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.