Chasing Daylight

I am touched. I don’t remember reading any book in 2 days, small or big, but the book “Chasing Daylight” by Eugene O’Kelly. If I say I loved the book, I don’t do it justice.

Eugene, ex CEO of KPMG, working 90 hour weeks, was diagnosed with cancer. His brain tumour gave him 100 days to live. 100 days for closure.

Why I loved reading this book is for various reasons. Firstly, I would love to have his job. I am passionate as he was about working for the company I work for, and I would love to have the position and responsibility to do what he did. Representing his company worldwide, taking care of major clients and working on strategic relationships with clients and within the organisation. I am passionate about business and loyal. I connect with Eugene on that level.

Secondly, this man has family. Two kids, a nice house, a wife “to dream of” – a partner in life, a pillar, a friend. I connect here too. I have family and a wife that gives me the support I need.

Thirdly, from a pure productivity point of view, I love what comes out of this book. Eugene, who surely must have read a lot of time management and productivity books, started organising his remaining days to find closure with friends and himself.

To summarise “his findings” he started to realise that maybe he should have worked less, or more balanced. More around his family, e.g. taking more time to enjoy events that were important to his family, like graduation days or sports days. He suggested that most organisations wouldn’t mind and most people understand that family is very important. However, most people measure the effectiveness in the workplace by time spend in the workplace and not productivity, e.g. what you actually work and accomplish over time.

He also suggested that he should have taken more breaks, more time out to reflect in order to make him more effective at work. Once he flew all the way to Sydney (from New York), to board a plane from Sydney to Melbourne, to sell his company into a big bank. He then flew back. He did that as this was the only possible time for him to meet that person. That is dedication, commitment and passion for his job. I would do the same.

Living in the now, almost becoming a very popular thing of people in my circle of friends at the moment, is something he realised was very important. He started meditating (more regularly) after being diagnosed to calm his mind, finding greater consciousness and to enjoy the NOW more intensely. He said that too many people were not willing to accept that the past cannot be changed and the future is not written yet. Only the now can be influenced by our actions. Only the now is something we can (to some extend) control.
He was lucky. He said it and other people have. He wasn’t taken from his family through a tragic accident. He had 100 days to say good bye.

I asked myself, what would I do? Then I stopped asking myself that question now, because I am healthy, grateful to be alive and having such a fantastic family and a great circle of friends. But I started a todo list of “people I want to close”. There are some friends out there, who I haven’t heard from years, and I believe it is time to write them a card or letter to let them know I love them.
I grew up finding it awkward to tell people I loved them, and it won’t be easy for me to say that to some people. But I will find the right words to find closure. Now. Not when it is too late or I run out of time.

I don’t want to think I didn’t spend enough time with my family. Whilst I can only influence my work life to a certain extent, I will make a conscious effort to be there for the family, and to enjoy every moment I have with them. Actually this is one of my resolutions for 2011. As I said to my wife the other day, looking at pictures of our 19 months old son, I hardly remember some of the time when he was so very little. And, this time never comes back.

I write this post just before the imminent arrival of son number 2. Eugene, in his book, said that he realised when his daughter was born, that some day he had to say good bye to her. It might not sound like the greatest revelation on earth. My dad mentioned a few years ago that when his last parent died that he now is the oldest of the family. Given natural circumstances he is next to go.
It is not about living life to the full, e.g. drinking and partying until you die. It is about living the moment, enjoying the moment, and making the most of the limited time we all have. It is about giving the attention to things that really matter, and to have sufficient breaks from it too. There is nothing wrong with having a passion for a job, or working long hours, if you can accommodate them around your family life.

Why are you doing that job? To feed the family. Is that so? I do my job to feed the family but foremost I love it. Like a hobby. Other people like skiing, I like working. I am blessed by spending most of my day doing what I enjoy a lot in life. But, and if I don’t take anything else from the book, I now also want to enjoy more intensely what is the greatest joy of my life: spending time with my friend, partner, and wife Jenny and my two sons. As when I have to say good bye, hoping I have the chance, the most precious thing they will remember is the time we spend together. The experience we went through. That is what make life worth living, doesn’t it?
It’s probably for another time, but years ago I had a conversation with a good friend (who should be on my list) about children. He said “Volker, if you don’t have kids, what are you living for”. Another friend recently said “You cannot control kids and you have to be lucky to have such a good relationship with them as my mum and I have. I don’t think I’d get my ROI.”

Whilst I understand the latter, I don’t agree. It is of course very difficult to logically make a decision to have kids. Your costs increase for both shopping and time. You have less time for yourself etc. etc. Some people might call that selfish. But, and I only understand that now, having kids, my first friend was right. Only kids give you back what you invest; only they make life worth living for. No matter, how they turn out one day. And of course, my boys will be the best and I will have the best relationship with time in the world. Wouldn’t I? I already achieved my ROI after 19 months. For both!

Chasing daylight – something we cannot influence is the time we have left. So let’s live the remainder more intense, more passionate and more loving than ever before.

And, time allowing, maybe I find the greater consciousness through meditation soon too. Time allowing of course.
Thanks Eugene for putting consciousness, time management, effectiveness and spirituality all into one book. Putting life back into life, isn’t it?

Have a great day.
Volker