Admittedly, the year 2014 ended with a sputter rather than a bang. My tale of woe all began a few days before Halloween. I had tweaked my back and for three days I could barely move, hobbling around like I was a 95 year old man – the kind of old man that has a cane and waves it angrily at cars that drive too fast. As a result, I had to cancel and reschedule a bunch of work at the end of October, shifting it into the only three good weeks in November. Unbeknownst to me, that was the beginning of a chain reaction that sets up the purpose of this post. After three marathon weeks in November, I got sick. But not just any sick. No. I don’t do things half-way, folks. No, not me. I started off the week of Thanksgiving by getting the flu. After beginning to recover by mid-week, I started to feel my throat barking by Friday night. I figured, “here we go again. That damn flu still hasn’t fully left.” I was wrong. By Saturday morning I was so congested and my throat was so swollen, I had to sit upright to breathe. On Sunday, my seven year old was diagnosed with strep throat. Sure enough, that’s what dear old dad had contracted – a raging angry case of strep throat. So bad was my particular case that my ear drum had ruptured in that 48 hour period from all of the pressure. Nearly two and half weeks later, I was still on the mend (with the help of some extra strong antibiotics).
And, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
Lying in bed for countless days straight forced me to rethink some things. I came to the realization that over the entire year I had been pushing very hard to create the next big thing. Even though I didn’t realize it (or want to admit it), I was putting an enormous amount of pressure on myself. All the signs were there. Blood pressure, back issues, etc… But did I listen? Of course not.
Do any of us listen when we are driving towards something and we believe the only way is forward?
Being forced off the treadmill made me listen. Today, I’m in a different and better place than I was then. Here’s what I came to realize:
- I need to take care of myself – this starts with prioritizing my health and healthy routines above everything else. If Hall of Famer’s do it, shouldn’t I? But it also means not overworking myself by filling my schedule completely full day after day. Just because I have capacity does not mean that I have to use it.
- I need to take the long view – I’m the king of trying to work magic in one calendar year (perhaps my greatest strength and weakness). For example, one year I was going to grow my coaching practice, write a book, pilot a TV show and still keep all the rest of the balls in the air (existing coaching clients, consulting work, speaking engagements, teaching 500+ MBA’s, radio stuff, blogging, etc…). Umm, no. Patience, grasshopper. I need to focus on less and do it better. Incremental movements are key.
- I need to savor the moment – My wife and I had been talking about moving from our current house to something a bit bigger. Our house was great, but after 14 years, we were getting close to outgrowing it. I would be kidding myself if this hadn’t been one more stressor in the back of my mind (racing to build up cash in order to make a move). Looking around at my home had me thinking to myself, “yeah, we probably will outgrow this soon. And, at that point, we’ll move. But today is not that day.” And that philosophy doesn’t apply just to my house. I’m going to sit back and savor where I’m at today in all aspects of my life. The day will come when I’ll be moving on to something else soon enough (home, family, opportunities, etc…). Doors will open. Doors will close. I don’t need to bang on the doors impatiently in the meantime.
- I need to set the right habits – Getting sick for that many days in a row had an unexpected outcome. It knocked me off of all of my routines. Of course it killed the good ones, but it also killed the bad routines. As an executive coach, I’m all about setting the right routines. And I also recognize that in the middle of craziness, it is hard to intentionally stop and change behaviors. It feels like there is too much at stake. I’ve been given the gift of a reset. From my eating to my exercise routines, from family time to my mental outlook, I’ve reset a bunch of stuff.
So, there you have it. For any hard charging, ambitious type, I highly recommend getting sick. It forced me to reevaluate, reflect and redesign my life for the better.
So, lick some door knobs. Go to a day care and ignore the hand sanitizer. Throw out the 5 second rule and eat anything you find laying around between the couch cushions.
You’ll thank me later.