The Most Important Thing I Learned This Year

Sometimes things that are very personal can also be important to a much wider sphere. Today is one of those things, I hope, and it’s a good one with which to end 2012.
As my brother lay dying a month or so ago, he said something that really stuck. He had a very rare form of cancer, one which even if it had been caught very early might not have been curable. While Mike was never one for much (if any) self-pity, on this occasion he indulged himself just a bit. What he had to say was a very important thing for your business life and that’s what I’d like to share.

“Why didn’t I take a day off and go to the doctor? Why didn’t I tell a client I can’t meet? Why did I keep going to the office?”

He knew – long before it was obvious to any of the rest of us – that something was wrong yet he felt a responsibility to his job and to his clients to put them first.  Obviously, I’m a big believer in that – I write often about a customer-centric focus.  However, what I learned this year was that if you’re going to serve your clients well you also need to be in sound enough shape physically and mentally to do so.  That requires that we take some time away.  Shut down the email, turn off the cellphone.  Go play a video game or golf or cook or read a non-business book.  Treat yourself as you would a client – they deserve some focused, uninterrupted time and so do you.

As I said, even if he had gone to the doctor the outcome might have been the same.  What might not have been, however, was how he used the time he had left and how he was treated to determine that time.  Mike’s lesson wasn’t exactly something I learned for the first time this year but this time it’s stuck.  I hope he can help it stick with you as well.

Enjoy a day or two off – on to a great 2013!

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