“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” – Steve Jobs
My wife’s mother, Alice, has myelodysplastic syndrome. It is a disorder that disrupts the production of healthy blood cells and is related to leukemia. Some of you had the opportunity to meet Alice at one of the annual Christmas parties we host (prior to COVID). She enjoyed the holiday treats and the opportunity to meet many of you and your families. She always loved to tell the stories of her 87 years. She came to live with us about ten years ago and has been on many adventures with us this past decade. Last week, at her request and the advice of her doctors, we put her into hospice in our home. She is ready. Our goal is to keep her comfortable and allow family and friends to safely visit, commemorate her pending graduation and bid last farewells.
As the final paragraph of my mother-in-law’s life is penned, sadness and joy crash against our hearts. Like the tide, those feelings and memories rise and fall. Those of you who have lost parents, siblings or other loved ones know the complex fog that sets in as grief and mortality arrive with powerful force. The emotions and the moments begin to refine the matters of the heart. There is a clarity that surfaces. What’s really important begins to emerge.
How will we end? We will all face and journey through the valley of death at some point. We all have the pending task of writing the epilogue to our life. What will be in that final chapter? How shall we sum up? Will we have regrets? What would we have changed? These powerful questions are really a gift. It’s life’s housekeeping angel that reminds us to examine what we are doing, reflect on our priorities and focus on what really matters.
I often say, “We should focus on high value targets.” Don’t get busy with being busy, apply your talent, time and energy to what matters. Understand the outcomes you want to achieve and trim away everything that doesn’t contribute to making that happen. Keep the faith. Don’t settle. Pursue your dreams. Love with all your heart. Care for your loved ones and invest in others. Eternal dividends are not measured in dollars and pounds, they are measured in the moments, the people and the legacy we leave behind. Today begins the first day of the rest of your life. Optimize for greatest impact.