Saturday, 6 June 2009

Lessons from my Grandfather

In my career sessions with clients we often explore the nature of someone’s values. Values can often be revealed by who we admire. And one of the people I admire most is my Grandfather.

I remember he was very stern and strict when I was young. Always made me eat my bloody sprouts. I once even asked my Granny why she continued to stay with him, but he still stuck around, providing me with a rock when I needed one most. So whilst I didn’t always like him, I always loved him.

When I got older I came to admire him too. I came to learn how he fought and was injured in the war. How he raised a great family and wrote funny letters. How he never boasted. How he'd laugh until his teeth fell out at Christmas, and sang made-up songs in the kitchen when he was doing the washing up.

But the kitchen is silent now. Instead, his mind is filled with anxious, confused thoughts. He’s convinced there is a conspiracy against him and he won’t let Granny have a moment’s peace in his paranoia. He is sad, and lost.

This is the moment I’ve long dreaded, for it's hard to lose a hero.

But in his place he has left me many things, and the most precious of these is freedom. Pa fought for my freedom - and everyone in this country - to live as they please. He fought for a set of values that he must have thought have been shamefully abused since. But also his discipline gave me the ballast to make my own way in life. As Barry Schwartz argues, parameters create freedom. And finally, his sense of humour gave me freedom by reminding me not to take myself so damn seriously.

Pa doesn’t really hear me when I speak any more. But if there is one thing that I could say to him, it is thank you for my freedom. It is the value I cherish most.

I hope I always use it in a way that will make you proud, Pa.

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