A heartfelt letter of recommendation is a gift. It’s words on a paper from someone you admire summarizing just how amazing they think you are. Everyone should have one in their back pocket just to pull out when they’re feeling the funk and stuck in the mulligrubs. It’s an adult paper equivalent of gazing upon all your Little League trophies.
I’ve recently had a mash-up of events: attending funerals, writing and receiving letters of recommendation. Professionally, I’m often asked to write letters of recommendation. Usually, it’s a student or an employee, which goes with the territory. Recently, I’ve been asked to write letters of recommendation for colleagues I adore, admire, respect and load of other chest puffing adjectives. It’s left me feeling sad and incredibly grateful to have worked with these friends that have changed my life. I feel the exact same way at funerals.
What if we put the adoration out there for everyone when they were still with us? Before they were ready to leave? Before the final goodbye? What if?
What would you say?
Who would you say it to?
I have witnessed first hand the vacuum suck of underperformance and watched some of the best people “check out”. We’re all familiar with “senior slide”. The students that check out after completing college applications, rest on their laurels and wait for graduation love to shine on them anyway. I’ve also seen the slow decline of an extremely negative environment and the effect it has on industrious people. The workers start to check out long before they leave. You notice the little things that people don’t do anymore. The unwillingness to put in extra effort because you’ve lost the feeling that you’re aiming for the same shore and mutiny is whispered in the wind.
If you’re sick, and you know your time is limited, you start to focus on what really matters. The people that matter and how you want to spend your final weeks, days and hours. You withdraw from extraneous commitments and measure time as the valuable resource that is. We know the infallible truth that time is limited for everyone, but it’s not until the hourglass is forcibly shoved in your face do you truly acknowledge it. It’s regrettable that our best lessons are usually learned last, too late, and without do-overs.
There are some tangible ways you can turn things around. Tell the people now, today and without delay, how you feel about them, before they withdraw. Whether it’s a student, a colleague or family member. Letters of recommendation usually have a similar arc. It’s a pleasure, how you know them, what you respect and admire, sprinkled with some personal witty touches. They can be formulaic or they can be heartfelt. When you come from a place of truth and vulnerability, putting it all out there, it resonates. Good friends, great employees, and exceptional students are gifts to you and your community. Tell them how much you adore them today. Write it down and stick it in their back pocket.
Keep sharing moxie.