Fall is in the air. The light is dim, as if winter is around the corner, and there is a warm cast to the distant wood, the result of the trees gradually beginning to rust. Soon our mountain will glow with red and the ferns will become alizarin crimson. Goldenrod plants and little orange flowers are budding everywhere. Though it’s still warm, I feel the need to put on a sweater, because it’s just that time of year here in the wilderness. We hope to stay as long as possible, until our heat-free cabin freezes us out. Then we will return to life as normal. If there is such a thing these days.
Nineteen years ago yesterday, I was due to be in the Twin Towers with my management team from RadioCentral, a company I had founded. You can read the account of my near-miss here (scroll down).
What fascinates me is the extended life I was granted.
There are days we always remember, like the day John F. Kennedy died, the day a man walked on the moon, the day the Space Shuttle exploded in mid-air, and of course, September 11, 2001.
On that day, my pregnant wife and I watched in fear and angst, and wondered what kind of world our soon-to-be-born triplets would be living in. Now, today, we’ve just put the triplets in college and are living in a nest with no birds at home.
When tragedy strikes and we are spared, we often think about what we want to do with this life that did not end when maybe it seemed it would. These moments bring clarity. And that clarity resulted in tens of thousands of people leaving New York City to live in a place where life could be more enjoyed and safety was more assured. And, today, 19 years later, a pandemic has made people think twice about their lives, their values, and where and how they spend their time. They say New York City has lost a half-million residents permanently — about the population of the entire city of Atlanta. It boggles the mind.
Often when we have these moments of clarity, we proclaim our intent to live our lives to the fullest. Then as life continues, days or weeks later, we get back to throwing away our time and not using what our second chance provided.
Have you ever had a second chance and swore you would make every day count?
The question I get most is, “How do you get so much done? How do you handle so many things?” Yet the thing I am continually asking myself is, “Why do I waste so much time?”
Though I’ve not done a personal time audit for years, I’d guess that three or more hours of my work time each day are not as productive as they could be. I’m always asking myself why I waste so much time.
How much time do you waste?
The value of these moments of clarity is that they help us refocus our attention on what really matters. After 9/11 I had to ask myself if I would have been satisfied with my accomplishments, had that been my last day on earth.
And, during COVID-19, I’ve had to ask myself, did I get done what needs to be done? What if I’m the next person to catch the virus? Have I done enough?
Though I’d like to think those moments kick me in the behind and help me focus, we tend to lose that clarity as quickly as it comes. And I think we need constant reminders of what is important. What if I had one week, month, or year left? What is essential?
Have you stopped to ask what is essential for you?
If our time is filled with things that will never really matter, why do we do them? Well, clearly we have essentials that are urgent but not important in the grand scheme of things — paying the bills, keeping the grass mowed.
But what are the three things you want to do most with the rest of your life? And how can you remember to focus on them more than anything else?
I don’t bring you answers … only questions. You’ll have to find the answers.
When my life was extended because my meetings in the World Trade Center were cancelled that day, I made a list of things I needed to get done that were important to me. I don’t even know where that list is, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we’re making that list on a regular basis, and finding a way to move those chess pieces on the board of life.
Big Purpose for Each of Us
We’re not made to be sedentary, to sit, to rot. We each have been blessed with something we can contribute to the earth. We’re not here only to buy big-screen TVs and pay cable bills. We each need to find that purpose and pursue it like it’s our final hour. Because one day, perhaps when we least expect it, it will be.
What are you here to contribute?
What is something that is special about you, something no one else can do? If you dig, it’s there. Some of us take years to find it, but you should never stop searching. You’ll know it when you find it, or it finds you. For me it was a life in art and applying my gifts for marketing and business to help thousands of artists live better lives. Before that, it was doing the same in radio. You see, it’s a moving target, ever-changing.
I believe we get what we expect. If we expect greatness, it will find us.
Ask yourself why: Why was I born? What was the purpose our Maker had in mind for just me? You’re not random, you’re here for a purpose, and each day needs to be focused on that purpose. Any day not focused is either rest, to give you energy to continue, or a misused day.
There is no limit placed on you by age, by birth, or by circumstances. You have a purpose. Pursue it and life will become enormously rich.
PS: How can I be so arrogant, so full of myself, to believe that I can create the world’s largest art conference online? It was a question posed in a negative post on social media after I declared I wanted to do it. But it’s not arrogance at all. It’s belief in my mission to make artists stronger because it needs to be done, and someone needs to do it. Why not me? God has plans for us all. If he has selected you, he has the confidence that you’re the one to carry it out. As I said last week, still yourself, and listen.
I’ve been given the gift of life. Nineteen years since 9/11/2001. I am grateful for the gift I was given, the experience of becoming a dad and raising three wonderful souls. And grateful for the chance to serve you and others. I could have done more, and I intend to use my time to do a better job, and waste less valuable time and energy. Today, I’m reminded of just what a gift each day is. I’m grateful to you for this opportunity to share your inbox each Sunday.