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The title is a line from William Faulkner’s 1930 novel, As I Lay Dying. I don’t know if you believe in an afterlife or not. But the line Faulkner wrote during the 168 or so odd hours he spent writing this story, from the hours of midnight to 4 am over the course of six weeks, captures not only our imagination but our emotions. It’s not lost on me that 168 hours is also the number of hours in one week. Nor is it lost on me that this work was produced in 1929 while Faulkner while worked night shifts at the University of Mississippi Power House. I suppose keeping tabs on a power plant at night isn’t arduous enough work to prevent a writer from writing. But then again, perhaps nothing is powerful enough to prevent a true writer from writing. He’d just gotten married and was only 32.
I’m well past 32, but the line he wrote in the wee hours of one night in 1929 provides sober notions of what really matters in our life. And provides some sense of urgency about what we must do with life in this sphere.
In 2016 a TED talk was published featuring Robert Waldinger, the current director of a 75-year study on adult development. In the presentation, Dr. Waldinger, a psychiatrist, asks and answers the question, “What makes a good life?” I only take issue with the lack of spiritual considerations, but you should take about 13 minutes and watch it. Spoiler alert: it’s relationships!
It’s not money. Or fame. Or power. It’s people. It’s connection.
From a work perspective – and even a personal perspective – our lives are largely measured by the people in our lives. Those we surround ourselves with. Those who allow us to surround them.
“Memory believes before knowing remembers.”
That’s another line from the novel. Brilliant enough to make me envious of Faulkner’s wordsmithing talents.
Leaning toward wisdom is hard work. Doable, but hard.
This is about living. It’s about living in a way where we have far more great moments than not. Where we’re impacting people by helping them achieve levels of success unlikely without us. Where our family, friends and other people we care about are positively influenced by us. Where encouragement is high.
I’m driven by two words: legacy and significance.
I don’t consider Faulkner’s words to be so morose. I consider them challenging. Challenging us to get to the heart of the matter. To face the reality of why do what we do, or why we make the choices we make. Of all the things we could be doing instead of whatever it is we’re doing — we’re choosing to do this. Why?
Death is the end of life here. If we assume we’ll live to be 80 or older, it’s not a lot of time. You’re likely between the ages of 27 and 70. Maybe you’re younger. Maybe older. No matter. You’re either statistically ahead of the “death curve” or behind it. Meaning, you’ve either got more future in front of you than past, or you’ve got more past behind you than future in front of you. This timeline of life is always moving us further up the road toward the end. It’s our reality. All of us.
What Are You Doing With Your Time?
The crux of my work with CEO’s, business owners and leaders isn’t time management. For starters, I don’t believe in it. Not for myself anyway. I prioritize on the fly. Always have. I scan what’s happening and immediately (with speed) put the urgent and important thing up at the very top. Urgent but less important things tend to not be considered urgent for me. I have trouble labeling anything urgent that isn’t important. Illustration: I was out and about and my gas light came on. I pulled into a gas station and fueled up. The morning 38-ounce water bottle I had emptied was catching up with me. I had the urge, but the gas station was one of those cashier booth only kind of places. So I fill up and head toward home. By the time I got home it was urgent. Might not seem so important, but tell my bladder that. It was URGENT. And it was IMPORTANT. I guess somebody may be able to convince me there’s a way something can be urgent without being important, but I don’t live like that. So, I prioritize in real-time. Always have.
And I get stuff done, then move on. My objective is to fix it the first time, if possible. I’m not interested in patching it up so it’ll hold for a bit to buy me more time. Why would I want to come back and mess with it again if I’m here right now messing with it? It’s a point of view. You can have a different one and I won’t think less of you.
It all speaks to how we deal with TIME. I’ve just given you a glimpse of how I deal with it. It’s important for us to think more deeply about it because it’s all we’ve got. Our hours, days, months and years make up our lives. And the lives of the people who matter to us.
What are you doing with your time and the people in your life?
I’m very involved in church work. The other day somebody asked me about that work and I told them how there are many young adults in my life (my favorite people). Right now, I’m completely focused on serving them to see who may be able and willing to one day serve in leadership. In short, I said, “I’m working really hard to grow future leaders.” First, I had to – and I still have to – invest in myself to become a better leader. And I do.
I spend time with myself. I spend time with other people. I’m much less focused these days on some specific work product as I am the people producing or helping produce the work product. Yes, the work product matters, but a funny thing happens when you put the attention where it can serve you best – on the people (and this includes yourself). The work product dramatically improves. Problems get solved more quickly. More permanently. Opportunities get spotted more quickly, too. And taken advantage of. People gain energy. And enthusiasm when we begin to understand that they’re the horsepower behind the engine that is our business!
We’re all gonna be dead much longer than we’ll be alive. That is, we’ll be on this planet for a brief time. The world will go on without us much, much longer than it will go on with us.
It’s also why the third leg of the trifecta of business building exists. Over at GrowGreat.com where I serve leaders I often talk about the trifecta of business building: getting new customers, serving existing customers better and not going crazy in the process.
Can we operate our businesses and our lives without losing ourselves? Can we live our lives and enhance ourselves? Can we live in a way that drives success higher than before…while at the same time finding greater joy? Yes, yes and yes.
