bridge builder

What is the Biggest Truth in Life?

By Ron Pereira Updated on December 4th, 2020

bridge builderEarlier this week one of my podcast guests turned the tables and asked me a few questions. I was fully prepared for a few traditional continuous improvement themed questions but, as it turns out, the first question, in particular, was very different from what I expected.

She asked, “what is the biggest truth in life?” So, yeah, not your typical VSM or 5S themed lean question!

After pondering the question for a bit I answered in two ways – from a personal/spiritual perspective and then from a lean thinking perspective.

Echoes in Eternity

Her question immediately made me think of one of the best movie scenes of all time. In the movie Gladiator, Maximus addresses his troops before battle. Towards the end of his moving speech he tells them, “Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity.

Now, as long time followers of Gemba Academy likely know, I’m a person of deep faith and most definitely believe the choices I make will indeed echo in eternity. Put another way, I believe my choices will have eternal consequences making it the biggest truth in my life.

With this said, I also believe these same “what we do in life…” words apply to those that don’t share my spiritual beliefs, especially those of us involved in the continuous improvement profession.

Building Bridges

A former coworker of mine, Jim Boles, is a perfect example of this. As he was approaching retirement he told me that the professional legacy he hoped to leave behind was to be remembered as a continuous improvement bridge builder.

Jim believed in continuous improvement with all his heart and knew that, done correctly, it would change people’s personal and professional lives. This is what drove him to teach, coach, and inspire others.

I also believe the work we do as lean and six sigma practitioners can, and will, change the world for the better. This is why I feel so incredibly blessed to be part of this movement.

During his retirement party we presented Jim with a framed picture of his favorite poem which I’ll share below with the hope that it moves you as much as it moves me every time I read it.

The Bridge Builder


An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

  1. James La Trobe-Bateman

    December 6, 2020 - 5:55 am

    Bridges – yes. A moving story and good to see you straying off the strict lean talk

    • Ron Pereira

      December 7, 2020 - 9:14 am

      Thanks for the comment, James.

  2. Chuck McCarthy

    December 21, 2020 - 9:21 am

    Well said. Something for all of us to consider.

    • Ron Pereira

      January 28, 2021 - 12:22 pm

      Thanks for reading and the comment, Chuck.

  3. Steve Fusco

    January 27, 2021 - 10:59 am

    This is great Ron! Thanks for sharing

    • Ron Pereira

      January 28, 2021 - 12:21 pm

      You’re welcome, Steve. Thanks for reading and the comment.

  4. Steve Boehm

    January 28, 2021 - 11:21 am

    I was tasked with being the “Corporate Lean Manager” a little over a year ago … had no experience, had always been in General Management or Sales. I was recently asked if I liked what I do; I replied “LOVE IT!” ” Why?” “Because I get to help others be better than they were yesterday.” This Blog nailed it – THANK YOU for sharing!

    • Ron Pereira

      January 28, 2021 - 12:23 pm

      You’re very welcome, Steve. I am so glad you’ve found your calling in life. Keep on learning and improving!

  5. Kevin King

    January 29, 2021 - 10:55 am


    Very well said. From what I know of you both professionally and personally, your eternal echo will be a pleasant sound indeed. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Huseyin Ergun

    January 31, 2021 - 6:50 am

    Thanks Ron. The question “what is the biggest truth in life?” may lead us “lean life” which could be the right way of living and saving he world. I remember also sayings ” the one whose two days are equal, is in loss” and “plant a young tree even if you know you’ll die romorrow”

  7. Dorthe Mølvig

    February 1, 2021 - 2:24 am

    Thanks Ron.
    That blog really nailed it for me on a Monday morning.
    My lean work might not echo in eternity, but I believe, that I impact the people I work with.
    Often my managers ask me what my career ambitions are – if I want to become an associate manager or similar, but my life call is, as Jim Boles, to continue to help people to improve their work by teaching, coaching and inspiring, because I’m good at it and there’s so many talented managers, but few talented lean guides, so I put my talent where it gives the most to my company – by helping the leaders to be better in their job.
    The bridge builder is a beautiful poem that reminds me to continue to help the organisation to build bridges between the silos and to discover, utilise and develop the bridges that is already there. We shall not tear down the silos in the organisation, because they are there for a reason, but we shall construct a lot of bridges and connectors between them to help them to support each other and to utilise the whole potential they have.

  8. Ron Pereira

    February 1, 2021 - 12:53 pm

    Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Dorthe. Keep up the great work!

  9. Ron Pereira

    February 1, 2021 - 12:55 pm

    Thank you, Kevin. It’s so good to hear from you. I hope you are well. Let’s catch up on a phone call soon!

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