It makes me laugh whenever I’m asked that question (which is quite frequently, honestly). I mean, I suppose I get it. Somewhere, I’ve seen pictures of bear claw necklaces. But then again, why on Earth would I have a metallic version hanging around my neck, people?!?!
For most, a bear claw or something equally ridiculous to have around my neck, it’s just an interesting trinket. For those of us who share the quasi-psychotic habit…I mean, the exciting hobby of throwing ourselves out of airplanes, my collar adornment is familiar enough, though.
It’s a parachute closing pin, that tiny piece of metal that frees your parachute from your container (a fancy word for “pack”) and allows your canopy to begin opening as you travel 130 mph toward terra firma. Ultimately, it’s the pilot chute, tossed into the passing airstream that pulls the pin and begins that process. But until that little pin is pulled, nothing’s going to happen….the ground keeps getting bigger and bigger!
So, why do I wear it around my neck? Well, for starters, it represents the first skydive I made over the wooded countryside of Orange, Massachusetts, back in 2004. But it’s also a symbol to me of the importance that even the smallest thing can have on a successful life and organization.
Oh, there are more impressive aspects of our sport….from the colorful ram-air canopies that steer us safely to the ground to the nifty jumpsuits we wear for our group formation jumps. Each piece of equipment serves a purpose. It’s hard to categorize any as more or less important. Yet, few are smaller in size, yet more functional, than the closing pin.
It’s that way with our lives, too. In any organization, it’s easy to identify the top leaders. The sales folk are known by their high profile positions. The marketers paint the picture of the organization or products to the public. All have great importance, we’d all agree. But too often it’s the line worker without whom no success would be possible. Far from the public eye, and without the pomp and circumstance of other roles, the foot soldier’s role is no less important. Yet, too often, this individual is overlooked or forgotten.
So, when you get a chance, take the time to look at your organization, or even your life. Identify those low-profile individuals or aspects that allow you or your company to be successful. Look beneath the surface and beyond the hoopla, and find your closing pin. For when you do, and when you truly realize how important the littlest cog in your organization’s engine is….well, then you have begun to understand your whole organization.
That’s why I wear my “bear claw” around my neck….and why my standard response to the question will remain, “Yes, it’s a claw from the first metallic bear I ever fought!”