One thing we can count on in life is that tragedy will visit us whether we want it to or not. Of late, I’ve been in contact with many people who are going through it directly and I wonder what advice can I give if they ask? Recently, an old friend of mine passed unexpectedly by committing suicide.
I received a text last Thursday night from a mutual friend and I didn’t believe it at first. I was dumbfounded. Speechless. Shocked. Sad and mad all wrapped into one. I can’t imagine what brought him to that place and now as I head to the visitation tonight to meet his family and friends, it’s my belief, and no accident I think that I came across this old blog post while editing my latest book this morning. I originally shared it in the Summer of 2015 and it stopped me in my tracks when I stumbled upon and slowly reread it this morning.
It is my sincere hope that if this message strikes a chord with you that it serves as a wakeup call as to how precious life is. Pass it along, and share it with someone who might be at the right space and place to let it positively impact them. You never know in your circle of influence who might either be going through a tragedy or is on the brink of experiencing one. So, here’s a partial excerpt from Chapter 10 titled, “The Power of Lists.”
What if you were told you only had six months left to live? After the shock wears off, what do you do next? Stay with me here; this is a big mind bender I’m going to share with you. If you’ve read this far, I thank you, and know that you’re ready for the place I’m going to now take you.
I’ve seen many people in my own life, including my own father; turn the initial death sentence of six months or a year left to live, into a live life to the fullest sentence. I’ll explain. They treated these remaining days like gold, without inhibition and the key phrase: without fear! What if we all lived this way? What a very different world it would be. I sense that many people would treat each day with a passion and intensity that would marvel and inspire themselves and those around them.
Father time is strange indeed.
When we’re children life moves at a crawl, and when we’re adults it begins to pick up speed like a snowball rolling downhill. We cannot go back in time and rewrite or live in the past. Nor should we allow the two thieves known as regret and guilt to haunt and steal our valuable time known as the present. An untrained, negative, and beaten down mind filled with regret and fear is much more dangerous to success than most people realize or can even imagine.
The Honor List
The names and dates are unfamiliar to most people, but to me they are pivotal markers and turning points in my destiny and journey.
Stan Rubleski 1984 Age: 46
Robert Austin 1985 Age: 19
Dan Hutchinson 1993 Age: 21
Craig Shriver 1995 Age: 22
Four names, four years in time, four major people who left an impression on my soul and present state of how I look at motivation and action. Like a bright, burning, orange flare in a pitch black forest, each one of them grabbed my soul and uniquely changed my destiny in ways that no one could imagine or possibly link together.
Frozen In Time, But Never Forgotten
The years and ages of Stan, Robert, Dan and Craig represent the year they exited the game of physical life. Their life clocks here on Earth ran out of time quickly and far too soon. Two of them passed from cancer and two of them were involved in freak accidents.
While many people these days obsessively worry about retirement and multiple “what-if” scenarios as to what they’ll be doing when they turn 50, 60 or 70 years of age, this was not an option for the four people I’ve listed. Unfortunately, they never had the chance to fill their minds with such trivia, for their life force was snuffed out at relatively young ages. It’s ok and healthy to dream and think of the future, but sadly, most people obsess and worry relentlessly about a future date or marker in time that may burn out before they even get there. Each day thousands of people are notified that their life will end soon, while others get no warning at all.
The List of Four Exercise
I’m a big believer in creating and using lists to get things done quicker and with less stress. Yes, for men it’s wired into our DNA. This next exercise is designed to make you appreciate the life and talents you might be taking for granted at this moment in time. I’m going to have you create a very different type of list that you may have never thought about making and move it from your head into the physical realm via pen and paper. Be prepared, this will also conjure up many strong emotions from your past.
If we sat down over a cup of coffee and I said to you, “Write your own list of four people who’ve passed on and how they positively impacted your life.” Which names and reasons would you put on the list and why? I want you to do this right now. Take a few minutes and write their names on a piece of paper.
1. Name of first person
2. Name of second person
3. Name of third person
4. Name of fourth person
The ages and dates of the names on my own list of four serve as a stiff reminder to me that death is a part of our existence and can come in the prime of life with some advance warning and often when we least expect it. The goal here of creating your own list of names is to remind you to deeply think about your own life, appreciate it, and look at each day as a gift to be celebrated and lived fully even during the hourly ups and downs. If you made up The List of Four for yourself, welcome to the club. I now urge you to honor these people in your life by going after your dreams and passions with a renewed sense of urgency.
A second question: Is your current life honoring them or would they wonder why you’re squandering it? This isn’t an easy question to ask, yet alone think about. However, it’s essential for you to dig deep within your own life story and answer this question. Again, the goal is to allow these people who were in your life to inspire you to rise up and cultivate your inner genius and talents.
Look, every human who’s ever lived, past or present, has made trade-offs. I believe true life balance is one of the biggest myths still being packaged and sold across the radio and TV talk show circuit to society. It’s sexy to talk about “work and life balance,” but achieving it is not easy. Many times when we’re in flow or actively pursuing a big goal, creative chaos will take over and mess with balance. It will happen, trust me. It’s important to continually gain perspective and work towards recognizing that a short-term imbalance is often required to help us in the long term to see our dreams take shape.
Finally, let me ask you a third question that few people, especially those in business, rarely if ever stop and slow down to ask themselves: What really drives and inspires you to play the game? Each of us gives up most of our waking hours and valuable life force to work for someone else or to build and pursue our own enterprise. There are no timeouts in life, so let me ask you once again, what really drives you to play the game? In the sped up, digital, interruption based, media overload society, many people are getting bogged down in distraction and worry about what others are doing, thinking, saying, writing or watching instead of focusing on themselves.
If you aren’t motivated, focused and truly sold on your dreams for the life you’re living and designing for significance, then how in the world will you pull it off and attract the people and resources needed to carry it out? When these ingredients are missing, a mental tug-of-war takes place and sabotages many good-intentioned people.