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What's in My Cedar Chest?

By Doug Sterbenz

cedar chestIn my home sits an old handcrafted cedar chest. It’s nice—solid oak on the outside and lined with cedar on the inside. It’s one of our prized possessions.

That cedar chest is exactly 29 years old this month. I know precisely how old that cedar chest is because it was my gift to my wife for our wedding, and we celebrated 29 years of marriage this month. But the cedar chest is also special for another reason. My grandfather and I made that cedar chest together 29 years ago.

Memories of Grandpa While we were making that cedar chest together, which would become my wedding gift to my wife, my grandfather taught me his trade. He was a strong, stoic German man of few words. His hands were so callused that he didn’t use sandpaper; he just rubbed his fingers on the wood and it was made smooth.

He lived through The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression, and it taught him the value of hard work and the importance of principles. My grandfather never had a formal job title. He did have integrity, knew his principles, and knew how to treat people. He just went about his work as a farmer, machinist, and woodworker who could make anything from a tree.

More than Memories My grandfather gave me more than the knowledge and skills to build that cedar chest. He taught me his beliefs, his way of life, how to work, and how to treat people.

We never talked about it, but I could see it and I could feel it each time I looked into his steel blue eyes. He wanted to leave something behind after he was gone, and I knew it. Even though he never said a word about it, he wanted to have something to show for his life. Don’t we all?

Maybe that’s why in his last few years, he made each of his grandkids a very special table carved from the old walnut tree in his yard. Each time I look at the table he made for me, I think of him. He succeeded in leaving something behind alright.

What We All Want I think there are lots of people out there who want to leave something behind. Sometimes they refer to it as leaving a legacy. Yet, they wonder how, because they see themselves as insignificant. Some people think they cannot be influential. They think because they don’t have a fancy job title, or they don’t have a big salary that they don’t have what it takes to be influential.

I make a career of leading and teaching people. Where do you think I learned those lessons and principles that I call on to teach others? Whose lessons and principles am I really teaching?

That’s right—my grandfather’s. The lessons and principles that I teach today are his; he taught them to me while building a cedar chest for my new wife in his old basement 29 years ago. Sure, I convert his voice to the voice of business today, but in essence, they really are his lessons and his principles that I teach. They are really his way of life, and now it has become his legacy.

Where Do We Go From Here? We all will leave something behind after we are gone. We all affect people’s lives. We all influence others, yet we cannot pick the time or place. We can choose how we live our lives, how we work and how we treat people. We can choose what we stand for and the principles we live by.

That’s right, we all will leave a legacy. What will your legacy be?

What’s in your cedar chest? Go out there and fill your cedar chest today.



 present to winDoug Sterbenz is a retired corporate executive, national speaker, author and a leadership coach.

Doug can be reached at: Doug@PresentToWinLeaders.com www.PresentToWinLeaders.com


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