Friday, November 5, 2010

Man of the Hour

My favorite musicians of all time - Pearl Jam - recently celebrated their 20th anniversary as a rock band.  Their music has meant a lot to me over the years, and I've been listening to them nonstop for the last week.  One song - a newer one - has been striking a louder chord with me lately.  It's a song Pearl Jam recorded for the soundtrack to the movie Big Fish, which was released a few years back.  The song is called "Man of the Hour" and it's sung from the perspective of a son recalling his father.  I feel it has some connections with leadership and fraternity, and hence, this reflection.

Below is a YouTube clip of a live performance of the song.

Listening to the song led me to wonder: why do we remember someone?  What do they do that etches them into our memory?  How did they earn our respect?  Is it about what they accomplished, or is it about how they lived?

To me, the song speaks of legacy.  It describes the attributes of a person who forever earns the moniker of "Man (or Woman) of the Hour."  The kind of person who others rise to greet when entering a room.  The kind of person whose actions and character distinguishes him/her.  The kind of person who is remembered as a powerful force, never hiding his/her convictions.

Tidal waves don’t beg forgiveness
'CRASHED' and on their way
Father he enjoyed collisions; others walked away


How does one come to be regarded in such a way?  Much of it is earned by accomplishments and in what manner those accomplishments were achieved.  We are drawn to stories of individuals overcoming hardships and strife to do something extraordinary.  I believe a Man of the Hour walks briskly past the shortcuts.  To be a Man of the Hour means choosing the more difficult path.  Legacies are reserved for those who step into the headwinds; who can look back and know that they were the principal author for their story.

Nature has its own religion; gospel from the land
Father ruled by long division, young men they pretend
Old men comprehend.


But it's also about helping others.  A cynical man stands idle and watches the young struggle with the same challenges he faced.  The sympathetic man works to remove those obstacles from another's path.  It's the compassionate man that finds a middle ground - that seeks to guide but not intrude.

And the road
The old man paved
The broken seams along the way
The rusted signs, left just for me
He was guiding me, love, his own way


To be concerned with legacy can be considered a selfish act.  But I've never seen it that way.  I see it as a motivator - a way to paint a future vision for how we want our story to unfold.  When I leave this place, I want to be regarded as the Man of the Hour.  I want my contributions to be felt.  I want to be remembered.

This desire actually pushes me away from selfishness and closer towards service.

The opposite is the man who is easily forgotten.  He is focused so inward that others barely notice him.  He may be funny, or charming, or self-assured.  But these attributes on their own do not mark those who are most highly regarded.

Consider your legacy.  What will it take for you to be a Man of the Hour?  How will you be regarded in that final fraternity meeting as an undergraduate?  Or when you return as an alumnus?  When others think about your accomplishments and your character, will they want to tell your story?

When you choose to take on a commitment - such as fraternity - do so with a desire to make your time there matter.  Do enough so that others will find it difficult to forget you.  When you leave the room - when you leave this life - make them want to stand up and applaud.

And the doors are open now as the bells are ringing out
Cause the man of the hour is taking his final bow
Goodbye for now.


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