Well it has been a crazy few weeks, in candor a crazy few months! After returning from an outstanding family vacation in mid-August, all hell seemed to breakout on the work front. Business conditions have been very challenging, we have gone through a significant senior management change, and just last week took an action to reduce heads and expenses at the company in order to manage costs in the light of inflationary/recessionary headwinds. While these challenges also face many organizations across industries, we are certainly feeling the challenges/pressures very directly and very personally as we head into Q4 of 2022. It is this context that set the stage for a complex and challenging few days last week.
While all these business dynamics have been going on, a very dear friend of mine lost his brother to cancer. The brother’s cancer hit hard, and the “battle” didn’t last very long, and at a very young age he passed away just a few weeks ago. Knowing the family for over 30 years, I attended the memorial service last week wanting to show support for my friend and to honor his recently passed brother. The service was filled with powerful and emotional tributes from family & friends and was accompanied by an incredible singer and guitarist. The closing “song” was a rendition of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” (a song that was also played at my sister-in-law’s funeral back in 1999) that was beyond poignant…. I found myself deeply moved as I sat in the last row quietly weeping. The service ended, I paid my respects to the family, and headed back into the work challenges of the day…. Probably not the best of ideas.
The business issues were active and swirling and I spent the rest of the next few days on calls regarding costs, revenue trends, farming challenges, customer issues…. you know the normal swirl… and I found myself completely worn out as I headed to fly back to Atlanta late last week. Now the logistics of commuting back and forth from Atlanta to Bakersfield California is never simple, but the “return trip home” always starts with a very early flight out of the little airport in Bakersfield in order to connect to a flight back to Atlanta later that same day… these days start early with a 4:45am alarm in order to make the 6:15 am flight to Phoenix.
It was on this plane that I had the moment of interaction that I captured in the title of this essay. It was early, and the flight attendant asked if I needed anything to drink. I must have mumbled a somewhat incoherent response, and he said, “sir, can I get you anything…. sir are you ok??” Somehow that second question… “Sir, are you ok?” triggered me out of my haze and I clearly responded… “Indeed, I am!” as I paused with my response in the air it became clear that I was not only “Ok,” I was way beyond that adjective!! I am incredibly lucky to have the life I have! A great marriage to sweet Jennie, two wonderful kids in Bryson & Marie, so many dear and close friends many that I have known for decades....a chance to work in a wonderful company in a great role with a great team… working with a group of senior leaders who are talented and deeply committed to the business across so many levels…. No I am not JUST “Ok”,... I am doing very well and am VERY lucky to have the challenges that at times seem so omnipresent and overwhelming.
Maybe it was the combination of not enough sleep, (and maybe not enough coffee!!), and the powerful memorial service but that one simple question (“Sir, are you ok?”) stirred me out of my haze and helped me get a moment of perspective. I hope that you have a chance to slow yourself down, and maybe ask yourself if you are “doing ok??" We all need to shake off the blinders of the moment to remind ourselves that life is fragile and short, and that those who have passed before us are great reminders for all of us to try to enjoy the challenges that we face today, we will miss them when we are gone.