Last summer, I got to learn a lot about what it means to be a leader when I met Dr. Jerry Luckhardt, one of the most influential, encouraging people I have ever worked under. He was the conductor of the All-state concert band that I had the honor of being a part of, and he fully embodied my favorite quality of leaders: positivity. Every day, before rehearsal started, he would share some jokes and tell some stories to get us laughing and thinking. After the jokes, his beaming face would look around at all the musicians in front of him, grinning at the chuckles he had created. With a sentimental smile, he would then go on to say his now famous phrase: “Make this the best day of your life”.
Seven times I heard that phrase over the course of the week, and all seven times I was struck by the profoundness of such a simple expression. Dr. Luckhardt took what might be an insignificant day, and made it special and worthwhile. He described that it didn’t matter what happened during that day because we choose how we live our life. Dr. Luckhardt lived through his own teachings. He made the choice to be happy, regardless of circumstance. This is one of the most empowering lessons I have ever learned.
He described that in knowing he lived his life with every day full of meaning, he will never have to look back and feel regretful about how he spent his time. This type of compelling positivity moved me in a way that I would have never thought possible. It inspired me to do more and find meaning in every small moment of my life. This proactive mindset proves that our attitude can have power over circumstance.
It’s now February, and just last weekend I had the privilege to work with Dr. Luckhardt one more time during our final rehearsals and performance. One moment, in particular, stands out in my memory, which exemplifies the positive teachings of this inspirational man so well.
The last notes of Holst’s Second Suite lifted off the stage and surged into the auditorium, filling the space with a fascinating palette of sound. As the sound faded in perfect temperament, a new sound replaced it.
“Isn’t that amazing?” Dr. Luckhardt smiled. “I think that’ll work just fine.” All of us in the band sat captivated, knowing we were going to hear a fascinating snippet of his life.
“Rest your faces,” he continued. ” I want to tell you something.” He stepped off the conductor’s podium, allowing him to stroll around while he spoke. “After my children moved out and went to college and couple years ago, like most parents, my wife and I were sad.
“So now I tell her every night, ‘tonight is date night.’ It adds a little bit of fun back in. See? There can be positives to everything!” All of us smiled, and there were whispers floating around the band.
“Aww, that’s so sweet.”
“So tonight,” he went on, “we’re going to get steak downtown.” He paused and looked at us smiling. “Just thought I would share that with you while your faces were resting.”
Dr. Luckhardt would share little stories and snippets of his life like this all the time. But this one really struck home. He took what is typically seen as a very sad part of life and added some excitement and fun to it. This is why I looked forward to every rehearsal we would have. I was so fond of hearing those tiny moments and experiences in life. Luckhardt turned ordinary into extraordinary.
Whenever I am in a position of leadership, I think back to Dr. Jerry Luckhardt, the man with the beaming smile, and model my actions after him. Positivity can excite innovation, creativity, and energy. Hopefully, I too can one day look to share positivity with people in the same manner that it was shared with me.