Thursday, October 31, 2013

If You Wait To Address A Need Until You Have The Need, You've Likely Waited Too Late

"Nobody has to tell the ant what to do.

    All summer it stores up food;
    at harvest it stockpiles provisions.
So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?"

 - Proverbs 6

Over Memorial Day Weekend of this year I had a routine appendectomy performed. That routine appendectomy ended-up being anything but routine and led to a series of infections. Ultimately in September I had a MRSA-laden abscess the size of two softballs removed from my chest cavity. The illness cost me a lot of hours, emotions and dollars and was a tremendous drain on several relationships. 

The surgery to remove the abscess from the chest, what is called a "thoracotomy/decortication," is a major surgery, with plenty of subsequent pain, surgical risks and a long recovery period. Yet in the first hours after my surgery, doctors were clear that I had an advantage. I was not going to be the run-of-the-mill patient because years of physical condition and a solid diet would greatly improve my outcome compared to my peers. Additionally, the discipline I've learned as a CrossFit athlete and marathoner had taught me how to suffer and endure and still maintain a positive and realistic outlook during difficult moments, something you need to have in place before your chest is opened-up.

In a recent video I posted on YouTube, I covered some of my insights. A main insight is this: If we wait until we have a need to address the need, then we have waited too late.  The best time to prepare for difficulties is in times of abundance. 

  • The time to get a loan for your business is when your business is operating profitably, not during a downturn.
  • The time to right size and close unprofitable activities is when an organization as a whole is profiting.
  • The time to align your activities to your life's values is when you are flourishing and not when you are struggling.
  • The time to invest in your marriage is when it is going well.
  • The time to tell and show your kids your love is often and early and not when they get into tight straights.
  • The time to change your diet is before you are diagnosed with conditions and illnesses that could sideline for long periods of time.
  • The time to start a new exercise program is likely right now and not later.
You get the idea.

So, pretend you are an ant. Where is the area of your life where you can begin storing up your provisions you'll need in the future?

Here is my YouTube Video

Monday, October 28, 2013

Write Your Own Obituary

“Begin with the end in mind.” – Steven Covey.
This exercise is the ultimate expression of that mindset.

Real personal significance and achievement is unlocked when we envision a desired future and then move forward. Priorities take hold. We learn to stop giving time to what is urgent and focus on what is important. How will you be remembered? What do you really want to achieve? What relationships will you invest in with the limited time you have in this life?

Without further ado then, complete this “self-written obituary” exercise below. Your focus should be do you want your obituary to be written when you die? 

Take 30 minutes to answer the questions, then read your obituary from end-to-end and ask yourself, “Is this really how I want my life summarized?”  Make the changes based on your review. Next, share the document with someone you trust and who is close to you and let them ask you questions about it. 

Don’t be surprised if the exercise rearranges your priorities and becomes a driving force to align your daily activities with your ultimate goals!


___________________________________________(your full name)


_________________ (your full name) was born in _________________ (town/city) on ___________________ (date of birth), the child of _________________ (Mother’s full name) and _________________ (Father’s full name).  

Those friends and family closest to _________________ (your first name), described her/him as______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 (describe or list here the most important personal characteristics for which you want to be remembered).

_________________ (your first name) was proudest of several significant achievements in their life________________________________________________________________
 (list here whatever you consider to be significant: college degrees, military service, contributions made to community, businesses you founded, children, grandchildren, etc.).

_________________ (your first name), enjoyed spending time ________________________________________________________________________
(describe here how you want to use your time, not how you are using your time presently).

The one thing that they always wanted to do, but never found time or energy to do was ________________________________________________________________________
 (describe here something that you would love to experience in life, but have been delaying to do).

_________________ (your first name), loved to ___________________________________

(list here things you love  or would love to do, things that bring you to life such as hobbies, leisure activities like travel, visiting the mountains, raising kids, serving others, etc.)

_________________ (your first name) leaves behind many family and friends who loved them. They are survived by________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________ (list who would survive and miss you today, their names and their relationship to you, eg “wife” or “daughter.”

_________________ (your first name) In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you consider a donation to _____________________________________________________________
(the charitable organization that most resonates with your life purpose).

Friday, October 4, 2013

What Do I Want at The End of This Day?

Recently life has dealt me a difficult hand to play. A simple and routine appendectomy back over Memorial Day weekend took a lot of odd twists and turns, resulting  months later in a large MRSA abscess in my right lung cavity. Major surgery, IV antibiotics and lots of rest and down time are required to restore my health.

My confession: I am not good at "Down Time."

There are many things that are frustrating about illness, but a major frustration for me is the sense of anxiety I have that 'nothing will get done while I am sick.' What does not get done is not just business or making a dollar, other things suffer: Relationships suffer because I am isolated, my sense of satisfaction that I get from doing work-worthily is lost because I am not working, the exhaustion that accompanies acute pain dulls my critical thinking and leaves me confused. Early in my illness, I found myself very frustrated at night, having not accomplished near enough, swearing to do better the next day and then failing the next day because my basic capability to work was unchanged. It was a very bad loop down with no real sense of how to get out, except by working harder, something I could not do.

Asking myself a question relieved me of a lot of anxiety and also has helped me to be much more effective in the midst of this difficulty.  I ask myself at the beginning of every day, "What do I want at the end of this day?"   

This question is so powerful that Kathi, my wife, has started asking me this in the morning too.  As I answer her out loud, I find my thinking about what is important to me. I think about what will really make me happy, what will get me closer to my big goals and what is enough. My thinking gets clearer and a lot of unnecessary daily activities that would normally be assumed as needing to be done, simply get ruled out of the day.

Thought Experiment: Ask yourself the question: "What do I want at the end of this day?" Now as you ponder the question, consider what your priorities should be, what activities should you drop, what are you doing that is unnecessary, what are you really capable of doing in terms of time and energy?

In my own case, I found that when I first asked the question, I had 11 hours of priorities and activities. However, as a person who was fighting with a serious health issue, I had only 3 hours of energy to work in a day. So then I would ask myself, "What does a '3 Hour Kurt' do in order to get what he wants at the end of the day?" More often than not, I have found that I can achieve many of my goals with much less work than I previously imagined and the sense of accomplishing the most important things lets me put my head down on the pillow at night content, which incidentally is going to speed my recovery.

Don't wait for a serious illness to start asking this enlightening question every morning.

What do you want at the end of this day?

  • A conversation with someone close to you about something important?
  • To get the shopping and laundry done? 
  • To make a decision that you have been procrastinating on?
Forget doing everything on your list of daily "To Do's." Forget doing all the stuff you dutifully believe you must do.  Tomorrow, just do the few things that are going to bring you the most satisfaction at the end of the day. What do you want at the end of the day?