We have all had a lot of “Firsts” in our lives; our first step, first day of school, first kiss, first dance, first car and our first job. The list can go on and on with the things we have done for the first time. Some were really hard, some we thought were going to be hard but turned out a lot simpler than we feared and some just happened by accident … but we got through them all. Then we all have had some pretty neat “Lasts” in our lives as well: the last time you had to ask your parent’s permission, the last time you had a curfew on a date, the last time you had to study for a French, trigonometry, or chemistry final …or whatever courses you hated. Life is full of lots of great “First and Lasts”.
But, sometimes the “Firsts and Lasts” aren’t fun or exciting. Sometimes they are sad, hard, disappointing or even heart wrenching. I am sure you all can think of those without me having to point them out. I don’t want to address those today. I want to stay focused and positive about a subject I feel very strong about. I feel that truly successful people, those who stay on top of their profession for years, are always moving forward. They keep relevant, thriving, and successful by looking forward and moving on to the “NEXT” challenge, goal and soon to be another accomplishment. They don’t live in the past talking about previous successes. They finish what they are doing to the best of their ability … take a moment to appreciate what they have accomplished … and then move on; they relish what life has in store for them.
Your life is going to have countless “Firsts and Lasts”, whether you want them or not, but your “NEXT” accomplishment is up to you. The day you quit looking forward to your next goal, project, plan, mission, task, or grand undertaking is the day you stop progressing. When actor/comedian George Burns was 79, his career was resurrected in the 1975 film The Sunshine Boys, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He continued to work until shortly before his death, in 1996, at the age of 100. When he died he still had future engagements booked. He had more “NEXTs” planned out all the way up to his last breath. At 86 years of age, the famous poet Robert Frost recited his poem “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s Presidential inauguration. At 88, Michelangelo completed his sculpture Roudandini Pieta, depicting an aged man holding Christ. At 89, classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein performed his famous concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. At 104, educator/research scientist Ray Crist finally retired after an 80 year career that began at Columbia University.
But “NEXT” is not just for the elderly. Mozart was performing piano concerts across Europe at the age of 6. Bill Gates wrote his first computer program at the age of 13 and at 31 he had made his first billion dollars. At 15, swimmer Dara Torres set the world record in the 50-meter freestyle. Tommy Hilfiger opened his first clothing store at the age of 18, with his hottest item being bell-bottom pants. What do these people all have in common? They all kept moving forward to their “NEXT” accomplishment.
If you want to study somebody who was really amazing at “NEXT”, take a look at Benjamin Franklin. Mr. Franklin was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. He founded the first U.S. hospital, insurance company, police department, fire department, and book circulating library. He invented the Franklin Stove, the lightning rod and bifocals (to name a few). He was involved in founding two colleges. On top of all of those accomplishments, Mr. Franklin was also an Alderman, Governor, Ambassador and one of the founding fathers of the United States. He kept active and working right up until he died at 84 years of age. Over 20,000 people attended his funeral. Mr. Franklin’s entire life was a continuous journey of “NEXTs”. Here is an anonymous quote that I think sums up nicely the point I am trying to make.