I reached a milestone birthday, the big 6-0 this week. I’ve been more reflective than usual for a variety of reasons. After 30 years, I sold my private practice. I began a second career of writing, teaching and mentoring therapists who want to start up their own dream practice. Anne and I are expecting our first grandchild at the beginning of next year. Recently, there have been several new beginnings and a couple of endings to process as I enter into a new life stage.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a memorial service for one of my peers. He died at 58 of cancer. He was a 70’s guy like me and many of the pictures at the service were a familiar blast from the past. The awkward combination of long hair and micro tennis shorts never did look cool as we thought. Our lives overlapped in sports, church and several old friendships.
Attending his memorial service at the UNL Football stadium had a profound impact on me. He was a visionary journalist who created HuskerVision when videocasting at college football games was in it’s infancy. He mentored hundreds of students in video journalism during his stints at Nebraska and Texas A&M. We had a lot in common.
Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and like Jeff given a year to live. I’m still alive. Jeff isn’t.
Sitting in one of the power centers of Nebraska I reflected on my life investment for the past two decades. Have I invested my time and talents wisely or have I wasted them on non-essentials? For the next several days I pondered Jeff’s life and how people spoke about him. Then I prayed about how I was going to invest, Lord willing, the next twenty years of my life.
I heard three consistent themes describing Jeff’s life:
This sums up my life aspirations too. Hopefully these three themes will be emphasized at my funeral someday.
My mastermind group encouraged me to put more of “me” into my blog and podcast. They enjoy hearing personal stories and getting to know what makes me tick. For many of my blog followers I am a mentor/father figure. As a result of my support group’s advice I’ve decided to include a regular blog post on my personal reflections and insights.
For a birthday gift I enlisted my family to help me with the inaugural blog post. I asked them to write a paragraph or two about their personal experience with one of the three life themes in the past 20 years. Their contribution is what follows.
I hope you enjoy it and are inspired to live an intentional life.
Emily– “Will you raise your children the same way your parents raised you?”
This was the journal prompt in my high school English classes this week. Emboldened by the youthful wisdom that comes with adolescence, some students quickly began to list the changes they were sure to make when their time to parent arrived. Others, less sure of how they would handle that responsibility, struggled to put their thoughts down in writing.
Personally reflecting on that question, I shared with students my own experience with the “Potter Family Conflict Management Style.” I explained that whenever a Potter girl was in trouble, she would be called into the front living room to sit, discuss, process and determine an appropriate consequence.
I joked with my students that the hours spent discussing the issue were the true punishment (and that mine usually ended up with me dissolving into dramatic tears).
But what I failed to communicate in that moment, was that those long and sometimes painful discussions (I am sure this is true for both parties), are the basis for much of my life perspective today. The persistent presence of a dad who showed up in the good moments, but perhaps most importantly in the tense moments was foundational.
I was held accountable for both my actions and attitudes, allowed to be part of the discussion, and provided a safe place to fail. The “Potter Family Conflict Management Style” in many ways is the foundation for how I communicate in my friendships, how I deal with my students, the patience I have for talking through things calmly (most of the time) to get to the real issue in my marriage, and what I hope to emulate as a parent.
That is the type of legacy that was passed down to me and I pray I too, will be able to pass on.
Allison– “The Family Anchor”
As I’ve entered the post-college world and started to experience first hand all of the forces and demands that can pull at one, be it work expectations and deadlines, a desire to develop professionally and personally, relationships, hobbies, church involvement, volunteer organizations, or personal fitness, I’ve realized there is a current to life with expectations and opinions from many different voices on what to invest in.
Personally, I’ve felt a bit swept to sea as I continue to find who I am, what my values are, and who I want to become. In the pace of it all, it can be difficult to take stock. To set time aside to slow down and reevaluate priorities and recenter on the fundamental anchors that keep one grounded amidst the current.
This is an area I’ve witnessed my dad, over the last 20 years, set a wonderful example in, pushing back against the pressing current to preserve time with his family.
When I was young and up through highschool, my dad led us in a morning family devotion before we started our days, we gathered for dinner as a family to connect and share about our lives, we attended church services as a family, we enjoyed countless vacation road trips focused on creating connections and memories as a family.
As normal and routine as these elements seemed to me at the time, with the perspective that experience brings, I am beginning to realize how intentional they were, and are. There were ways big and small my dad guarded time with us and fostered a loving and safe family environment. I’m confident that this entailed saying no to some things, limiting others, and taking time to reflect and set intentions to preserve and protect this space.
The grounding and intention with which my dad goes about all things, but notably in investing in his wife and daughters, is one of the most precious gifts I could receive as a daughter. Now, as I get a fresh reminder of the current of life pulling me along, I am finding more admiration and appreciation for that gift. I am already looking back and using the example my dad set over the last 20 years, to stay anchored.
I was working with a client at work the other day who showed me a business model that made me think of my dad (even more than him just being a savvy businessman). The model described inputs (investments) and outputs (how many sales resulted)…I know, not particularly revolutionary in terms of economics.
But the model took it a step further. Beyond outputs, the model described impact. Outputs keep the conversation about ROI, units sold and other tangibles that result from your inputs. But impact, now you’re talking about how real people feel the affects of your investment.
As I looked at that model I realized my dad has invested 60 years in a way that yields impact, not just outcomes. You don’t get impact without investment. I am only one of many who can say that Paul Potter has been diligent investor in me. He’s invested prayer, time, patience, forgiveness, friendship, affirmation, trust.
But he’s done that without an outcomes-focused mentality; he’s loved not with the focus of being loved back; he’s given patience not just because he knows “I’ll grow out of it”; he’s forgiven not because I have the ability to pay him back. That’s the type of investment that yields impact.
Because when you’ve been loved like that, you can extend the same to others, who do that to others, and so on and so on. I am only one of the hundreds of people who he has invested in. And the impact? We’ve all been pointed to a love of our perfect Father.
Elizabeth– “Father–Daughter Dates”
Whenever I am asked about my Dad, it is usually in relation to him having to be the dad of 4 daughters, to which I normally reply with how he had such good luck when he had four sisters to practice with before he got stuck with a family of four girls.I have loved being the “fourth” and final daughter in my family because I have been able to see how my dad has parented all of us through our different life stages.
I remember being envious of my older sisters when he would take them out for father-daughter dates, and wondering when it was going to be my turn. Through my growing up and graduating college, my dad has constantly sought out time to spend specifically with me. Being some one who appreciates quality time, they have been favorite moments of our relationship.My Dad seeking to spend time with me, was a perfect mirror to how God seeks us out for time spent with him. Having my father be so intentional, led me to easily see how God desires the same close relationship with us. My father continued to delve into showing us faith through daily morning bible reading as a family, leading Sunday school and how he chose to show us grace through discipline. These actions showed me tangible ways of God’s love and was the foundation of my faith growing up.
Since graduating, my Dad has been a constant source of encouragement for me in my transition. We are almost at the same point, as he “graduated” from owning his own practice to transitioning into running an online business, writing books and creating apps. I have seen his own foundation in faith in God as he chooses to walk into the unknown and trust in God’s plan. This encourages me to trust in God’s sovereignty and take more steps of faith.