“Memory believes before knowing remembers.”
You have to think about it. Then you have to believe it. That it’s possible. And you’ve got to feel it deep down where you really live.
When you do, it’ll change everything. For the better. Your actions will be congruent to make it so. Lord willing, somewhere down the line, you’ll be able to look back with fond memories of how well you did. And it’ll happen because of the people you decided to give your attention to, and the people you allowed to give to you.
Craving Encouragement: The Hatching Of An Idea
Craving Encouragement began as just a truth unraveled by the realization that no matter who we are, or our station in life…every single one of us craves somebody willing and able to walk with us through our struggles. Not somebody who will cheerlead us with trite phrases – “You can do anything you put your mind to” – but people who love us, care about us and want to do whatever they can to serve us. It’s our universal craving for deeper connection and deeper encouragement.
Every human being craves connection. Perhaps introverts, like me, crave fewer, but deeper connection. Extroverts may lean more toward a wider variety of connections. Those details don’t matter so much. Mostly, what we all crave is a human connection with somebody who understands us in all of our context. That makes these connections valuable, but it also makes them rare.
We have many slashes behind our name. The various titles and roles we have. The struggle is compounded because finding somebody – developing a close relationship with somebody – who fully understands all these slashes is really hard. Harder still to find such a person who loves us enough to seek our very best — even if it means challenging us, pushing us and doing all the things necessary to encourage us through our toughest times.
Tough times are often made tougher because we’re unwilling to be vulnerable enough with people who care about us. It’s a protection thing. Fearful that we may be hurt, we avoid letting down our guard enough to allow somebody to encourage us. The surgeon capable of saving our life also has the capacity to do us harm. Trust…deep enough trust that we know the surgeon is working hard to help us, we willingly put our trust in this person. In a similar fashion, if we’ll be served by those willing to encourage us, we have to be open to the possibility, however remote, that we may suffer. The power to help also has the power to harm. We have to be willing to face both realities.
Sometimes we’ll be hurt. But hopefully, more often than not, we’ll be served. And be able to serve.
Have you ever hurt somebody you really love? Of course. We’ve all done that. Hopefully, not because our aim was to do them harm, but because we were careless, or ignorant…or just human! Craving encouragement is a valid desire. Examine the perceived intentions of the people who surround you. Not all the people who surround us are created equally. Look for the people in your life with the very best intentions. Look for the people in your life who you admire and love the most, and those who love and admire you.
Learn to encourage. It’s the quickest path to elevating your own reception of encouragement. It’s also the ideal path toward making a deeper mark on the world, by making a bigger impact on the lives of the people you care about most. Helping others is the reason for living.
Wednesday afternoon late, I lost a lifelong person like that. Here’s what I posted on Facebook about him, along with a photograph containing a line by poet Thomas Campbell. ” To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
Barney Owens left this world for the next late yesterday afternoon, Wednesday – February 20, 2019 around 5:15pm EST. He was a lifelong friend, confidant and mentor. The phrase in scripture that has always most reminded me of Barney is “a word fitly spoken.”
Proverbs 25:11-13 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
In settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear. Like the cold of snow in time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters.”
Barney was never verbose. With simple, straightforward Kentucky bred wit he’d always find words that would cut to the chase.
When I was much younger it was apparent we shared more than Faith. Barney was a reader and a pondering man. Studying at the feet of Edwin Morris for many years, I’d often smile when listening to Barney encourage me or challenge me using a phrase I’d heard Edwin use so many times. “I’ve been studying about that,” he’d say. Barney was a studying man. I wanted to benefit as much as possible from his endeavors.
He held a unique spot in my world – a man capable and willing to caringly challenge. Unafraid to tell me where he feared I may be going awry. Pushing me to study more. So many times he’d begin a sentence with one verb, “Think.” For example, “Think about…” and he might mention a verse of scripture (more likely than not) or something he’d been pondering during the many miles he spent behind the steering wheel. Barney Owens was thoughtful about the Scriptures.
People lament growing older because of the toll it takes on health and finances. Those aren’t at the forefront of my growing older. Losing mentors is proving the most challenging of all for me.
I’m working hard to be responsible and wise so I can pass it on. All the lessons men like Barney taught me. All the hours invested to serve me. To make me better. To make me however good I may be. I’m the product of the people who have surrounded me. My faults are entirely my own.
I’m a better man because Barney Owens was my friend. I loved him very much. And thankfully last Friday in a phone conversation, our last, we took the opportunity to express that to each other.
I’ll miss him very much, but I’ll think of him often. And I’ll remember the truths he taught me so I can teach them to others.
Getting ready to stay dead a long time means we have to make the most of each day. The Bible makes it clear that God created mankind and that He created us for His glory. The ultimate purpose of man, according to the Bible, is to glorify God.
Isaiah 43:7 “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Of course, the big question is, “How?”
Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
There’s the reason for living. And if like me, you believe in a life beyond this one, then you believe being dead for a long time – dead physically – means spending eternity somewhere. Life here is preparation for a longer life elsewhere. Eternally.
It means putting forth a big effort to help others should become a bigger priority for us.
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Thanks for listening.