a person great; it’s about what we leave behind when we depart.

Clifford A. Bailey
speaker and creator of Get in S.H.A.P.E.™
CEO of TechSoft Systems, Inc.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 at 3:31 pm and is filed under Effectiveness. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.