I’ve got a great future behind me

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Over the last month or so, I’ve had the privilege to get the chance to speak to three or four of our local civic groups about parks and recreation here in Wilson and any future plans that may be on the horizon.  

The speeches weren’t meant to be on any specific subject or project. They just wanted an update on our department. I’ve given these talks probably 50 times over the last decade and I enjoy them, to be quite honest. It’s a great way to get the right information out into the public and answer any questions they may have. Plus, we are doing some great things and I get to share them with the group.

As I was standing in front of one particular club, it suddenly hit me how long I’ve been in Wilson. There were about 50 people in the room and I bet I could have told you something specific about 40 of them. The crowd was filled with past and present volunteer coaches; business owners who have sponsored teams or activities; school officials with whom we have developed partnerships, and community leaders that have supported us for various reasons over the years. And yes, I could have pointed out the parents of kids that have been wonderful and those that have not been so wonderful. 

After the speech on the ride back to the office, I started thinking about the last 24 years and the journey that had gotten me to this point in my career. How did I get here so quick? Have I made my professional mentors proud? Can I hold my head high when I talk to a group like that or do I not want to make eye contact with a couple of them for whatever reason? What more could I have done? Have I developed the personal and professional relationships I needed to? Have I earned the respect and trust of the folks that I’ve worked with over the years? More importantly, have I given the respect and trust to the folks I have worked with over the years? When something went wrong for whatever reason, did I learn from it or make the same mistake again? Has it all been worth it? Where did the last 24 years go? 

It seems like just yesterday I was keeping the scorebook at Jaycee Park in Greenville for the Men’s Industrial Softball league when I was 15 years old. And now, I am speaking to groups about the future of recreation in Wilson. How did that happen?

So, here is my point. Your career is your career. It is nobody else’s but yours. It’s not your wife or husband’s. It’s not your girlfriend or boyfriend’s. It’s not your mom or dad’s. It’s yours and yours alone. The way you handle yourself is totally up to you and nobody else. Over the years, you will find that every action and reaction builds upon the next action and reaction. If you consistently go the extra mile, it gets easier to get bigger and better things done.

On the flip side, I guarantee you that if you cut corners, ignore a phone call or not address an issue or concern that it will come back to bite you in some way, shape or form. It might not seem that way when you are young and starting out in your career, but people remember how you treat them and that determines what happens next, whether it’s tomorrow, next week or 10 years from now.  They may not remember what you did for them, but they sure will remember what you didn’t do for them. Your peers know if you are working hard for the team and over time, you will see the benefits of that hard work. However, the opposite is also true. If you spend your career with one eye on the clock waiting on quitting time, the reward isn’t going to be much years down the road.

At the end of the day, it takes a special type of person to walk the line day after day, month after month, and year after year in whatever profession they have chosen. My hat is off to anyone that has accomplished that goal or in the middle of accomplishing that goal. For those of you that are just beginning, my advice is pretty simple. Show up and put the work in every day. Be conscious of how you are handling yourself and treating others. And finally, take a little time to celebrate every accomplishment along the way no matter how big or small. Remember, you only get one shot at your career. There are no do overs, mulligans or timeouts in real life. Because one day, you are going to look up and your promising future is going to somehow be in the rearview mirror of life. And you are going to want to be able to look into that mirror and know you have given it everything you had.

Keep up the good work everybody.

David Lee is the Wilson Parks and Recreation Department Director. He is also a part-time golfer, part-time writer and, along with his wife, Dana, full-time parents of two boys.