The Test of Time

It is hard to visit Florence, Italy and not be captivated. Home to Michelangelo, da Vinci, Donatello, Galilei and countless other famous creators, it lays rightful claim as one of the most influential cities the world has ever seen.

When Marcel Proust said, “Discovery is not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes,” he must have had Florence in mind.

The Romans first settled Florence in 59 BC. Florence shifted hands numerous times over the first thousand years due to its desirable location for power and trade. The first few centuries of the next millennium gave birth to much of the architecture that stands today. The success of the Florin, Florence’s currency, brought prosperity to the area. That wealth serendipitously collided with some of history’s most creative minds. The resulting art, philosophy and science from this Renaissance period would greatly shape Western civilization as we know it today.

Noteworthy achievements by Florence standards aren’t measured in days, weeks or years, but from the perspective of hundreds of years. Few of us can expect our life’s work to be remembered so long after we pass. In today’s low-attention-span world, we’re lucky to remember what happened last week.

And that’s what makes the Florence experience so special. Florence doesn’t have a monopoly on history. Even in relatively young America, the number of impactful events boggles the mind.

The lesson is in the perspective. A simple test is this:  Are we doing something today that, through the prism of history, makes a lasting impact?

Admittedly, that is a tall task. It makes most of our daily grind seem petty by comparison, but it can impact what we do in unique ways. Ted Thompson, General Manager of the Green Bay Packers, uses that criteria to select players. He famously shuns free agents and builds the Packers through the draft process. He once shared that he tries to choose the best player that, ten years from now, he can look back and say, “that guy was a decent person and had a pretty good career.” Mr. Thompson puts his decisions up to the test of time.

May we all seek significance in our daily work.

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