Harry Chapin was a great American singer-songwriter-story teller probably best known for his hit single “Cat’s in the Cradle.” I remember being introduced to Harry in 1970’s at the Joyce ACC on Notre Dame’s campus. I was so inspired by his stories that I rushed out and bought an 8-track tape of his Greatest Stories Live. (Yes, I’m old, for you youngsters, that’s how we used to get our music) Harry died in 1981 at the age of 38 in a car accident.
Over the years, Harry’s music lived on and I amassed a collection of 8-tracks, cassette tapes, albums and CD’s that included both Harry’s music and many of his ramblings about “the meaning of life.”
In The Gold Medal Collection, released after his death to commemorate his many humanitarian works, Harry shared some sage advice from his Grandfather.
Chapin’s grandfather opined: “Harry, there’s two kinds of tired. There’s good tired and there’s bad tired. Ironically enough, bad tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people’s battles, you lived other people’s days, other people’s agendas, other people’s dreams. And when it’s all over, there was very little you in there. And when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn; you don’t settle easy.”
He went on to say: “It’s that good tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost, but you don’t even have to tell yourself because you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days and when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy.
The advice seems even more appropriate today than when it was first delivered more than 40 years ago. Life just seems busier. The demands in the workplace are greater than they’ve ever been. Information comes at us from every direction and though technology has made our jobs easier in some respects, it’s also made it harder to escape. And there are more worthwhile causes than we could have ever imagined.
My great-grandfather, both of my grandfathers, and father were all entrepreneurs and owned businesses here on our region. On average, those businesses were each open 77 hours a week. Add in the additional time needed before it opened and after it closed each day and you get the picture that work required a lot of their attention. Though it presented challenges, at the end of the day, they were all “good tired” because they had fought their battles and chased their dreams.
Growing up in that environment, I became wired for the rapid pace and the many demands that would come my way each week. After we sold the businesses, it wasn’t clear to me what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I knew it had to be something that interested me; that I could be passionate about; where I would be challenged; and where I could make an impact. Like my Dad and Grandfathers before, I wanted it to be more than just job! And I wanted to make sure that at the end of the day, I rested easy because I was pursuing what I wanted to do.
I’ve been really fortunate to have some great jobs along the way. I’m grateful for the opportunities others have given me an in exchange I’ve given my best effort and worked hard to advance the interests of the companies, organizations and causes I’m most passionate about. At the end of most weeks, I’m exhausted by the pace, but at the same time I rest easy!
What’s the Risk?
Life is short, too short to spend doing something you don’t want or like to do. Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who labor each day at places or positions that don’t inspire or excite them. Some feel like there just a hamster on the wheel, working hard but never advancing. At the end of the day, they don’t rest easy.
Maybe a job change isn’t possible, perhaps then a particular cause or mission might occupy your non-work time. Consider what’s important to you, find your passion, and pursue it with all of your energy. Give it your best shot each day and remember the wins and other such results hardly matter. It is all about the process. If you do, I’m confident you’ll prove Harry’s Grandfather right and when your head hits the pillow, you’ll rest easy.