Passing on the baton in the race of this life

One of the defining realities of every person’s passage through life is that there comes a time to make way for successors and to hand over to the next generation of workers, leaders, bosses and role players in all fields.

In a sense, this inevitable process reflects “passing the “baton to the next participant in the “race of life”, and is arguably both natural and desirable for the evolution and smooth functioning of society.

It seems prudent and right that some reflection and introspection should take place regarding our performance during our time in possession of the baton.

One aspect of meaningful evaluation would seem to be our handling of the baton’s cousin, “the buck”.

Did we generally take responsibility, or were we deft passers of it in the common way of too many of our kind?

Did we number among the dubious members of society described by Paul G Stoltz: “Blaming, whining, deflecting accountability, risk aversion, and resistance to change are but a handful of symptoms of the adversity-beaten individual and organisation?”

Or were we accountable and ready to stand up to be counted?

Another interesting way to look at life is as a metaphorical banquet, with all of its trimmings ranging from the hors d’oeuvres through main course, desserts and then cheese and biscuits.

Did we drop our plates or mess our food for others to clean up?

The answer to this question speaks volumes.

Regarding accountability and taking responsibility as opposed to the tendency of many of us to “pass the buck”, WR Inge offered this compelling advice: “Don’t get up from the feast of life without paying for your share of it.”

A sobering comment on this almost universal weakness in so many of us is reflected by Joseph Fort Newton: “A duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred, and we must come back and settle the account at last.”

Few would contest the argument that passing the baton has significantly more positive connotations than ‘passing the buck’, assuming that the baton is a strong and worthwhile one.

Two impactful observations that make the point:

“Create your legacy, and pass the baton.” – Billie Jean King

“My hope is to incite that feeling of inspiration in as many other people as possible. To receive and pass along that baton to anyone willing to carry it further.” – Adam Rodriguez

On a more humorous note, yet having undeniable relevance in many cases:

“Parenthood is the passing of a baton, followed by a lifelong disagreement as to who dropped it.” – Robert Breault

“The older generation sat looking at the younger, and Kat wondered exactly when and how the baton had been passed. She wanted to know if it was too late to give it back.” – Ally Carter

And then, from two of the biggest names in the history of science and epitomisng the fundamental role of the baton in legacy:

“A hundred times a day I remind myself that my life depends on the labours of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give, in the measure I have received, and I am still receiving.” – Albert Einstein

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

We may find it enlightening to establish whether we are passers of the baton or the buck . . . whether those who take over from us are on solid ground, or having to take responsibility for where we have shirked ours.


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