Tag Archives: make meaning

Someone’s Waiting – For You

I’ve enjoyed sharing some short posts on Facebook.

Stories.  Anecdotes.  Experiences.

Stuff that has a message, a lesson or a laugh within it.

Just for fun, y’know?  🙂

That it strikes a chord with some readers is a bonus.  That is inspires and motivates a few is nice, too.

But little did I know that these tid-bits are actually LOOKED FORWARD TO!

Until Di Heuser sent me a message asking, “Have you posted your Monday morning inspirational post yet?”

So I’m writing this one… to highlight the amazing serendipity that’s a part of everyone’s reality – yes, yours too.

Someone somewhere is waiting for YOU to do something… today.

Do it.  Now.

Because they’ll wait until you do.


100 Years Later, Who Matters?


My Great Grandparents

No one.


This morning, I was reading a news story about Apple Inc’s succession plans. Co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs was credited with turning around the company from near bankruptcy in 1997 to one with the “highest valuation of any technology company” in just 15 years.

It got me wondering. Jobs has so much media coverage today. But will anyone care (or even remember) 100 years from now?

Now, that’s speculation. But easier to validate by looking backwards. To one hundred years ago.

Who was the tech CEO darling of 1911, do you know?

Or which business barons have lasted long enough in the public memory to be iconic after so long?

I Googled 1911, and found this on Wikipedia.

On April 8, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes discovered “Superconductivity”, the concept that powered development of MRI scanners and mass spectrometers and particle accelerators.

On December 29, Sun Yat-sen‘s revolutionaries overthrew the Qing dynasty to become the first President of the Republic of China (and he became the ‘Father of modern China’).

New Zealand-born British physicist Ernest Rutherford deduced the existence of a compact atomic nucleus from scattering experiments that year.

But even mighty Google has precious little about business leaders and entrepreneurs – though there were no doubt dozens who hogged the media limelight and were ‘today’s heroes’ even in those early years!

And that got me thinking –

Who matters… 100 years later?

Obviously not the media superstars. That flash vanishes fast. So who does?

Look at yourself in the mirror.

Go on. Do it now.


What do you see grinning back at you?

That’s the composite (and evolved) result of real people who lived one hundred years before.

Your grand-parents.

And their parents.

Your ancestors.

Their genes live on in YOU. You probably remember them as people. If not, you’ve heard things about them from your own parents or relatives.

They matter – because they live on in you.

In your memories.

In your genes.

Just as you will… in future generations to come.

So… EVERYONE matters – 100 years from now.

Yes, even you.

And me 🙂


Make Meaning

We are so inconsequential.

The universe formed in a Big Bang several billion years ago.

It will end a few hundred billion years later in a cold crunch.

Nature’s most wondrous phenomena and structures – icebergs, mountain ranges, rock formations – evolve over hundreds or thousands of years.

Humankind itself has only been around for 5 or 10 thousand years.

At best, we can look forward to lifespans of around 100.

We are so inconsequential.

Or are we, really?

We do things.

We dream of doing many more.

We are destined to achieve others.

And whatever we do leaves an impact.

It touches other lives.  It changes the world.  It makes a difference.

So, we matter.

Everybody does.

Yes, that includes you.

As long as you make meaning, you truly do matter.

In some way.

To some folks.

For some time.

So, go on.

Make Meaning!


It Should Matter That YOU See

It Matters

At around 3 p.m. one Friday afternoon, about ten years ago, I was sitting in front of a monitor, reviewing a child’s angiogram.  We were operating on her next, and I wanted to refresh my memory.

I was at one of the busiest heart hospitals in the country.  We averaged 12 operations every day.  About a third of them were on children.  As a specialist pediatric cardiac surgeon, I loved and enjoyed the work despite the long hours and high stress.

That day, our team was running behind schedule.  Not by much, but enough for our anesthesiologist to get a bit anxious.  She was a talented and skilled lady, and a good friend of mine.  Walking up to me, she said:

“The patient’s ready.  Are you going to get scrubbed?”

