So it was 10 years ago this month that a very close friend of mine, and a fantastic Middle School teacher with me at the time, died very unexpectedly and very quickly from an aggressive form of throat cancer. One day it was a sore throat and a difficult time swallowing, which we thought nothing of at the time (too much celebrating and spicy food perhaps), but then quite unbelievably, within a few short months he was gone. It seems strange to me that it has been a decade since he passed away, particularly since I think about him all the time, with his photo on my bookshelf in my office, but over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about him more than usual.
I feel incredibly grateful that before he died I was able to sit with him on a few occasions to talk about love, death, regret, and about all of the things that he was grateful for in his life. We also talked about the deep sadness that he felt for having his life cut short so randomly and so unexpectedly. He had a message that he wanted, and needed, to pass on to me before he died, and once he did he wanted me to share it with others…so I did then, and I have tried to intentionally spread it around ever since.
The enduring sentiments, the life lessons, and the immediate call to action that came out of those honest and heartbreaking conversations with Jason positively changed my life forever, and made me a better father, friend, husband and leader. I actually shared much of his wisdom in the only TED talk that I have ever done, titled Living a Life Well Lived, and for the sake of memory and inspiration I decided to re-watch it this past weekend to see if I am still living up to the promise that I made to him during his final days. After watching it again, it struck me that the life lessons and wisdom that he shared with me ten years ago still ring true, and in fact, I think they are more important to me now than they were back in 2012, particularly thinking about our traumatic experience with Covid over the past couple of years.
The things that he implored me to take to heart were simple, yet deeply profound, and at the time they shook me wide awake. They were a perspective and attitude check for sure, and a much needed “look in the mirror” moment for me that has shaped a significant portion of my life. Anyway, the things that he spoke about included the following…
- Embracing your regrets, and using them to inspire you to do better.
- Telling the people that you love that you love them..all the time!
- Regularly thanking the people in your life who have made you smile, made you better, or impacted your life in a positive way.
- Checking your attitude. If there is something in your life that you want to change, change it. If you can’t, then change your attitude.
- Intentionally paying attention to the person that you are for others, each and every day, and with every human interaction that you have.
- Paying attention to the beauty of our world, and the little daily gifts that it offers up to each of us. Beauty is all around us, all the time.
- Putting yourself first and keeping balance in your life.
- Finding gratitude, and using that gratitude to drive your approach to living.
After watching the video again it struck me that because of what’s been happening over the last couple of years with the pandemic, and the sense of isolation and the disruption to community and relationships that we’ve all had to navigate, it’s the right time to share Jason’s message again. The truth of the matter is that we are only given today, and it’s up to all of us how we choose to spend it. We can use today to inspire, spread joy, lift each other up, and find gratitude, or we can show up in a way that deflates others, or even more sadly, we can allow the days to speed by invisibly, missing out on opportunities to connect and to truly live our best lives.
The pandemic has shown us how incredibly important relationships are, and how necessary it is to leverage our community to inspire. It has also shown us how easy it is to get comfortable in isolation, and how easy it is to use digital and online connection as our communication default. Well, as the sun begins to shine and as we stare down the end of the school year, let’s use these lessons to finish strong, and to end what was another difficult year in a positive and uplifting way. Jason may be gone but his message certainly lives on in me, and I hope it can spread a little into your lives as well, as we rapidly approach the summer. Have a wonderful week ahead and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
Self-Care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
Related Articles –
Inspiring Videos –
TEDx Shanghai – Living a Life Well Lived
Embracing Regret – Daniel Pink