Warm Memories: Your living epitaph

My father was just 42 when he was permanently disabled and institutionalized. My mother was just 37 when she died. These two events have forced me to take the pursuit of the meaning of life seriously.

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Some have suggested that when we think about the meaning of my life, we should think about what we want our eulogy to be, or what we would want to have on our headstone. While these may be valid, I think there is an additional way. Please Continue Reading …

Optimal (book excerpt): Achievement

The systems for achievement within our culture work well…sort of. We have great schools for education, and we can further our studies through university or college, secure a trade or profession, and insert ourselves into an organization productively. Through a steady stream of income, we can acquire most or all of what our heart might yearn for, and yet there is a continual need for more.

Fulfillment can’t be summed up in abundance. We seem to be perpetually suffering from the law of diminishing return. Our parents longed for indoor plumbing, our kids long for I-Phone’s. No one seems to be more satisfied.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA, Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44. Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.

Could it be that we have more of what we think we want, but nothing of what we truly need?

Success: The other side of the mountain

While cycling in the mountains this past week, I was reminded of an important principle: Success is not just about what you accomplish…but also about what you overcome.

During the final day of our three-day route, we had to climb about 9 K of steep (4.4% grade) hill. Approximately half way into the climb I began to feel that I would not make the grade (in more ways than one!)  I was dressed too warm, and began to overheat. My water was nearly gone, and I had no fuel left in the tank. I was also fighting my mind, which seemed to be quite willing to accept the possibility of an extended layover or even a DNF (did not finish) as a final outcome.

I have felt this way before…in life and business. Circumstances have conspired to bring me to a similar place of fearing that I would not “make the grade”, or post a less than flattering “DNF”. To some cyclists a 4.4% grade is nothing. (Indeed, we were passed by a triathlete who was doing the whole 350 K’s in one day!) However, to me it was a mountain.

Thankfully a buddy helped me out, sourcing a bagel and water from a  friendly CPR employee. A brief rest, along with a great conversation (enough to remove my mind from the “mountain” in front of me) and I was back in the saddle with renewed optimism.

We all have our mountains. The size of our particular mountain is only one factor…our resources (capacity, competency, companions, etc) are also a factor.Two years ago I would have scoffed at the suggestion that I could ride 350 K’s through the mountains. The same buddy that handed me the bagel, offered the encouragement and opportunity to begin cycling in the first place. Great companion!

Just a little ways past the 9 K hill I enjoyed an extended downhill stretch, enough to reach speeds of 70+ KPH! Exhaustion quickly gave way to exhilaration! I enjoyed the satisfaction of overcoming a mountain, and enjoyed the reward on the other side of the challenge.

Maybe life and business are not so different from cycling. If we hang in there and face the mountain, surround ourselves with great companions, build competency and capacity, we will survive to enjoy the reward on the other side.

Optimal (book excerpt): HOPE

Without hope in the future, there can be no power in the present. Who would have power or energy to put into a task which they knew would be ultimately pointless or futile? By way of example, imagine painting the railing on the Titanic, while it was sinking. Or how about washing your car while it is raining, knowing full well that you will have three miles of gravel road to travel on the way home. Or what about repairing and repainting the “door dings” in the side of the family car knowing that your daughter will park in the student lot at school for another 4 years. People would have to be insane to do such a thing!

A friend of mine tells me that we can live for a few weeks without food; a few days without water; but not a second without hope. The same man tells me that it is the primary responsibility of every leader to foster hope. I believe him, on both counts. Even false hope can serve to keep us alive, but no hope? We need to hope, and it must be in truth.

This statement is also true with moderate rephrasing: “generate hope for the future, and gain power in the present”. Had the Titanic indeed pulled into port on its maiden voyage, you can bet that the deck and railing would have been squeaky clean and sparkling bright. Many would have had this picture in their mind, up until the disaster.

Vision is the depiction of hope. The picture we hold out in our mind can either spur us on to perform on purpose, or bring us to a point of hopeless resignation. The vision we hold must be based in truth, and further it must relate to our foundational purpose, for if it is not, then we are destined for regret.