Why Zach wears number 4

Get ready for the rare sports connections to creep back in some of my writing, because it’s football season again—my son’s, high school.

Over the years I’ve always found some kaona (hidden meaning) behind the numbers that appear on my son’s sport jerseys. He wore number 20 his freshman year in football, and since then it’s always been number 4. There’s no story with number 20, freshmen get the left-overs. However, every time he wears number 4 he’s keeping a promise to honor its dignity.

When football season is over all the jerseys get turned in to be cleaned and stored for the following year. However there will always be a few missing. The coach doesn’t ask why, he knows they belong to the seniors who have given their jersey to an underclassman on the team they feel will wear it well and contribute to its legacy. That underclassman will show up with it at football camp the following year and the number is assigned, the torch is passed. Zach got his from another running back, Alika Conley, and every time he puts it on he’s reminded of his promise to Alika, his commitment to his team, and his own determination to excel. This is Zach’s senior year. At the end of this season, he’ll have to decide who he passes it on to. All season long he’ll silently but intentionally help the coaches prepare and train his choice. They won’t talk about it, but they’ll all see it happening. It will become right.

Something like that happened to me at Hualalai. When my boss left, he passed the torch on to me in the shape of a pōhaku ku‘i ‘ai, a rock shaped as a poi pounder that had been found on the land, and that he had gotten from his predecessor. It sat silently on my credenza for the next three years I took his place and made the job my own. I kept it there where I could always see it and reflect on it, and where it would remind me to ho‘ohiki: keep my promise to have every one of my actions be true to Hualalai’s sense of place. When I left, I gave it to the one person I thought would continue the legacy we had worked so hard to perpetuate, and it felt good, it felt right. In those three years, I had worked with her differently than I had before. We’d always worked well together, but in those three years there was much more intention, much more purpose.

How do you work day by day, with intention, to create a legacy worthy of torch-bearing? What is your succession plan? Great leaders serve, and one of the ways we serve well is by torch-bearing.

Here’s another perspective on it that was recently shared in Seth Godin’s blog: take this link. Enjoy and ho‘ohiki: make some promises to yourself. You can be a torchbearer too.