A very dear friend of mine lost his wife earlier this year, passing away at the very young age of 54 after a long fight with a pervasive disease. A number of his friends gathered at the funeral, to provide support to our pal and to recognize and celebrate the life of his lovely and caring wife. This was a number of months ago and while his grief is still real and at times raw, life has a way of moving forward and a number of “post -funeral” tasks/realities have come into focus.
In a recent phone call, he shared that he was in the process of working with his wife’s sisters and “cleaning out” her closet and a number of “her things;” a very tough/poignant reminder of the life lost. Very sad work indeed! In an attempt to pass along some helpful advice (maybe sometimes I should just listen quietly!) I empathized on the challenge ahead for him and encouraged him to keep three ideas in mind …. “Be Thoughtful, Be Generous, and Be Quick.”
While these three ideas were meant for a grieving friend as he was diving into the tragic work he was facing, I have been thinking about them over the past few weeks and have realized how applicable they are to moments in Leadership and Life.
I have always advocated for thinking before you act and I have gone as far as writing two essays on the topic that you can find on this blob, “Act with Intent”, and “Act with Intent: Redux.” I deeply believe that one needs an idea/plan as they move into the world, whether as they think about their career or their personal lives. Now I am not naïve to think that one’s “plans” actually dictate or control all the outcomes of life; there are clearly unexpected twists/turns/opportunities/challenges/setbacks that we all must face and respond to in the course of our lives. With that said, I DO believe that we are not just the “flotsam and jetsom of history” to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we need to have a POV and deploy it into the path of life that is ahead for all of us!
It is too easy to be consumed by all the things we don’t have, haven’t achieved, haven’t accomplished, haven’t experienced, haven’t earned, etc. We seem to be consumed by the “haven’t syndrome,” rather than taking a good clear look at what we actually have! Again, I wrote about this idea in an early essay on this blog titled “There’s always a bigger boat.” I may have my stats a touch off but if you earned >=$54,000 in 2014, you are actually in the top 1% of the world population as defined by income. I would hazard a guess that the majority of the readers of this blog are global “1%er’s!” If we actually had that perspective, maybe it would affect our perspective on what we actually have that we could/should “share” with others. Whether thinking about our personal philanthropy plans or considering what talents/experiences we have to give/share with our teams, our focus should be clearly centered on what we can give vs. what we need to take!
I have been pretty focused lately on the need for a heightened action orientation in business. I have been doing a lot of public speaking recently and almost every speech includes or ends with the idea that regret is a trap, and that we have an infinite inability to affect yesterday, but an infinite ability to affect tomorrow only if we “Take action today!” I have often seen organizations that slow their decision-making and business processes to a crawl in an attempt to not make a bad move or decision; in my experience a fools errand. My experience is to dive in and take action quickly, don't dither! There will be successes and failures certainly but if you work hard to experience and learn from both fully, future outcomes will be enhanced. I often am reminded about this powerful quote from Goethe, “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.”
Well, I will close with the simple encouragement as you face the challenges that lie ahead in your work and in your life, keep these three little ideas handy. Find ways to “Be thoughtful, Be Generous, and Be Quick,” as you live your life and pursue your career. I am hopeful that you can use these ideas in environments much less painful and poignant than my grieving friend.