15 years ago, as I emerged from the funk that ultimately led me to starting Life Again, I bought a Collins 3880 Account Book (Feint and Paged!) to start taking account of my own life. It had a “hard cover” so I knew it was for keeps. I started thinking about the things in my life which were important to me, including uplifting words, important daily actions, personal priorities, positive affirmations, and, critically, a letter to myself outlining how I saw myself in the future. It sits by my desk at home. I’m revisiting it now as I write and realise that I have strayed off course recently – we all stray off course, but that’s OK. Just need to adjust again. Just like getting the annual medical check-up.
Back to the Collins Book. In capital letters on the second page is a Heading “Important Things to Me.” There are 6 key words written down in bold capitals in what appears to be a fairly random order.
And immediately below also in capitals is written
NB. MONEY NOT IN THIS.
So, there you have it. It had taken me until about my mid-50s to understand that money had dropped out of my finals team. Like most of my Waspish generation I had clamoured up the slippery ladder of life not really understanding what was going to really count in the end. Money and its pursuit had played a disproportionate role and had led me down some murky paths. Money was often used as a measure whereas it is only a part of the whole. It’s important but where does it sit if you are unhappy, unhealthy, unfulfilled and friend- starved?
“It had taken me until about my mid-50s to understand that money had dropped out of my finals team.”
My Life Again story has always been about helping people – men in particular – adjust their compasses to enable them to get through the difficult times in life. Finding the balance and working out what’s REALLY important is a critical part of the lesson. I might be talking as an older man but that makes no difference. I would have loved to have been taught this lesson at various times in my life. So, if you’re 20, 30, 40, or whatever, give it a bit of your time and write it down. “What are the important things to you right now?” If you’re totally honest you’ll be really surprised.
I keep being reminded of the billionaire founder of Apple, Steve Jobs’ last words on his sick bed before he died of pancreatic cancer at 56: “…aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to. Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down………..Treat yourself well. Cherish others………as we grow older, and hence wiser, we slowly realise that wearing a $300 or $30 watch – they both tell the same time. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only a few really understand it.”
“Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down. Treat yourself well.”
Steve Jobs died an unhappy man. But his greatest legacy may not be Apple but rather these words he left us when he died.
It is tough being in the prime of life or what appears to be the prime of life. The pressures are extraordinary. The demands are massive and seemingly growing exponentially. We are being tugged in every direction and yet we try to fit everything in. Throw in the need to see or be seen on social media and there is hardly time to breathe. (As an aside, when was the last time you took in a really deep breath? Do it now, go down to the depth of your stomach and take a long deep breath. Do it a few times. Most of the the time we take short shallow breaths and hardly ever exercise our lungs. We’ve even lost the ability to breathe properly.)
“We are being tugged in every direction and yet we try to fit everything in.”
Jobs referred to “whichever stage of life we are at right now.” That actually means YOU. It means ALL of us. When are you going to look at who you’d really like to be? When are you going to spend more time with your kids? Not just real time, but emotional time. I hate seeing parents with their kids whilst communicating with and on their phones. Have we really come to this?
So. Family, friends, health, nature, love, time. These are my list. Steve Jobs ended up with a list which included Sunlight, Rest, Exercise, Diet, Self Confidence, and some of my List.
His final words were “Maintain them in all stages of Life and enjoy a healthy life.” If you don’t take my word for it, perhaps you’ll listen to Steve Jobs. If not now, when?