This book is based on 58 years of living, working, and learning. Some of what’s in here may seem basic, but as I look back, I’m amazed at how many times I’ve had to relearn the same lessons. My hope is that by sharing this, I might save you from making my missteps and help your lives be a little easier.
I originally envisioned this as a memo filled with professional advice for an audience of two, but I discovered that it was impossible to avoid veering into very personal territory. See, with my days numbered, my mind plays this trick where an idea, or a poem, or a favorite quip pops up and I think, “Ooh! I’d better include that, too! Wouldn’t it be a shame if that gem was lost?” Hubris? Yeah.
And then Covid-19 happened. Suddenly, the world was in lockdown with me, but like everyone else, I found it difficult to concentrate, to focus. I felt I could offer nothing you’d find useful in any of the dystopian versions of the future my mind conjured. And so, I took a two-week break in the middle of this project. I imagined my eyes would benefit from taking a hiatus from eye-gaze typing for 10 hours at a stretch. But two weeks passed, and my eyes got wonky and even harder to focus. Lou Gehrig’s disease isn’t just progressive, it’s relentless. I so wanted ALS to give me a little break, to level off for a week while I got caught up. But no.
Funnily enough, that taught me something that (not surprisingly) I’m going to pass on to you, along with the other advice in this book. Sometimes, survival, much less living the life we expected to live, simply isn’t possible. Failing to acknowledge that is itself a failure to face the brutal truth of one’s situation. How, then, is one able to not lose hope when death is the inevitable outcome? In this case, I’ve discovered that it’s about learning to define success as something other than living and about having objectives that are both positive and attainable.
My hope is that this book gets you closer to being able to accomplish that. And lest you think I’ve changed too much, I’ve still got my perhaps inflated sense of pride, as evidenced by the ISBN bar code I’m including on the back of this volume, along with the Library of Congress registration number near the copyright. Who adds those to a memo to their kids? Let’s just be kind and say that I am someone with great self-confidence. I’m going to print about 100 of these as I’ve had several requests for copies, and I want you to have extras to give away.
The ISBN number is needed if you decide you want to market this to a wider audience. (There may very well be one, since top companies and captains of industry paid me a lot of money for my advice and coaching.) Plus, some people ascribe an extra wisdom dividend to the words of a dying person. I don’t know about that, but what I do know is that nothing focuses the mind like the ultimate deadline.
P.S. I think the Library of Congress number is optional. Put it in the same vanity bucket as my admission to the Supreme Court, the judge’s badge, and the Actor’s Equity membership. This used to be known as a humblebrag, but I am reliably informed by Ashley Engelman, and this was confirmed by you, Jack, that it’s now called a flex (!). I’m flexing.