Backpack R.I.P.


Today I said goodbye to one of the tools of my trade. Craftsman in every field have tools that are used in their trade. For the carpenter it’s a hammer, for the plumber it’s a wrench, for a doctor it’s a stethoscope. Tools allow workers to execute the unique skills needed for their work.


As an Explorer there are many tools that I use to help Commissioners reach the Discoveries they seek. When looking for information that tool may be Google to gather facts and insights. It may be a mobile phone or a Zoom video conference call to connect with someone in another part of the country or the other side of the world. Since travel is often a part of my explorations one of my necessary tools has been a sturdy backpack. Over the years I’ve had multiple backpacks. They have taken rides on planes, trains automobiles and boats! The one that I’ve used most recently was extra special because my son Chase gave it to me.


This backpack has taken dozens of trips to China, Hong Kong and Thailand. It went to England and Greece with a stop in Turkey. It has traveled to at least 25 states and spent many summer days floating on a boat while I was on vacation in Michigan. It’s been put under airplane seats in both first and economy class and it’s been stowed in overhead bins. It’s been rained upon, snowed upon and warmed in the sunshine.

Recently as I was beginning a trip to Dallas I was coming out of the door of our home, The Bank. I realized that the zipper had broken. No matter what I did I couldn’t close the backpack. I decided to go ahead and take the backpack on one last trip knowing that it wouldn’t be taking any more trips after this one. I know it sounds strange, but I wanted to honor my backpack with one last adventure for all its years of service.


Twice in the last year I was on airplanes where the pilot was flying their last flight prior to retirement. As is the custom after we landed and headed toward the terminal there were fire trucks saluting us with water shot over the plane in honor of the pilot and their years of service. That trip to Dallas was a “fire truck salute” to my trusty backpack.

When used well each of our tools allows us to change the state of something that we would not be able to change without it. This backpack carried my computer, numerous books and notebooks filled with thoughts from meetings. Sometimes it carried money, pens, pencils and business cards. If I was leaving the country my passport was there. Way too often trips home meant an overstuffed backpack with extras that weren’t there when the trip began! My backpack made it possible for me to always have the essentials tools as an explorer.


Good tools allow workers to achieve the work of their profession. When I explore I seek to go beyond the status quo. Special tools are needed to do that. The backpack lives a humble existence. It is a carrying case that allows me to bring the tools needed to help others discover what is next.


As with any tool used extensively there comes a time that it must be replaced. Today my backpack took its last journey when I walked it to the curb. Everything in me wanted to hold onto it but the reality was that my backpack had served its purpose now it was time for me to move on.


Moving on is hard to do but it is the reality of exploration. What are the tools you need to update as you explore the way forward? More importantly what are the tools and thinking that worked in another day, but now it is time to replace them? Are you holding onto antiquated policy? Are you holding onto a process that used to work, but is no longer working in the computer age? Are you mentoring a next generation of leadership or are you still holding on to a role that needs to be passed on?


When the status quo is no longer delivering the necessary results, it is time to replace them by exploring what is next. I’m grateful for this backpack. I’m grateful for my son who gave it to me. I’m grateful to be moving forward with a new leather briefcase that better organizes my exploration tools for the next year of discovery.

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