Twenty five years ago, I spent my final Mother's Day with my mom. I was at a fair with her and my kids, and she turned to me and said she didn't feel well. She went to a doctor the next day, and passed away three weeks later.
You don't want to be behind on your "I love you's". You don't want to think "what if?" when it comes to the people and things you cared most for.
Are you stopping to smell the roses?
Are you doing your favorite thing as often as possible? You know you have that favorite thing to do, favorite place to go, or favorite person to be with. Are you giving enough time and energy to those things?
I spoke about this in my recent commencement address at Syracuse University's Falk School graduation ceremony:
My friend Harvey Mackay also wrote a fantastic blog about this subject. Check it out:
Stop And Smell The Roses
A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, enjoying his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed up to the spot where the brick had been thrown.
The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and shouted, “What was that all about? What’s your name? This is a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost me a lot of money. Why did you do it?”
The young boy was apologetic. “Please, mister … Please. I’m sorry but I didn’t know what else to do,” he pleaded. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop…” With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car.
“It’s my brother,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair.” Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt, and he’s too heavy for me.”
Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the lump in his throat. He gently lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. “Thank you,” the grateful child told the stranger.
Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message:
Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!
My sister Margie is constantly telling me to stop and smell the roses. In other words, slow down. I just love to go fast and cram as many things into my life as possible. It’s not that I don’t enjoy things – I do. I just get bored if I’m not busy doing something I like to do all the time.
When I am asked what I would like on my tombstone when I die, I answer, “He couldn’t sleep fast enough.” In other words, I’m afraid if I sleep too much, I’ll miss something.
I’m well aware that if I were growing up in this day and age, I would be labeled as hyperactive. I’ve always needed to be busy. That’s not a bad thing, if you know how to use your time constructively and can learn to focus.
I work almost every day, but I take time off for my hobbies, which include international travel, spectator sports and lots of golf. My wife, Carol Ann, and I are movie junkies. We also have family that visits us on a regular basis, and with 11 grandchildren, this keeps me grounded. And that involves making some tough choices.
You try to strike a healthy balance between your work life and your personal time. But when a new project lands on your desk, or the busy season hits, you may feel helpless and frustrated. Here are some strategies that I use to get through the busy times:
- On again, off again. Schedule one to three days when you’ll plan to work late or start extra early. Schedule the other days as your normal work hours. Set realistic goals both at work and at home – like when to say “yes” or “no” to certain projects or activities on any given day. Knowing you have days of reprieve will help you get through the longer days.
- Marathon and rest. Sometimes your work may leave you with absolutely no free time. Run the marathon, committing to working extra-long days for several days or even months (if need be). But set a definite completion date. Focus on getting work done while keeping expectations realistic at home.
- Above all, remember life is short. When your priorities are out of whack, everything suffers. Commit to being the boss of your life.