This past Memorial Day, a day reserved to remember and honor those who have died in service of the United States of America, my youngest child graduated from high school. So this Memorial Day also became a day to honor and celebrate his accomplishments.
This all got me thinking a bit about how well we really do at remembering and celebrating the accomplishments of those who have gone before us or even recognizing those we work with every day.
For instance, I wonder how many Americans know the true purpose of Memorial Day? What percentage of Americans knows that it’s a day to remember those who died in service of their country instead of believing it’s a holiday to kick off summer? How are we able to pay our respects to the soldiers who have given their lives if we don’t even know that’s the reason for the day?
Similarly, how well do we celebrate the contributions and successes of the people who have gone before us at work? Do you know about the person or people who founded the company you work for? Do you know the stories about some of the people who have made critical contributions to your company’s success? It doesn’t matter if your company has been around for 10 years or 100, there have to be significant milestones in the history of the business that someone was a part of. Aren’t they worth remembering and even celebrating?
When we consider the history and the efforts of those who have gone before us, we instantly become part of something much bigger than what our day-to-day work might represent. Our work isn’t just what we have done in our time with a company. The contribution we’re making isn’t just what we and our colleagues are doing on a daily basis. Our work becomes a part of a much larger story that started before we joined the company and will continue long after we stop working.
Our company, as it stands today, is the result of putting three separate companies together. It’s a story that’s not uncommon in today’s world of mergers and acquisitions. And I know the history of each of the three companies. I know the founders of the three companies and have had the pleasure of working with all of them in varying capacities. And I can tell their stories because they are now part of our company’s story. I can’t say we do the greatest job of celebrating their accomplishments or even telling their story internally, but I know it, and I can and will share it.
In his book I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett wrote, “If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”
It puts the focus on our history—knowing where we come from. Whether we’re talking about our country’s history or our company’s, it’s important to know because it helps us understand where we are and how we got here. And that knowledge allows us to find our way forward.
So as I had the opportunity to honor those who died in service to our country and my son who graduated high school on the same day, I encourage you to honor and celebrate those who have gone before you at work. I implore you to remember their contributions to your company’s past successes and the impact they still have on what you do today. Share those stories with everyone who works in your business. Make sure everyone knows “where you come from” as a company. And finally, recognize that what you’re doing today will lay the foundation for those who come after you. Make sure the work you do is worth remembering and celebrating by those who follow you.