An End of Life Behavioral Lesson to Enhance Our Missions

- May 30, 2014 9:40 AM
Categories: Commentary | Tags:

As the title suggests, this post has a sad element. But I hope it also contains some valuable insight to enhance the outcomes of our business lives where we spend many of our waking hours. Humanity, as a virtue (defined by Wikipedia), is a set of strengths focused on tending and befriending others — perhaps the most important and neglected component of our daily lives, that ultimately perfects the secret sauce that makes most of us happy and productive in our ubiquitous technological existence.

I was incredibly fortunate many years ago to meet a couple, Rob and Michele, who owned and ran a local restaurant hands-on. They also had entirely separate day jobs and we somehow found time to become fast and close friends. We also discovered a mutual passion for the sea and shore, and shared a boat for many years, once they decided to enjoy the fruits of their immense laboring. I vividly recall a Memorial Day weekend during that time that was pure San Diego weather wise — but on the East Coast — and the rest of the season followed suit. “The best summer ever” was our constant refrain. Unfortunately, it was for Michele, and likely Rob too.

Michele was admitted to a hospice care center last weekend. I called the facility early the next day and the reception I received from the staff was one of the most compassionate experiences I can recall. Their professional diligence in qualifying who I was and returning my call after speaking with Michele to relay precise and appropriate details stood in stunning contrast not only to the medical treatment facilities with which we’re all well acquainted, but also the general malaise and indifference that too often predominates in our daily business lives.

So I got to thinking why this interaction was so different. The answer lies in how we go about our days never doubting that tomorrow and the days that follow will come. If on any particular day we’re especially busy, on tight deadlines and stressed, we permit our capacity to be polite, caring, and helpful to wane. And we think, “It’s okay. I don’t have time for x, y, or z right now. I can only do so much. They’ll understand, they know how I can be.” And so on. Upon reflection, we may even apologize later for being terse, inattentive, or unkind to colleagues because our default thinking is that we’ll have a second chance — get a do over. Maybe so.

I’m not a fan of attempts at inspirational speeches, life coaching, or imposing one’s spiritual values upon another, and the humanity lesson that I want to convey is not about befriending everyone with whom we interact. But as I’m present with the impending loss of my dear friend — who also happens to be and remains one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I have ever known — I am struck by how much human capital we too easily drop from our radar that, if paid closer attention to, would significantly enhance our goals and the well being and productivity of those around us.

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