“Just a minute,” I said.  “I haven’t yet seen this angio fully.”

And then, she spoke the words that would change the direction my career took from there onwards.

“It doesn’t matter if you have.  The surgeon has seen it already.”

I got up, and walked slowly over to the wash area.

My heart was heavy as I went through the pre-operation ritual that has remained constant over time.  As I gazed numbly at the foamy bubbles that lathered my forearms, the water sluicing down to wash them away along with all germs and dirt, leaving my hands sterile to assist at the long, complex heart operation to follow, the truth of her blunt statement gnawed at my insides.

She was right.

It didn’t matter if I saw that angiogram.

I wasn’t the lead surgeon.  Someone else was.  And he had seen it.

I don’t recall much of the next 4 hours.  I assisted at the operation mechanically.  All the while, I was pondering the important issue raised by her comment.

Through the long drive back home after we finished, and a restless night that followed, I kept thinking about it.

And by next morning, I had made up my mind.

Barely a fortnight later, I resigned my position to return to another, smaller hospital where I had once trained.  To a unit which was, relatively speaking, poorly equipped and under-staffed.  To an environment where I couldn’t hope to put to use more than a tiny fraction of my hard-earned training and knowledge from years spent at centers of excellence in the U.K. and Australia.

I returned because, here, it matters.

That I see an angiogram.

That I examine a patient.

That I counsel a family.

That I perform an operation.

I left because, there, I was redundant.  Unnecessary.  Replaceable.

A tiny cog in a big machine.  Easily exchanged with any other cog.  Not unique, needed, or significant.

Several things have changed in my professional career since that momentous decision.  Through them all, I have never once regretted leaving.

The center I left has grown to a behemoth, carrying out 150 operations every week.  Where I operate today, I’d be lucky to do that in a year!

The difference is that the few children I treat won’t get operated without me being in this place.  

My presence is necessary, essential, required.

It should matter that YOU see.

That YOU do.

That YOU provide value, support, purpose to the project or group or organization where you are engaged in investing the rest of your life.

It should matter that YOU make meaning.



If You Took It Away

If you took away all my money, I can earn it back again.

If you took away my health in the process, I’d find it harder.

If you took away people precious to me, I’d have no reason to.

Yet why is it that so many are obsessed about the money – and not so much about their health or precious people?

Think about it as you enjoy precious time with your dear ones!

If you took it away


Lessons From a Man With Influence… My Dad


My 2007 started out on a sad note. At 11:15 a.m. one January morning, my father breathed his last after a long struggle with kidney failure. He was 70.

This is a post I shared soon after that sad day.

In the days after his funeral, many people who knew him shared their thoughts and feelings… and taught me some very valuable lessons learned in life.

Lesson #1 – Begin with the end in mind

I first read it in Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – an exercise where you imagine you are at your own funeral, hearing what people are saying about you… and think about what you want them to say.

Listening to my dad’s students, colleagues, friends from 50 years back, and family members talking about what he meant to them gave a personal insight into how this worked.

How would you think, work and act today if you were guided by the thought it would impact what folks will say when you are gone?

Lesson #2 – Make your choices

Dad struggled for years with complications of a health condition. Early on, he made a choice about the kind of treatment he would follow. It was not conventional, even ‘wrong’.

Being a doctor himself, it was impossible to convince him otherwise. A friend of his, a specialist, commented on how the complication might have been avoided if he had made a different choice.

How carefully would you analyze and research before making a choice, if you knew it would lead over time to a ‘complication’ that could affect your health or life or a major component of it?

Lesson #3 – Face the consequences

Since 2004, one after another, dad’s organ systems started failing.

Heart. Nerves. Kidneys. Eyes.

Each problem took away a part of his ‘freedom’.

Yet, not once did he complain or lament his failing health. He faced the consequences of his choices boldly, strongly, with no regrets. He accepted responsibility for his decisions.

