People Over Things

I’m going to link this blog post from Vitaliy Katsenelson. The gist is ‘what would you do if you knew you had 6 months to live’. He shares some great insights – ones I hope to act on even today with my kids.

In the post he cites the story below, which is what I really want to share even if you don’t click over to Mr. Katsenelson’s blog. It’s the first-person story of Randy Pausch, a 46-year-old (same age as me) professor who has only six months to live – he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Here is an excerpt:

Once, about a dozen years ago, when Chris was seven years old and Laura was nine, I picked them up in my brand-new Volkswagen Cabrio convertible. “Be careful in Uncle Randy’s new car,” my sister told them. “Wipe your feet before you get in it. Don’t mess anything up. Don’t get it dirty.” I listened to her, and thought, as only a bachelor uncle can: “That’s just the sort of admonition that sets kids up for failure. Of course they’d eventually get my car dirty. Kids can’t help it.” So I made things easy. While my sister was outlining the rules, I slowly and deliberately opened a can of soda, turned it over, and poured it on the cloth seats in the back of the convertible. My message: People are more important than things. A car, even a pristine gem like my new convertible, was just a thing.

I’ve been thinking recently how easy it is to be selfish and material, especially in America. I’m watching out for my own well-being, helping my kids through school and hopefully to college and off on the right foot in life, planning for my retirement, outlining travel trips I want. I contrast this with friends who are constantly reaching out to me and others, checking in, asking to make plans, willing to set aside their own needs, actively seeking ways to bring comfort to others. They embody the social support that makes us feel connected and loved.

Then there’s the video made by my daughter’s middle-school teachers, each self-isolating at home, and one of them edited a series of 30-second clips of each teacher recording themselves saying hello to their students. So evident how much these people love their kids! They exemplify prioritizing people over things.

So, too, do the brave health care workers who are out on the front lines taking care of sick patients, like my friend Brian who is a hospital physician in Philadelphia. People are more important even than personal safety.

Today’s daily blog post from Seth Godin challenges us to consider what our principles really are. “What makes it a principle is that we do it now, even though (especially though) it’s hard.” If my principles value people over things, what am I going to do today, even if it’s hard even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, to live that?

Closed Eyes, Open Eyes

I close my eyes. I think about everything that’s most important to me: family, friends, home, career, music, etc. Then I imagine that it’s all taken away. How does that make me feel? I quickly realize that what I already have is so much more important than what I don’t have. I realize how fortunate, successful, and happy I already am. Then I open my eyes. My life might not be what I consider “perfect”, but it’s already pretty great.

Going Places

It’s less about the destination and more about being in motion. Movement is freedom.

Career, music, relationships. Kids, friendships, community. In every place life is shifting and changing.

An a-ha moment this week: when something feels stuck, it’s because something is stuck inside of me. No one is doing anything different and the universe has not turned against me. The world is still moving like a wide flowing river. But I am resisting, turning up into the current or clinging to a rock or branch, and I’m burning precious energy just to stay in place.

Letting go is scary.

Pond Fish River Fish

There is a pond in the forest, deep enough for several fish. The fish are swimming around the perimeter of the pond. Around and around, always moving but never going anywhere.

Unbeknownst to the pond fish, there is a stream nearby. Playful rapids sloshing and swirling as the crystal water murmurs ever downstream.

Suddenly a fish leaps out of the river and into the pond. The pond fish are so Continue reading “Pond Fish River Fish”

11,205

I looked at the Actuarial Tables and noticed the life expectancy for someone my age who was born when I was born is, on average, 76.7 years, or 30.7 years from now. That’s 11,205 days. Now, there’s a reasonable chance that I will live longer than that. I’m in good health, etc., but it’s sobering to think of those 11,205 days. What if I were to write a little countdown program that Continue reading “11,205”

Look Between the Potholes

Skiers and snowboarders know when you’re blazing down the mountain, where you look is where you’ll go. If you focus on the trees, you’re more likely to hit one. Focus on the space between the trees and that’s where your body will point the ski tips, and that’s where you will go. Bicyclists and Continue reading “Look Between the Potholes”