Famed basketball coach Ron Meyer is quoted as saying, “Your example’s not the main thing, it is the only thing.” While I don’t subscribe to the belief that life’s complexities can be reduced to a slogan that would comfortably fit on a bumper sticker, aphorisms do serve a valuable purpose. They allow us to separate a single thought upon which to focus our attention from the din of our daily routines.

Is it true that the example we set, whether for our own children or for the communities in which we live, is the “only” thing? Can we disregard all the other variables that define a person and chose to draw sweeping conclusions from a single attribute? Would it be more accurate to say that setting a good example is a “good” thing, and setting a bad example is a “bad” thing?

Certainly, the example that we set is routinely followed by those behind us. A father who abuses his children routinely raises children who become abusers. An employer who fails to foster trust within her company can rarely rely upon the trust of her staff, even when essential. Yet, can we hope to control the model we are leaving behind? Does perception solely lie with perspective? Or does our reputation rely upon an average – not the events of a single day but instead the accumulated effort of a life’s work? And if we fail to set a clear and positive path, can we recover from the failure to restore our trajectory?

In spite of seemingly ever more complicated lives, is it possible that some things are not as difficult to get our hands around as we might indulge ourselves to believe? And if so, what is the example that we want to leave behind?