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Several years ago I was helping a CEO and his management team create a succession plan for their family business. In one session, the CEO shared a concern with his senior management team. He brought out a tape measure and pulled out 78 inches.
“Each inch represents a year of the average life span,” he said. He pointed to 66 inches on the tape measure, his current age on the timeline. “One foot left,” he said in a calm, yet sad tone.
He was conveying his surprise at how quickly the inches, or years, had gone by. He acknowledged his business success and was proud of his accomplishments. But he also shared that his life had been of a singular focus and he let other facets — family, friends, church and social causes — be placed behind the value of the business. He had one foot left and vowed to make the most of it.
We tend to think of time and life as circular, like a clock. Every day we get up and make choices. Miss the sunrise or don’t play with the kids today, and there is always tomorrow.
Yet, life is linear, more like an hour glass with sand flowing out of it. We forget the potential value each moment holds until it is gone. Only then do we appreciate the opportunities we lost while we watched TV, played on electronic devices and gave time to other things that now seem so unimportant.
We go through our daily lives like time is always going to be available, putting off the most important things like supporting our kids, helping a friend or finding our life passion.
It is all too common for people to put off making significant changes to their lives, only to realize that 10 or 20 years have gone by, and they regret the changes they never made.
A friend of mine recently died. He was in great shape, training for a marathon at age 42. He was one of the nicest people you will ever know. There was always a smile on his face, and he always had a nice thing to say about people.
My friend was passionate about what he did for a living. He loved his job, and it showed. He also was a great dad and husband. His service was filled with pictures of him spending time with his family and friends, on vacations or at home.
His widow told me he was the top salesman for his company 15 consecutive years. He was an inspiration to others in his company. As a leader, he could ignite passion in others, and he still made time for the most important things in his life, his family. He got more out of his 42 inches than most people do in a lifetime.
Often when people approach the end of their lives, they wish they had taken more chances, made healthier choices, followed their dreams, been a better leader and made a bigger difference in people’s lives. Unfortunately, by then it is too late.
The time to discover your purpose and passion is now. There are many great speeches on YouTube where people discuss their life lessons. I encourage you to spend eight minutes watching the following two videos: “Steve Jobs’ Last and Best Advice” on TheMindsJournal.com and “Finding Your Life’s Passion” on YouTube.
These videos feature life lessons learned from Randy Pausch, Steve Jobs, Will Smith and Stuart Scott. They may provide you a different perspective on life.
All of us can make this a better world and help one another. We must ignite our passion around our purpose and stop wasting all those potential moments.
If we wait until we “have time” or things “settle down at work,” we may find that our tape measures have reached their end. We may wake up one day and wonder “What happened to the promise of tomorrow?”
Do it now! Find your passion, your gift, your purpose and use your time wisely to impact the lives around you.