Watching a terminally ill loved one go through sickness and suffering to their eventual death is a trying and painful time. It certainly was to experience as my mother went through the process from diagnosis to her death from cancer. But it was also a time of clarity, growth, and perspective.
Lesson #1: Separate ambition and awareness
Google is convinced I am obsessed with the world’s wealthiest individual. It frequently shows me updates on his latest exploits and $117,000,000,000 fortune. Or perhaps money has been my obsession. My targeting includes articles on numerous ultra-wealthy men and women alike.
How am I going to get it? What would I do with it? Super-yacht? Mega-mansion? Jumbo-jet? Certainly something large. And plenty of charitable work too. Truth is I have thought and dreamt about being ultra-rich countless times. My upbringing emphasized the attainment of money.
My mother forged many quality relationships throughout her life. In one of her final months of life, she had 62 visitors from out of state, many traveling over 1,000 miles, come to see her. She had made a list of the names and shared it with me. She said, “see how rich I am”.
Money is a representation of the goods or services it represents at any given moment. $117B would not have “bought” my mother those life long, quality relationships in the form of visitors in her final days.
While I knew all along my children and wife are more important to me than anything else in the world, I never thought about the fact my ambition to make money was overtaking my awareness of my present surroundings. Google’s targeting was far ahead of me though.
The fact your loved ones are more important than money is nothing groundbreaking. And I have nothing against wealth or success. If you have the ambition to make tall cash more power to you. Just don’t get so caught up in your ambition to lose awareness of the great fortune you may already possess. Recognize it. Observe it. Honor it. Keep yourself grounded so death does not do it for you. Keep your ambition and awareness separate.
Lesson 2: Our eyes can easily deceive us.
Roughly 90% of all information our brain receives comes from our eyes. They are quite influential to the point of skewing our perception.
My mother was unexpectedly hospitalized due to medical complications. We were told it may be the end. After a long three days of treatment, she stabilized. It was not the end. The scare was over. Soon we would all leave the hospital together. The discharge process had begun.
The small hospital room remained full of family and friends. It was apparent all my mother wanted, to be with her loved ones knowing she would not die in that hospital room, was now hers. And at that moment, after laying in that hospital bed for 72+ hours with gown, tubes, IV’s, and all, my mother was more beautiful than I have ever seen her in all her life.
My eyes certainly did not see much beauty. Yet I felt it.
My mother had no desire, ambition, or thoughts towards anything outside that room. She was safe, secure, and loved. She was as pure in thought and fulfillment as a young child. No thoughts of her past, no worries about her future. Only 100% present at that moment and place. I witnessed a truly rare event in a person’s life. The serenity and bliss were amazing. I can still feel it as much as I can feel my hand.
Sometimes things that are not visually beautiful are the most beautiful in life. Our eyes can easily deceive us.
Lesson 3: Pay the people that truly matter first.
This is not the order you spend money. This about the most precious resource you have. Time.
You spend your time, and the recipient is getting paid with your life currency.
During one of my final visits with my mother, we discussed some of her life’s greatest joys and regrets. I was reminded thoughts often mean nothing without action. In the case of time, it is true.
First the thought. What is most important to me in my life? Easy. My family.
Now the action. I changed my approach to paying my family first by setting a 30-minute block early Monday morning to schedule them into my weekly 80/20 plan before I touch email, voicemail, or any work activity. There are certain mandatory tasks to be done. We all have them. Now my family is one and I do my best to make them a priority as much as possible.
The web, social media, television, your cell phone, and people are vying for your attention. Wherever your attention goes, your time flows. Everyone wants to get paid.
Sometimes it is the sobering lesson of death that reminds us all of our clocks are ticking towards their end. Stay focused. Be disciplined. Be deliberate. Pay the people that truly matter first.