As you already know, I came down to Dallas last evening for a day of meetings today at my Dallas based client. This particular company is involved in research for the digital technology business – a complex business dealing with high tech parts and chips; including assessments of the underlying technologies, with imbedded scouts and analysts throughout the world.
Admittedly, even though I have been to Dallas 60+ times, I am not, and never will be, an expert in the tech industry. I’m just not wired that way – no pun intended. I bring other general business skills to the mix – for the past six years or so, the company has been making consistent profits and has continued to grow. I assist with overall strategy, team dynamics, sales presentations and more of the public personna of the company. Gathering and analyzing data just doesn’t come naturally to me.
The purpose of the Summit was to distribute work assignments for next year; and to create deadlines and accountabilities for each independent contractor with the intent that timelines for the year are now in place. Since I don’t have any direct responsibility for these areas of the company, it was something of a quiet day for me. One that gave me ample chance to sit back, listen and assess the team performance and communication skills. These are things I naturally tend to do and many times my advice is sought out on how to resolve a difference of opinion or perhaps a better way to do things. Sometimes, I just think God gave me particular insight into these areas, although there are many other areas I just don’t know what I’m doing.
As the day unfolded, I became increasingly aware that most of the people in this industry are younger people who grew up with technology as a part of their childhood. And it wasn’t long before I noticed that I was the oldest one in the room – make that eldest. I like that word a little better because it carries a connotation of authority, or perhaps history, that brings value to the table. When I think of “oldest,” I just think of old……
And as I sat there, there were times that my insight and input were sought – please don’t misunderstand – not that I was the center of attention, because I wasn’t. But I played the role of something of an elder statesman. Listening, mentoring, discussing and doing all the other things that I used to see my father and other people his age do. While the younger participants were deeply involved in the details of what countries we should consider parts of which continents for reporting purposes (is Mexico part of North American or Latin America?), I listened with interest to how they all spoke to each other.
The whole thing took me back to my youth when I was the youngest guy in the room during these sorts of meetings. In fact, I recalled the time when I had just joined my Dad in the wood products business after he had been diagnosed with cancer. I was scared to death that the business wasn’t going to survive and I was out making cold sales calls every day. I was in a building at 545 N. Noble Street, in Chicago, and I was trying to get up to an architectural millwork business that was on the 4th floor of the building. It was a loft sort of building and the elevator was one of those old rickety things that slid back down 3′ for every 6′ it went up. As I think back on it, it was kind of scary.
Anyway, as I arrived at the company, I asked for the owner. I was 21 years old and when the guy finally came out, he summarily dismissed me – saying that he had been in the business longer than I had been living and that there wasn’t anything I could possibly help him with. Unfortunately, that became a common thing I heard for many years. I was always the youngest guy in the room, which was the same way it had been when I was in school. I was used to it, but I never really liked the cool reception I received in the corporate world, except from my Dad who gave me more acceptance in our own company matters.
So this morning I relived all these memories. I even wrote down “from the youngest to the eldest” on a piece of paper around 10:00 a.m. As I reflected on everything, I decided it should be the name of tonight’s post. Because the Jewish story of the rabbis was almost the same. They spent years in training, watching and learning, then became rabbis when they were thirty, until age fifty, and then took on more of a mentor role to teach the younger people who were coming up behind them. And today, it became clear to me that I had moved through the chairs and experienced some of the same things.
The verse for tonight is from Deut. 32:7, “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.” As we age, we go from seeking advice from our elders to dispensing advice to those coming behind us. Whether we are children becoming parents, and then grandparents; or apprentices eventually becoming masters; or new employees eventually becoming high level executives, we all go through the cycle of aging and experience.
My encouragement this evening is to make sure that you always seek the advice of those who are ahead of you in the journey, and that you will also remember to mentor those who are turning to you for wise counsel. And my prayer is that God will provide you will wisdom and discernment and that your advice will always be God-centered and glorifying to Him…. Have a great day in the Lord!