This post has been a long time coming. Half a year ago, I lost my good friend Nancy to leukemia. I always admired Nancy in many ways. She was and still is the strongest woman I’ve ever met. When she left for Boston to get her bone marrow transplant, I hugged her and told her I’d see her in a few months. I never doubted that. I’d never seen anyone or anything beat her. Even when the calls from her husband indicated that things had taken a turn for the worse, I still never doubted she’d come home and throw a big party in her backyard.

Finally, in March when her backyard was filled with people gathered to remember her I still half expected to hear “Sweet Home Alabama” cranked up over the outside speakers and to see Nancy come dancing out of the house with her wine glass in hand and a big grin on her face.

She didn’t.

We had buried her that morning.

She was gone.

Nancy was a successful business woman. She joined a major company right out of college and worked her way up to a top executive position. I think she enjoyed working. I’m not sure if she liked the work itself or just the challenge of being the best. She was certainly competitive, but also gracious and organized. She kept a box full of birthday cards filed by month and she pre-filled them when she had time. Although she was deathly ill in the hospital, I received my birthday card right on time. My daughter received hers, signed by Nancy, two months after Nancy passed away.

Although Nancy was quite a but older than me, she died too soon. It got me thinking about my own mortality much more than the deaths of my grandparents in the last few years. I started to wonder what I’d do if I knew I had only a few months to live. Every morning, I’d wake up, lie in bed for a while then get up and look at myself in the mirror. I asked myself if I were going to die next week, would I want to do what I had to do that day.

Too often, the answer was ‘no’.

So, I made some changes. Unless the task I “had” to do and didn’t want to do was absolutely 100% urgent, I didn’t do it. Instead, I used that time to do something I did want to do, or something that would get me one step closer to living a life where I could wake up, ask myself the same question and regularly answer ‘Yes!’

Recently, after Steve Jobs died, his famous Stanford commencement address was broadcast repeatedly through all social media channels:


At about 9:25 in that video, he says:

“…for the past 33 years, I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ and whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”.

Wow! I’ve never been a huge Steve Jobs fan, but that hit home. Everyone’s commenting on how profound that is and I’ve been doing it for months! Score one for Brian! I wonder how many people who’ve posted that video on their Facebook or Twitter accounts aren’t really happy with their jobs or their lives, were inspired by that video, but have yet to take one step to change their own lives. I don’t mean to take a “holier than thou” attitude, but really the universe is always going to throw you some unlucky times and some lucky times. As in poker, I think the trick is to minimize your losses when you’re unlucky and maximize your gains when you’re lucky. It’s not about the cards you’re dealt. It’s about what you do with them.

So, I’ve been putting more effort into and it’s been fun. Because of it, I’ve gotten to do a lot of things I love to do and I’ve been able to call it “work”. One thing I do know now is that when I wake up in the morning, sit next to my wife in the driver’s seat of a 12 passenger van full of runners eager to run 200 miles relay style, look at myself in the rearview mirror and ask myself if I’m going to die today, do I really want to do what I’m about to do, the answer is most definitely ‘Yes!’.

What would you like to change? How are you working toward that goal?


1 comment

  1. my problem is i don’t know WHAT i would want to do (other than not-work) 🙂 so my excuse has been “well i’ll just hang out here a little longer / it’s a job / it pays the bills” until i figure out what i want to do.

    still a lame excuse, i know. i am jealous of you stepping out though!

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