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The Quest for Significance

Six months ago I was the chief of police in a fairly substantial city in my home state of Kentucky. I’d built a department from virtually nothing, seized opportunities to increase revenue, recruited and hired the best and brightest as departments around me were struggling to recruit officers and bought the best available equipment and technology. Everyone was happy, or so I thought - my officers, the mayor and city council, and the citizens. Everyone seemed proud of the department I’d been able to put together.

Then one Friday morning with 45 minutes notice I was summoned to the mayor’s office and informed I was being replaced after 16 years as chief. No reason was given; in Kentucky most chiefs serve at the pleasure of the mayor. I suspected then, as I do now, that the mayor was displeased that I was gay or smarter that him, maybe both. But it doesn’t matter now.

What does matter is that my entire paradigm suddenly changed. I went from a career that required me to make life and death decisions to making no decisions. I went from a career of having 27 officers and their families depend on me to having no one depend on me. I went from a career of being responsible for the safety and welfare of

26,000 people to only having to care about my husband and dog.

On the Monday following my “retirement” I told my husband it felt strange not having anyplace to go, to which he told me I should go to the gym; we both belly laughed (and I didn’t go to the gym!). I had gone from non-stop days at 90 mph to full stop in 45 minutes.

It didn’t take long for me to feel really insignificant. I began to wonder if I would ever be able to make a contribution again. I hadn’t planned to retire, but maybe just slow down a little at some point. But now this abrupt change was screwing with my mind.

So, what now? Where do I fit in? How can I have an impact and make a difference? Isn’t that the question for most of us every day? If it isn’t we are just coasting along waiting for the current to carry us someplace, anyplace. I believe it’s healthy to want to make a difference.

John Maxwell has said that “Once you have tasted significance success will never satisfy you”. In my case Maxwell is most certainly right, so I begin my quest to find ways to make a difference in the world, knowing that I may never witness the results of my effort.

I’ve come to accept that my quest doesn’t have to be gargantuan. I, and you, only have to make a difference in the life and trajectory of one person, one family, one organization. You may never see the result, but make a difference in one person’s life and you can change the world!

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