The worst personal rejections come when those who meant so much to you show how little you meant to them.
Relationship neutron bomb—I survive but the friendship, memories, interest and good feelings don’t.
“How long have you known him? “Fifteen years.” “What’s the one thing we should know about him if we offer him the job?” She lowered her head smiling. Pausing for a moment she then stared hard at the questioner and warned, “He doesn’t suffer fools gladly.”
At the precipice, my muscles and sinews struggled mightily to pull up the rope. With each slight pull, I felt a great weight at the end of the rope. With one last desperate pull of strength, I was able to reach the end of the rope. To my shock, there was no one, nothing attached. I had struggled desperately at great effort to save what I thought valuable, but it did not exist, it was imaginary.
In my youth I read a book about Vince Lombardi, the fabled coach of the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi was able to motivate a mediocre or average team to world championships in pro football. One of his favorite motivational methods was to urge his team towards “the big push” by exerting more effort.” Lombardi employed this motivation towards the end of the season when winning games were critical if they were to get into the playoffs.
When a class paper needed to be written in a few days or having to cram for upcoming exams I used to amuse my college classmates by solemnly announcing that it was time for “the big push.” I also used this as a rallying cry in a tightly contested sporting event to finish strong at the finish. This was useful at the end of a 5 or 10K race so I could summon the energy to sprint not jog at the finish line. Partly motivation, partly advisory, “the big push” was my mantra when there was little time, and significant effort needed to be extended as an assignment, a project, a finish line or objective was imminently due.
I remember blearily typing a college paper (this was before computers and word processors) the night before it was due. My fingers cramped up from all the typing and my brain froze from fatigue. The words blurred into the paper and I could barely keep my eyes open. I learned my lesson. (No, reader, it was not to wait until the last minute but to find a girlfriend who could type my papers a lot faster than I could.)
The mantra followed me into my career. How many times sensitive projects and assignments required me to expend a lot of effort and time at the end to successfully complete it? I confess that the mantra often was a result of procrastination on my part.
One of the benefits when retiring is that the corporate big push disappears. No work deadlines! No demands from bosses to be met! No late and hurried meetings! No changes at the eleventh hour or rushing to edit/revise a spreadsheet, presentation, flowchart or report.
So does “the big push” disappear at retirement??
The answer is “No.” In fact the mantra becomes more incessant, more personal and more time sensitive.
In our younger days, our efforts were largely to fulfill or meet the expectations of others (employer, client, manager). The target dates for completion could be arbitrarily changed. When we stop working, our focus is on fulfilling our personal dreams and goals. Maybe there were things we put off while working and did not have the time to do. Along with a Medicare card and social security check, retirement provides a mental bucket list of plans and dreams to get checked off. For many of us, this list includes travel, cruises, adventure, relocation, endless golf and pickleball, philanthropy, and more quality time with family, children, grandchildren and friends.
Regrettably there is no guarantee particularly as one gets older that the vagaries of time, good health, capacity and circumstance won’t interfere with our plans. For example, my stepfather intended to fish and live down the shore when he retired. Unfortunately he had health issues with his heart and with cancer and he never fully realized his dreams dying only a few years after his retirement.
My closest friend’s parents died relatively early. He is obsessed with living as fully as he can daily. He doesn’t need to say the bigpush mantra, he lives it. Life and experience have taught him the uncertainty of guaranteed future time and opportunity.
Many of us want not only to pursue our pleasures and hobbies but to leave a legacy, whether it is a result of our charity or community efforts or to serve as an example to our children or grandchildren. This is our big push, indeed it may be our final big push. Let’s not look back at this time with regret but with satisfaction that we used the time and opportunities we had to enjoy life and make life enjoyable and better for others.
If life is a train ride, my station may be coming up soon. Regrettably most of us don’t know when our ride will end. A few friends and family members have disembarked too early, leaving me sitting sadly alone in the train car.
All of us have an “aha” or life changing moment. Mine occurred on the morning of February 14, 1960 when I was told about my father’s sudden death. At age 7, I learned about impermanence, self reliance and responsibility. Some people never receive those insights no matter their age.
I have not measured my life’s success based on my net worth, corporate executive titles or possessions I owned. Simply I wanted to be the best husband, son, brother, uncle and friend I could be. Largely that meant I needed to be “present” when someone needed help or encouragement.
My 44 years of marriage to a wonderful woman represents the best decision and greatest commitment of my life. The joy and love from this woman more than offset any disappointments, failures, and travails I have experienced. Life does not always offer an easy road but I am grateful for my constant and supportive companion.
