It Gets Your Attention (and…Merry Christmas!)

"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wiser, so I am changing myself."

-Rumi

Four days before Thanksgiving.

Room 7018. West Tower- REX (UNC) Medical Center in Raleigh, NC.

An oncologist, a urologist, an internist, the hospital general surgeon, and a vascular surgeon stopped by, each offering their ‘take’ on my condition.

It got my attention.

I had just completed a business trip to Las Vegas, and was in North Carolina to celebrate Thanksgiving with many members of our family. Our daughter, Evie, her war hero husband Steve, and our granddaughters Adriana and Siena, flew all the way from Japan.

Apparently, the condition causing me so much pain, of such acute interest to the cadre of medical specialists, was…quite rare.

Thanksgiving in Carolina Beach was lovely, although I mostly observed from my perch on the couch in the corner.

This week, I go in for the cure. Two days in the hospital being pumped full of steroids. I’m scheduled to be released on Christmas Eve.

I expect to come out of the steroid treatment totally ‘jacked’. Of course, I’ll be ineligible to play professional sports.

Here’s the thing…

Dark and Stormy

I’ve been blessed with exceptional health my entire life. Lots of energy. Passion. An enduring penchant to do all the good I can before my time is through.

This ‘thing’ deflated my sails for sure…for a time. Life, and all its bounty, became a lot less interesting. The ‘small stuff’ ceased to matter…at all.

Passing through moments of impending darkness, my ordeal has tendered the opportunity to assess [basically everything] from a rejuvenated point of view.

Two such perspectives are now forefront.

It is now clear to me: it is impossible to genuinely empathize with another- especially one dealing with a drawn-out potentially life-threatening condition. That is, until you’ve been there yourself.

I thought I could. I couldn’t. My lens and viewpoint have transformed.

This is an important thing to know for those of us who seek to influence others.

Second, if you’ve followed my work, you’re likely aware, I consider gratitude to be the most important word in English. Mine has now greatly magnified- for my unlimited blessings, opportunities to serve; for the people in my life I love and who love me.

My perspective on this ‘ride’ we refer to as ‘life’ has notched dramatically upward. You might say I’m closer to grasping the ‘Big Picture’.

So...how does this relate to leading human performance, safety, or error reduction?

And…what the heck does it have to do with Christmas?

My fondest love of the work we do and the folks we are honored to work with (such as you), is- we have a high purpose. Far beyond simply grabbing a paycheck or building a business, we hunger to make an honest difference in our world.

Through our efforts, we save lives, we keep people from getting hurt, we prevent physical and environmental catastrophe, and we increase profitability.

What could possibly be better than that?

It’s been my experience that those of us called to such efforts tend to care more. We give more. We harbor an all-integrating sense of responsibility for the welfare of others.

The thing is, we often tend to feel stifled and unappreciated, as if our task is a never-ending sortie, pitted against most everyone and everything. And I have discovered, should we continue to posit our advance thusly, the incline only steepens.

As an alternative, consider Rumi’s quote at the opening of this Insight.

His awareness was acquired late in life. My recent ordeal has gifted me a glimpse:

The only way to multiply your ability as a force for good is for you to focus upon…you.

It’s not about systems, budgets, politics or databases. It’s not about hoping others will ‘get their act together’. It’s about…you.

On January 2nd, we go back to work- doing our best to help make our world a better and safer place.

But for now, realize that Christmas, and the in-between through New Year’s Day, is the perfect time for you to focus internally. The ideal time to reflect, to ponder, to consider possibility.

It’s also the time when gratitude naturally bubbles to the surface of consciousness.

Look around you- you have opportunity to love. You are loved. I have no doubt, should you attempt to count your blessings, you will find it an impossible task- for there are so many. Do it anyway.

You are in a very honorable position. Your role, no matter your focused facet of performance improvement, is a grand one. It is filled with tremendous opportunity AND responsibility.

For now, however, take rest. You, and our counterparts in this field, truly are making a difference.

Thank you for being you.

I wish you and your family a VERY Merry Christmas and joyous holiday season.

Until next time,

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