Edition 21, Dec. 13, 2006

 "For those Who Want to Sell, Need to Sell, or Should Sell--to Sell More"                                                                                                                                                                                                                      December 2006 

Dear Todd,

In memory of my father...

"As we come to the end of this phase of our lives, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad. 

We find ourselves worrying about the future. Where are we gonna be in 10 years? 

Please, don't worry so much, because in the end, none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting.... 

Make your life SPECTACULAR. I know I did." 

Robin Williams, in the 1996 motion picture, Jack

The Precious Present

Goals. Accomplishments. Achievements. Worry.

You really can't have the first three without having the last one. 

As we wind down 2006 and anticipate next year, we ask ourselves, Where did the year go? How will we make 2007 different-- and better? 

It's time to revisit our goals. It's time to list what we will achieve next year. It's time to plan what we will accomplish. It's time to decide how we will reach our unfulfilled dreams. Right?

In the past, no one was more a champion of this than me. Write down your goals, be specific and give yourself deadlines. I taught clients this. I did it myself.

But this year is different. 

I still will, and likewise encourage you to do the same. But now I challenge you to do something else, too: Enjoy your "ordinary moments."

In 2006, for the first time, I learned to both dream about the future and appreciate the present. I always thought the two couldn't go hand in hand, but I was wrong. 

I know now that sometimes our own blind ambition makes us forget what really matters. Whether it is the unbridled passion to make $200,000 or the goal to run that first marathon, while valuable experiences, remember that living today is what enables us to appreciate tomorrow. Too often we think about how better life can be versus how good life is. 

No one has been guiltier of the belief than me that if we just make that one sale, or just marry that one woman, or just land that one dream job, then all our prayers will be answered. The problem is that if we don't channel this energy, then we may wake up one day and find we lived a life unfulfilled. 

I discovered this in the most tragic of ways. 

Last month, my father died. He was 65. He committed suicide. 

While some may question my desire to share the circumstances surrounding his death, I've always tried to live a life to help others. If something good can come from something so bad, and I can play a small role in providing this servitude, then that is a gift I cherish to give. 

My father and I were not close. To say otherwise would be dishonest. We hadn't spoken in a year. Our last correspondence was a two-sentence e- mail that had an abrupt exchange. 

But as I reflect on memories of my father, I realize in death he may have taught me more than in life.

My father was not a happy man, despite appearances. He always worried. He always strived for more. It was never enough.

He was a very successful man- professionally and personally - by everyone's definition, except his own. He had money, a successful career and a loving family. Still, he always either needed more or worried he would lose what he had. 

It was my father's quest for tomorrow that cost him to appreciate today. It forced him to miss the joy that was right in front of him. 

This is the challenge with goals. We find ourselves so driven to accomplish that sometimes we lose sight of why we had the goal in the first place.

The more we think about the future, the more we unknowingly take action to protect ourselves against the present. 

See, to live in the present often results in making yourself vulnerable. When you focus on the future, it indirectly means you can take measures to protect yourself. When you are proactive, you can defend yourself against unforeseen forces.

However, in the present, nothing is unforeseen. There is only what is reality- the here and now. But while there are fewer things scarier than vulnerability, no feeling is more real. And when it's real, nothing is more fulfilling.

To achieve true peace and happiness, we must recognize our own humanity. To quote a famous book, we must enjoy "The Precious Present." 

Oh sure, still have your big goals. After all, I plan to compete in my first Ironman Triathlon next September in Madison, Wisconsin. I've already begun training regularly.

But what's interesting with this adventure quest is how I'm enjoying the training. It's the baby goals I'm already experiencing that make the rigorous sessions fulfilling. 

Take my running, for instance, my weakest event. I now run for a mere half hour at a time. I then break it down even further into 2 and 3 minute intervals. Rather than focusing on how I will run a marathon, after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles, I jog in 100 yard intervals.

Here's what I do: I pick a landmark I can see in the distance, such as a tree. I run toward it. The run takes normally no more than a minute. When I reach the tree, I slow down. I gather my breath, walk for no more than a minute or two, and then run again. I follow the same routine over and over. I extend my training daily and weekly. Along the way, I find myself running to further and further trees. Not only is this actually a better physical workout, but the feeling of exhilaration at seeing the finish line, only to create another finish line, is spectacular.

When I run past that tree, I smile because I know there is another tree just ahead. I can already see it. There is no end, only starting points. 

Somewhere, I know, my father is smiling.

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