This is late. I’ve been meaning to write about some cool ideas I particularly liked in the 9 Dec 2007 issue of the New York Times Magazine, then I thought I’d make it a review of 2007 and a record of some lessons, so that the passing of the years is coupled with the gaining of experience and knowledge, then I got to thinking that my table is too high, and therefore my keyboard is placed at an awkward position for typing, and therefore maybe I’ll do the blog another day. Procrastination: I am a master at it. I don’t even have to try.
A few things happened to jolt me out of that.
One, a colleague got me a book that late KPMG CEO Eugene O’Kelly wrote in the roughly 100 days between the diagnosis of his brain cancer and his death in Sep 2005. Chasing Daylight is a clear-eyed memoir about dying, and, knowing you are about to die, doing a good job of it. Upon knowing his fate, O’Kelly describes how his accounting-trained mind resolved to complete a “to-do list”, and one of the items on this list was to “unwind” his relationships, to “beautifully resolve” them through a combination of reminiscing, appreciation and authenticity. A short excerpt from the book should make clear what I’m babbling about:
For example, take my college roommate, Doug… [w]e spoke maybe once a year now, but we shared a history, and we’d always enjoyed each other’s company and were intrigued by what the other was doing. I wrote him a note.
As you probably have heard, my health is failing me as I deal with advanced stage cancer. I wanted to write to tell you how much our friendship over the many years since Penn State has meant to me.
Best wishes in your life.
I’d planned to follow this with a call, to elaborate on my gratitude, but first I wanted to think about all the great memories we’d shared. The summer of our freshman year, when he and I had done ROTC duty on the USS Wasp… played cards against these two guys from Miami of Ohio… get served four meals a day and worked on the flight deck and in the boiler room…
Doug called me first… we had a good conversation… he reminded me that I had been the first among our group to reach a number of milestones – getting married, becoming a father – and now I was first to the next life. He and the other guys would be joining me later, he said.
Toward the end of the conversation, I told Doug how much I appreciated what he had added to my life. He did the same. I was not teary-eyed, nor, it sounded, was he.
At the end, Doug said, “Good-bye.”… No platitudes or denial. Just good-bye. I appreciated that.
Essentially, O’Kelly actively sought closure in each relationship he cared about. I think this is one of the wisest things I know of. What Chasing Daylight also made clearer to me was that successful people are driven – I think what made O’Kelly CEO of a big accounting firm also made him want to manage his death – so I should be a bit less lackadaisical about things e.g. blogging.
The second thing that jolted me out of my procrastination was a simple flip through the Straits Times’ Recruit section. I realised that little of my achievements in my five years of working would help in my successfully getting most of the jobs I wanted. That wasn’t strictly speaking a surprise, but the immediacy of it was a wake-up call. Ergo, I need to take more control of my career.
The third thing. In my room, there is a soft-board that I use to pin bills and warranties and so on – to remind me of stuff I need to do. I came across an envelope I had thumbtacked to it a while back. I knew it contained contents from my wallet that I had taken out before I went for reservist training, and that I had resolved to put back into my wallet when I had the time. Sorting through the discount cards and receipts, I was shocked to realise that I had last looked at that envelope more than six months ago. Time accumulates day on day like no one’s business.
So, I shall procrastinate less. Will be blogging about those NYT Magazine stories when I return, but first, a haircut and booking my GMAT date.