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First a quote: “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” –  Mark Twain
They say that funerals aren’t about, or for, the deceased, but rather for the loved ones, those left behind, to continue on in life. In so many ways, funerals are rituals which mark the beginning of the human grieving process. Often called a “celebration of life” they are most often about expressing love, saying our goodbyes, and then, taking the first braves steps towards repairing our broken hearts.
I don’t know about you, but I have almost always found funerals to be deeply thought provoking, a time for reflection and introspection. For some reason, coping with the loss of a loved one has helped me to focus on life, not death. In times of loss, I find myself rethinking, and sometimes re-prioritizing, what matters most in my life. For me, funerals are an important reminder that life is about people, relationships, and love.
A little over ten years ago, I attended the funeral of a man I had only met a time or two. He was the husband of a friend and work associate. While I knew my colleague fairly well, I knew little about her deceased husband. After attending the “celebration of life” ceremony in his honor, and listening to the stories told, memories and laughs shared, examples given, and tears shed, I felt like I had known him for years; or, at least wished I had known him for years.
It was a large “standing room only” crowd that gathered to both honor and celebrate his life that day. As numerous eulogies were shared, each describing what a wonderful, man, father, husband, friend, businessman, and servant leader he was, I couldn’t help but stare at a photo of the man’s smiling face printed on the funeral program.
The photo told its own separate story which powerfully reinforced the stories being shared in glowing words and terms from the podium. Even the small photo of his face seemed to radiate positive energy, care, and love. Only a handful of years older than me, at the time, he already had what I now describe as “smile lines.”  Some might describe those lines as wrinkles, regardless, they were evidence of years and years of frequent, perhaps almost continuous smiling. (See the Clare King quote below.)
So why am I starting your day/week bringing up funerals; and what does any of this have to do with loving, living, and leading differently, or better, this coming week? A lasting impression was made on me that day, the ceremony, the stories told, legacy shared, and even the photo of the man’s smiling face. In fact, I taped the picture described above near my office door as a daily reminder of the lessons I have known for a long time but relearned again that memorable day.  Thank you Lee!
Following are four of those lessons, each perhaps deserving of its very own MMM:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. This is an important habit whether you’re talking about a meeting this afternoon, a family event this coming weekend, the health and well-being of your team upon your promotion or departure, your career at retirement, or even your life in the end. What will your legacy be? What do you want your legacy to be? What will your coworkers think and/or say about you after your departure? What stories will your loved ones share at your 90th birthday party? Do you know, or care, about the answers to these questions? 
  2. Outward expressions reveal inward thoughts. A smile on one’s face is an indicator of a happy, loving, and open heart. Smiles communicate compassion, regardless of our gender, ethnicity, age, or political affiliation. As George Carlin said, “Everyone smiles in the same language.” If you’re thinking, as I sometimes do, “There sure doesn’t seem like much to smile about these days,” then you may need to consciously choose a smile regardless of the circumstance. I have discovered that sometimes, my outward expression can, and does, help change my inward thoughts and emotions.  Give it a try for yourself. Why not experiment this week? 
  3. Smiles and positive energy are both contagious, so are frowns and negative energy. Click here to read: What echoes will you hear today? 
  4. I have a lot of smiling yet to be done. My hope is that as my face continues to reflect my age, and the life I have lived, more rapidly; I will look in the mirror one day and see wrinkles where smiles have been. If I must have lines & wrinkles with age, then by golly, please let those lines be from smiling at other human beings with concern, empathy, compassion, and love. I am hopeful my desired smile lines will be a result of doing my part, in ways big and small, to make a positive difference in the lives of others, especially now, during these difficult times.

One last quick thought. Since most of us are wearing masks when out and about, people may not be able to see our radiant smiles. While it is possible people may be able to discern your “smiling eyes,” it might be advisable to share your smiles verbally as well. Comments like, “Thanks for giving me something to smile about today” or, “Thank you, I appreciate you” or “Your helpfulness makes me smile” can work wonders as verbal smiles! If people can’t see your smile, hearing your smile may be the next best thing.
Here is your “leadership development assignment” for this week: Practice smiling, even if doing so intentionally, or consciously, at people you meet, Zoom with, or pass in the halls or on the road this week. Set a specific goal for yourself and be specific. How many smiles can you muster today? Better yet, see how many people you can get to smile back at you in return. That’s it for this week, simple enough.
As always, how will you love, live, or lead differently, or better, this week?
Have a great week!!
Bryan Yager
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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Bonus Quotes:

  •  “Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.”– Chinese Proverb
  • “A simple smile. That’s the start of opening your heart and being compassionate to others.” – Dalai Lama
  • “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
  • “Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile” – Mother Teresa
  • “I love those who can smile in trouble.” – Leonardo da Vinci
  • “A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles.” – William Hazlitt
  • “Mama told me that every time you smile, a very tiny bit of the smile stays stuck to your face, so as you get older and older your face starts to show all the tiny bits of all your smiles and you look like you are smiling all the time, even when you are just thinking about what to have for breakfast. She said, also, that if you frown a lot then the frown sticks to your face instead. That way when you are old you have a very frowny face and look cross all the time and people are scared of you.” – Claire King
  • “Always find opportunities to make someone smile, and to offer random acts of kindness in everyday life.” – Roy T. Bennett
  • “Encouragement to others is something everyone can give. Somebody needs what you have to give. It may not be your money; it may be your time. It may be your listening ear. It may be your arms to encourage. It may be your smile to uplift. Who knows?” – Joel Osteen
  • “When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile. “ – Unknown

This article is written in honor of one of the many “persons of influence” in my life, dear old Aunt Grace. This photo was taken on her 95th birthday. She loved life and she loved people. What I remember most about her was that she always had a smile on her face.  Even as 5-year old, I knew there was something special about her. It was her “smile lines” that I remember most!