Yet, I see people – business owners and entrepreneurs, investors and opportunity seekers – lose some money or see less than stellar results from a particular technique or ad or investment, and then complain loud and long about the ‘guru’ who led them astray.

Think. Did anyone force you to try that method, buy that ebook, join that course, attend that seminar? Or did YOU make that choice?

How will you view consequences of your choices in the future? Will you accept responsibility for them? Or will you keep fooling yourself by shifting blame?

Lesson #4 – You can’t be everything to everyone

At times, listening to his friends and colleagues speak of my father, I had the strange feeling they were talking about someone else.

A person I didn’t know. A different individual.

We, as family members, knew him from one perspective. They, as professional colleagues, saw him from a completely different – and equally fascinating – angle.

It’s just the same with you and me. You see a different side of me than my little patients with heart defects, or my family. I don’t deal with you the same way as I do with them.

How do you juggle the multiple ‘hats’ you wear in your life?

Lesson #5 – What really matters

I met and shared memories with more than 125 people over that week.

Some spoke of dad’s contributions to his specialty of cardiology. Others of his literary work and knowledge. About his helpfulness and encouragement. Many called him a ‘great’ man.

These are people who met him once or twice a month, on average.

And then, there were family members. Folks who lived with him. Met him daily, or spent most of the day with him. They spoke of different things.

Personal things. Intimate things. ‘Small’ things.

As we chatted, I felt they were more special. Because they are really the big things.

Yes, it would be nice to be known as a famous doctor, a revered teacher, a best-selling author and more.

But I think it would be nicer to be remembered as a special person by the really important people in my life. My spouse, children, parents, grandparents, and other family.

It’s what really matters. Yet how often do we risk these important relationships in search of an elusive ‘success’?

How will you change the way you do things if you know that, in the end, what really matters is how your ‘special’ people see you, feel about you, remember you?

I hope these ‘difficult’ questions lead you to seek answers – ones that define your work, and your leisure activities as you gain influence among your peers and your audience, your family and your friends.


What Really Matters


Lessons From The Death Of A Year – And The Birth Of A New One

What Matters - What's Worthy, And What's a Waste

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
– Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech
It’s December.

A time of the year when my thoughts turn to death.

Maybe it’s because the year’s dying. Or because it reminds me of when my father died. Or something else.

It’s also a time when I ponder that uncomfortable reality of my own death – and what I’ll leave behind when I’m gone.

My legacy (if you like words that sound pompous and self-important!).

Or my lessons learned in life.

I read a post by my friend Derek Sivers. This one. It’s another stark reminder of how frail our existence really is. About how limited is our time on earth. About what’s worthy and what’s a waste.

Shouldn’t we use what little time is ours to DO something – instead of frivolously frittering it away?

Last night, I watched “UP”. A story where our hero, Mr.Fredricksen, puts off his childhood dream for “later” – and almost misses going after it… forever. He finally dares to try.

I face the same dilemma. With so many things to do, work on, complete, enjoy – which one(s) should take priority?

These December musings always help re-focus on the right things.

This year (as the last), my writing takes top spot – after heart surgery for kids, of course.

There’s a book I started writing TEN YEARS ago. That matters. So I’ve almost finished it this year, and will shortly be ready to publish it.

There’s a blog I first published 8 years back. That matters. So I’ve revived it, seeded it from my archived posts, and will grow it with new content.

There’s a project I began working on recently. That matters. It will help raise funds for my non-profit heart kids project. It gets my attention.

And for the dozen other “important” things, I’ll find some time – after the ones that really matter are done.

The hundreds of “urgent, though not important” ones will just have to wait. For a “later” that may never come.

That’s ok. Because if my time runs out any day, I’ll have been doing what truly mattersnot obsessing over trivia.

Another year is almost dead.

But a new one will soon be born.

Like life itself, every new year offers an opportunity.

An opportunity to change, be better, different.

To focus again on what’s really important.

On what matters.