He was in his 80s, with a tired smile and steel blue eyes behind thick glasses. He had a beat up old wallet full of wrinkled papers and a few dollar bills, and leaned on one of those fancy canes I’ve seen on TV infomercials a few times. I don’t know his name, where he was from or much else, but our paths crossed at the dentist the other day. We were both at the check-out desk confirming our insurance details (why is that so confusing?!) and finalizing our next appointments. We struck up a casual conversation as the woman behind the desk fiddled with the printer. It inspired me (his story, not the broken printer). Here’s what I learned.
His story, in a nutshell
His dad worked at Bethlehem Steel for 40 years. It was a decent job with decent pay, but his dad hated it. So, instead of following in his dad’s footsteps (which was increasingly hard with the demise of Bethlehem Steel), he went to work as an insurance adjuster. He didn’t love it, but it paid the bills and put food on the table. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Then, at age 40, he had a heart attack.
The 9-to-5, punch-the-clock, keep-up-with-the-Jones corporate American lifestyle had caught up with him.
And he didn’t like it.
So he made some changes. Immediately.
He traded in his suit and tie for a camera and RV and travelled around the world with his wife taking pictures of wildlife. He explored the country, one beautiful state at a time. He started in Florida during the winter months and slowly moved across the country as the weather got nicer. Photo agencies sold his work to magazines and other media outlets.
His favorite animals to photograph were cougars and bears, armed with nothing more than a camera and a stick to slap the animal on the nose if it dared get too close. I told him that seemed ill-advised to me, but he absolutely loved it. It made him feel alive.
We walked to the parking lot together, still talking, and he suddenly stopped, looked up and said,
“Young man, whatever you do in life, make sure you love it.”
I smiled, wished him well and we went our separate ways.
According to Wikipedia, the average lifespan is 79.8 years. 79.8 years. That’s it. How old are you?
I’m 36. So, 50 years from now, I’ll be 86 years old – just like my dentist friend…if I’m lucky enough to beat the odds and outlast the statistics.
The math certainly puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Simply put, we don’t have much time to make our mark!
So, no matter what we do, let’s do it better. Let’s help more people. Let’s grow our businesses. Let’s do the right thing. And above all else, let’s love doing it.
The only question that matters
Sure, life and business can be confusing, but there’s really only one question that matters.
What will you see when you look back on your life?
Good question. Thanks old man.