OK. So maybe we’re not all vying for entrance into Valhalla. Maybe we’re not striving to be immortalized in song, or in history. But that’s still no reason to lead a useless middle-of-the-road life.

I was reminded by a friend yesterday how common it is to try to achieve just enough to get by. Neither sticking your neck out, or falling behind. The “gray man” mentality is almost a survival mechanism in any office, or military post. I think a lot of us are guilty of this. I know it’s tempting. But in the end, what does it win us?

How many memories do we create by getting by? What kind of positive impact do we make on others by getting the job done, exactly as we’re supposed to? Of course there are people whose jobs are incredibly fulfilling and meaningful, but at the same time, even the luster of helping people can slowly fade when it becomes routine. When service becomes reflex, it loses meaning. When your vocation serves no one, you need to create that meaning outside of it.

This friend of mine is both a soldier and a physician; separately noble professions. Yet, every time we talk, I hear about the next project, the next commitment, the next thing to make the lives of soldiers better. It’s always “I feel like I can be doing more,” never “I did enough to get the job done today”. Continuous, tireless effort to excel, to grow and serve others. At the end of every conversation, I find myself wondering if I am trying hard enough, giving my very best, or just getting the job done.

I think about the people that mean the most to me; the teachers, parents, role models–and they all have one thing in common. They did what no one else would, or could. They made efforts, sometimes small, but always meaningful to reach out, give more, understand or just listen. They may not live forever, but the impact they made on my life will never be forgotten. So, today, right now, what little thing can I do to live up to the example set by my mentors, and all the other great examples I am lucky to have in my life?

What can you do?

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