One of my monthly goals is to read at least one business or spiritual related book per month. So last week on my travel to The Masters in Augusta, Georgia I had lots of airplane and airport time to get my reading done for the month of April. For this month I chose Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelly for the fact that as the former CEO of KPMG he was a proven business master, the book deals with the final 90 days of his life after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and the title “Chasing Daylight” is a reference to that time on the golf course in the late afternoon when the shadows lengthen and you find yourself trying to get your last few holes in before nightfall happens. This was a perfect fit for travel to The Masters, the most venerable golf competition in the world, and another one of my bucket-list experiences to immerse myself in. If I wasn’t an entrepreneur I doubt I would have the means or time available to create these experiences for myself.
The reading of the book resonated with me on many levels, as on a day to day basis I am already experiencing and appreciating many of the aspects that Eugene talks about. I have found that as I get older, turning 53 this year, I know my days are also becoming numbered and I want to savour these last rays of sunshine for as many days, years or decades I have left on this earth. I especially enjoyed the final five phrases of wisdom that the book concludes with and have some experiences that I want to share on them.
Live In The Moment
I find air travel to be a perfect time to escape into a book and to really be present with it and not be interrupted by the other things that are constantly barraging me on a minute by minute basis at other times. Cell phones are turned off, conversation with other passengers is minimal and the time is just mine. This is one of the key points of wisdom that Eugene speaks to that he realized in his final 90 days. Live in the Moment – taking stock of the present, not the future what-ifs and paying attention to the information, depth and breadth of the present moment. This centers us and in turn makes it easier to stay in the moment. I find that for me living in the moment has more to do with appreciating experiences as opposed to material goods, for the moments can last with us forever, but the material item is son replaced by a bigger, better, shinier or new one.
Eugene further recognized and appreciated the Perfect Moments that happen around us every day. I have found over the last few years that my ability to find a Perfect Moment almost everyday now happens – with many of them happening in nature. Nature can mean a walk, like I do most mornings with my dog, Ginger, and often with Joan my wife (when she is in town as she travels frequently). Last fall on one of our walks we walked over a foot-bridge that went across a stream near our house and out of the corner of my eye I saw a Coho Salmon fighting the current to swim upstream to spawn – I marvelled at being present to such a glimpse of nature. This happened a few times more over the week and then nothing. I looked every day for a couple of weeks and just when I had given up hope of seeing a spawning salmon there was another one – but bigger, a Sockeye Salmon, and then 3, 5 and within a few minutes I had counted 12. I was on a high for that whole day – and when Joan and I went by the stream over the next few days they were still there, fighting the current to create another generation. Then the day came when Ginger was attracted to the scent of the dead carcass of one of the salmon and we knew that the circle of life had played itself out once more. It was sad – but it too was a Perfect Moment. In the picture below you can just make out two salmon side by side going upstream taken with my Blackberry last November.
Then this week, on the same bridge going over the stream – I spotted a ripple in a shallow pool of water and sure enough, salmon fry were dodging this way and that. The circle of life complete – another Perfect Moment!!!
Eugene, in his last 90 days came to face reality. Facing reality means living in the moment and knowing what we can control and what is out of our control. It means seeing the big picture.
This past January my youngest son, Eli, decided to drop out of university, which he was attending on an athletic scholarship. This also meant quitting the basketball team that he was a co-captain on – and as tough as it was to agree with his choice I realized that it was his choice and not mine. He had great grades and was a great basketball player – but did not have the passion to be doing either, so my role as a parent was to control the things I could, to face reality, and know that I can continue to give him unconditional love, and with that he will find what he is passionate about.
When Eli graduated from high school the Athletic Director, who was also the basketball coach, decided to retire Eli’s uniform up on the gym wall right next to his brothers, Jordan and Tyrell’s uniforms. One of the criteria this small Christian school (300 students from K – 12) had set was that to have your uniform retired you had to receive a NCAA Division 1 athletic scholarship and with only four male athletes ever achieving that, it was a high standard. Eli turned down a NCAA Div. 1 scholarship in order to accept a Canadian CIS scholarship and have a chance to play with his older brother Tyrell for a year before he graduated with his Master’s in Business (after completing his NCAA career at Portland State). But the Athletic Director still thought Eli’s jersey should be retired and proceeded with those plans. So when the big night of the Athletic Banquet came and Eli and I were ready to drive to the gym – I could tell he was troubled. So we talked in the car on the way over (the best place I found for honest and connected conversations with my children) and he explained that he did not feel right having his jersey retired, and after a few tears and shared emotions I told him to just follow his heart. So when the AD called him up to have the ceremony Eli asked to say a few words first – and proceeded to let everyone know that he would not be accepting his jersey retirement. I was amazed at his ability to face reality and control what he wanted to by taking that stand. I was very proud of him and again have to wipe the tears from my eyes as I write this – talk about seeing the big picture at such a tender age!
As an entrepreneur facing reality means being able to move at a moment’s notice, to do the unexpected because you listen to your intuition and it knows the right path to go down – and as Eli has taught me it is standing up for what feels right and believing in yourself when others may not.
I’ll continue this blog post in a week or so with Part 2 following up on a couple more of Eugene’s words of wisdom from Chasing Daylight.