This happened during the year-long struggle I experienced helping my sister fight cancer. After thinking about it this is what I realized—your heart is not in the center of your chest. It’s not in your head either. Where your heart is where your experiences are. Where your experiences are is where you spend your time. Be it at the ballpark, on a boat, the beach or with someone else, a partner. It can also be in the experience you have helping someone do something. Fighting cancer, building a business, and teaching a child how to ride a bike all qualify.
We all have a fixed amount of time. The greatest gift, or cruelty, is that we don’t know how much we have. To a person, we all believe we want more of it. We’re making some progress in medicine. But I am not placing any bets my time will increase in any significant way. That will play out in years and generations long after I am gone.
The question becomes how to make the best of the time we have. My sister died at 52. I can argue she lived a full life. She traveled around the world and was a great mom, daughter, wife, and sister. She also was smart and pretty as well as a million other things that are admirable and coveted by the rest of us. I wish she had more time to live.
My heart is made up of many things. Music, books, words, family, sports, fun, beaches, oceans, and challenge come to mind. I like a good challenge, particularly in business. Tell me something is hard to do and I am attracted to it. I also love Vermont, pizza, and cheesesteaks. It is not too much of a stretch that I spend time in Vermont and eat a lot of pizza and steak sandwiches. I love tea and recently have dedicated my time to researching and brewing it. I will say the satisfaction you get from fresh tea vs. bags is huge. I learned this over the past summer.
Some of the things around my heart are indeed things. My car is essential to me; I spend time in it every day. It is in its appropriate priority behind my family, friends, and many other things on the list. Humor is close to my heart. I always look for ways to create a laugh for someone else. If that’s how I go out, as a man who created some fun for those around me, I am good with it.
A few years ago we went to Alaska. A week on a boat and a week on land. All five of us traveling every day for two weeks. We saw a lot and had many experiences. I know these experiences were compelling because we still talk about them. The amazing sites of Denali, whales, bald eagles, and the northern Pacific were awesome. But, they all pale in comparison to the time we spent together as a family. We were living an experience in real time without a script. We will always have that to hold close to us, to our hearts. My wife and I feel good that we were able to provide the experience to our sons. I believe providing an experience for someone else is more satisfying than consuming an experience.
I remember as a kid my grandfather would take me fishing. One day the two of us just sat there in the boat about a hundred feet off of his back yard. We fished but didn’t catch anything. We talked and drank water out of old mayonnaise jars. That was a great day; it was almost fifty years ago. Today, I remember the experience my grandfather provided me. I was his favorite; we had a bond like no other. I can still feel it now; he passed thirty-seven years ago.
I believe I provide an experience for those who work with me. I run a pretty loose ship and always have. I hire talented people and leave them alone. Recently I left one of them alone too much, and the person quit.
Will I change? Hell no.
My management recipe for success has treated me well. Sometimes you just foul one off. I believe I am providing a work experience for my team. I encourage them to make decisions, take accountability, and grow. Some day they will move on and take the experiences I provided with them. They will go on a journey to create experiences for their staff. And on and on.
Your heart is in the experiences you create and absorb. A full life is one where most of your time is spent doing one of these two things—creating or absorbing. Reflecting experiences to those around you and being a beacon for others to see and feel means one thing; that you are living.
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