Major League II and Traditions

Some people are very purposeful and intentional about creating traditions. I’ve taken a different route, and it’s an approach and mindset that may serve you well in ultimately experiencing traditions (without making a big deal of them at the outset).

To explain, let me begin with the movie Major League II (1994), which I loved for obvious reasons (I live in Cleveland). There’s a scene in the movie where the manager (Lou Brown) is giving the team a pre-game pep talk, which goes like this:

“OK, we won a game yesterday. If we win today, it’s called ‘two in a row.’ And if we win again tomorrow, it’s called a ‘winning streak’ … it has happened before.”

I’m sure you are wondering what this has to do with traditions, and the answer is a great deal because this is precisely how my Dad and I created what is now the tradition of our annual trips together.

Many of you have read about or followed on Facebook my recent journey out west with my Dad – visiting so many bucket list sites via planes, trains and automobiles in Iowa, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. And while the places were special, what matters most is the stories shared, the conversations enjoyed and the memories created along the journey. What has struck me most about the comments and feedback I’ve heard during the trip and since our return is their focus on how amazing it is that Dad and I do these trips together.

In fact, so many people have talked about their envy of having these trips together with their mom or dad that I’ve realized these trips with Dad are far more unusual than I ever imagined. This year was our 8th straight year of taking a trip together, with all the previous trips involving visiting Civil War sites (a passion that Dad and I share). They have become a real tradition that we look forward to every year. But it didn’t start out as a plan or tradition – it just started. Here’s how.

Eight years ago, I was scheduled to speak in Gettysburg, PA, for a legal conference, and at the time it was going to be one of my first and largest speaking engagements in my brand new business. I do love Civil War history and had been fascinated with it for about ten years at the time, so I was already planning to spend a couple of extra days exploring Gettysburg’s history.

My Dad had also recently started to get interested in Civil War history, and I invited him to come to Gettysburg to hear me speak (for the first time) and to spend some time exploring. Dad accepted, and we spent a couple of days learning and experiencing all that Gettysburg has to offer.

In the spirit of the Major League II speech, we had our first win, but there were no plans for a second and certainly no intention or plan for a tradition. But there was a seed planted because when we left Gettysburg, one of us made a comment that it would be cool to go visit some other Civil War battlefield sites “sometime.”

Over the next year we had some conversations, and we ended up deciding to take another trip to explore Civil War history, and we also decided to take that trip on Labor Day Weekend. There were no discussions about future trips or traditions – just a plan for another trip, which we took the following year. Thus, we had done a second trip – another win.

It was on this second trip that we talked about the many Civil War battlefields and historic sites that we could visit, and for the first time we talked about making regular trips together. A year later, we took our third trip together, and during this trip we talked for the first time about taking a trip every year. In fact, the future trips would all include a discussion about “where are we going next year?” Thus, we had our third win – our “streak” – and that streak has become a tradition.

There have been no proclamations of tradition or even grand intentions, but rather a mutually expressed desire to take a trip together every year. This year we changed it up, going from a long weekend to a weeklong trip and going somewhere other than Civil War sites, but the intention is the same – to travel somewhere together to explore something new. And it’s fair to say that we now have a tradition that we both expect to continue as long as we’re physically able.

Why do I share all of this with you? For two reasons. First, to encourage many of you to take action to spend time with people you care about, whether it’s parents, siblings, children or friends. It may involve traveling and it may not, just as long as it involves spending time together and sharing conversations and experiences. So many people have expressed envy about this tradition that has evolved (not been created), and I’m encouraging you all to stop being envious and to instead just start and let what follows follow.

Second, to let you know that creating these types of experiences with other people doesn’t require a grand plan, vision or intention – it only requires some action to start. Perhaps what you start will continue, become a streak and then a tradition, but even if it doesn’t it will give you the amazing gift of time with someone you care about. And oh, the magic that you will experience!

While Dad and I always visit interesting places and learn many things, what matters the most is the time together just talking. I’ve learned so much about my Dad, about his life, about his perspectives and about my family on these trips – things I likely never would have heard and known without this time together away. Yes, you can do the same thing and have similar conversations without going anywhere, but there’s something unique about time away that stimulates different kinds and depths of conversations (partly just because of all the time together that we don’t usually get in our lives). You also have discussions about what you’ve seen, learned or experienced that seeds your personal discussions.

There’s no time like the present to just do it, and perhaps in the future it will become a regular experience, but there’s no need to worry about traditions. All you have to do is start. Then, when you’re together, give each person the greatest gift available – your full presence. And if you follow the wisdom of Lou Brown from Major League II, you might just end up with a couple of wins, then a streak and then a beautiful tradition.

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