Surfing the net, amid the post-election, post-hurricane, post-Petraeus rubble, I stumbled on an article in the New York magazine by Frank Rich, a former op-ed writer for the New York Times. While not at all what any Republican wants to hear and somewhat biased, as any political victor is wont to be, there was certainly enough truth in the article to leave me feeling unsettled. The unsettled feeling was not only political in nature but the same raw sensation I have felt at other times, in other areas of my life whether it is professionally, spiritually or in my education. It was the painful jolt of a loss of relevance.
It is the same emotion a mother has when her kindergarten walks into the classroom without looking back and she realizes she is no longer the only person in her child’s life. It is the reality an author faces when her bestseller is now being sold on the $4.98 clearance table. It is the quiet resignation of setting down the phone when you have once again reached the answering machine of an adult child because their life is much too busy to be checking in on a daily basis. It is realizing that your sacred rituals no longer speak to the souls of the next generation. It is scrambling to learn a new 3.0 app when you can’t remember where you put 2.0 on your desktop and you never figured out 1.0. It is packing up a product into a cardboard box that you once put your heart and soul into developing and marketing—because no one on the planet even owns a cassette tape player anymore. It is a feeling common at some point in life to every human who resides on this rapidly spinning planet. It is the stark realization that you must change, and quickly, or be relegated to a corner rocking chair or thrift store—both dusty, lonely places.
It will take humility and innovation for the Grand Old Party to recognize that it must also move forward and become more relevant to a younger, more diverse electorate. All loss, whether it is a divorce, job loss, health issue or an empty nest requires pondering and introspection. Most difficult of all, a loss requires transformation! Like many wordsmiths, I have found many of the answers to my most difficult struggles in that ancient book of wisdom—Webster’s dictionary. The word “relevance” comes from the Latin word “relevare” meaning “ to lift up.” If we are to remain relevant we must always look for new ways to lift each other up. Relevant is also closely related to the word “relieve” –literally it is to lift up each other-to lighten the load. Loss of relevance is a feeling—but it is certainly not a state of being. As my nest empties, the world changes, my flip-phone become obsolete and three paragraph blogs need to be reduced to a tweet- I can remain relevant by finding new ways of providing relief and lightening burdens. My generation can remain “relevant” as entrepreneurs, teachers, parents, grandparents and even political candidates by listening, changing, growing, lifting and like “The Boss”-Bruce Springsteen—occasionally changing our tune! (See “8 Lessons from Bruce Springsteen on Staying Relevant”)