I pulled into the cemetery off of Half Moon Bay, just 20 miles outside of San Francisco. As I watched the construction loader back up away from the site, chills ran down my back. I was reminded of the day (almost 20 years ago) when we buried my father.
I made my way slowly into the reception hall and recalled a scene from "7 Habits of Highly Effective People." Covey begins the chapter asking you to imagine walking through a funeral home, just like this one. He describes all of the familiar faces you pass by as you make your way to the front.
Here I was walking into the room to see my aunt crying softly knowing she'll never seen her son again.
What if it were me? What would I be remembered for?
What if it were my mother or brother? What would be the last thing I say to them?
Covey's chapter continues to ask these same questions with the focus on keeping 'the end in mind'.
My key message has been said before but it never hurts to press repeat: life is too short not to be conscious of how we live it.
"Don't let anyone define your dreams."
Sometimes it's hard not to live other people's lives; well at least for me. Being an Arab American, I'm quite torn between what I want and what my mother thinks I want. When it comes to my dreams, I've been set on who I want to be when I grow up. I map my decisions to my values so I can live with no regrets.
It's not always easy. But when I heard the quote above last week from Mara Aspinall, CEO of Health Catalysts, it resonated with me. My dreams are my own and at the end I'll be the one looking back and analyzing how it played out.
"Take risks young."
Aspinall continued to talk about her career journey and how she wouldn't be where she is today without having taken a risk or two. Yes they were calculated but in your younger years, you're able to take on more and they become legends or lessons.
My dominant personality has a tendency to get me in trouble more often than not. In meetings, I speak up against senior managers, if what he or she is saying doesn't match our mission statement. Out with friends, I lose sight of humility and say things that unintentionally hurt my loved ones. Or on a drive into work, I push an idea so hard that it pushes my closest friend away.
From the Human Element
We can argue whether or not this is right but you only get a few free passes in life before you have to pay up. My greatest gift is being able to reflect regularly on interactions and trying to prevent negative scenarios from re-occurring. But it's a painful thought that I'm only human and can trip again.
Returning home from San Francisco was harder than I anticipated. I've lost close family members since I was eight years old yet each time it only gets harder. I assumed I could jump back into work projects but found myself tearing up when someone would ask where I was earlier in the week.
This post may have been one of my more bleak ones but it is a reminder to be grateful of who we have in our circle and what we have at our expense. It's critical to keep an eye on what the end state should look like but you should never lose sight of today.
To end with another quote of Ms. Aspinall "it is what you do next that counts."