Some of my life’s biggest disappointments, socially and in business, were as a result of women. This is not an indictment of women as much it shows my lowered expectations of the words, promises and actions of my brother man.
Coincidentally, but not surprising, my biggest supporters and influencers, in my youth, were women. Besides my wife Chris, my sister Sandra was a source of encouragement, love and motivation. Sandra’s death twenty seven years ago is my greatest personal loss.
Two biggest trends in my lifetime: (1) the explosion, breadth and advancement of technology in business and personal life and (2) the disintegration, coarseness and division of our politics and civility.
I have no heirs but I am sad about the type of world that my generation is leaving to those generations behind us. We’ve left them problems with government debt, climate change, rebuilding infrastructure, improving public education etc. Those are issues that we should have been focusing on instead of building walls, creating conspiracy theories and disputing fair elections.
I was looking at some pictures of birthday parties for me or cousins when I was 6 or 7. The black and white pictures were a bit faded, many of my family in the photo are deceased but the memories remain. Was there anything more exciting for a young boy or girl than to look forward to a birthday party with friends and family?
The basic evidence of humanity among people is simply sharing a smile.
I’ve lived 25,202 days. That’s a lot of opportunities to appreciate sunsets, sunrises, great conversations, varied travel experiences, meet new friends, and make social and business contributions. Success and appreciation of life are often measured by how close our results = opportunities.
Sign of the Times: We need a Facebook prompt to remember and celebrate a friend or relative’s birthday.
Why is it that despite much improved personal training and sports medicine that today’s pitchers can’t go beyond five innings and basketball players can only play half a season?
In my younger days, I ran 5K and 10K races. When I was able to see the finish line from a distance, I needed to make a decision. Do I finish the race strong with a last minute spurt or do I comfortably finish at a relaxed pace? My decision was not based on winning any medals or prizes as I was a “back in the pack” runner. My decision was personal, primarily based on how much energy I had left in my legs and what I wanted to accomplish in terms of my own goals. I mostly competed with myself and was interested in seeking improved race times.
As one gets older in life, there are a number of finish lines that need to be crossed. Generally, the first finish line is the end of your career or business. For many, the decision on how we finish that race is not made by them. Some don’t get the opportunity to finish but are pulled aside and told their race is over. The lucky get to finish the race on their own terms and with the plaudits and appreciation of their fellow employees and partners. They leave with a sense of satisfaction of a race well run.
Young people are not concerned with finish lines. They are at the beginning or mid-way point of their race. Time is on their side – – they have the energy, ability and opportunity to run more laps and circle the field if they are so inclined. They are in the early stages of a life marathon with many miles to go.
As I have gotten older, I appreciate that a final finish line may be looming. I don’t know its distance but I sense its presence. There are no mile markers in the final finish line. I still have the ability to decide if I want to walk or jog in my last miles or finish with a burst of speed and vigor. There won’t be spectators to cheer me on. How I finish that race will largely be my decision. There are no medals to win. But there is one more chance to make a difference in my life and maybe someone else’s. One more opportunity to overcome a challenge or make a contribution. One more opportunity to achieve a life well run…
“It is with books as with men: a very small number play a great part.”
When my father died at age 7, I had no older brother or sister for guidance. Essentially I had to rely upon my own resources as I grew up. I also lost my religion fairly early so I was neither a believer or reader of The Bible. I know that many people find comfort, guidance and wisdom from their religious beliefs. However I chose to go a different way. Reading was a critical element in my life. Books provided me entertainment, knowledge, guidance and perspective. I’m estimating that I have read over 5000 books in my life.
There were a number of books that inspired me in my personal life. There were stories (real and fiction) of people who overcame challenges and provided examples and lessons on how one should conduct their lives.
Here is a list of books that made a significant impression on how I view life, death, relationships and morality.
Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived by Lawrence James and Peter Barton
Learning To Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect life by Philip Simmons
The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts (I always encourage people just to read the first chapter which is powerful, if they can’t read the entire book.)
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Running to the Mountain by Jon Katz
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Eureka (A Novel) by Jim Lehrer
The Way of the Ronin by Bev Potter (changed my view on work and just being labeled an employee)
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
Winter Journal by Paul Auster
Chasing Death: How my Forthcoming Death Changed My Life by Eugene O’Neill
Stoner by John Williams
Levels of Life by Julian Barnes
All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Remarque