Why Today’s the Best Day to Use the Good China, Eat Chocolate and Follow Your Dreams

This week I received the unf’ortunate news about the passing of a colleague of mine from Sun Microsystems, Mark Bonacorso.

While this is not the first former Sun employee I knew who has passed away, the news struck me hard because Mark had always been such a fun loving, creative, passionate guy–one of those people you want on your team for a big challenging project, and you want to celebrate your successes with afterward, too. Also, because Mark seemed so full of life and young–how is it these people are taken so early from us?

Because none of us are getting any younger and we really don’t know what’s in store for us around the next corner, it’s important to take these losses to heart and make sure we are taking advantage of whatever time we’ve got reserved on this third rock from the Sun.

Which led me to this short checklist, an early set of New Year’s resolutions perhaps, a list of guidelines to follow and keep in mind every day:

  • Today’s the best day to use the good china. Or wear your new outfit. Or drive that car you keep covered up in the garage. What on earth are you waiting for? A written invitation? Several years ago I asked my mother about the large Macy’s bag in the corner of her bedroom. “Oh that,” she said, “It’s new bedding I bought. I’m saving it for a special occasion.” When you’re 80 years old, I think that alone should be considered a “special occasion.” Needless to say, I had that new bed spread on the bed and in use that day.
  • Eat chocolate. Or ice cream, or whatever your favorite passion food is. Everything in moderation, of course, but enjoy what it is you really enjoy. Two years ago, my daughter and I were enjoying good kosher brisket and pastrami at Second Avenue Deli in Manhattan. An older gentleman (probably in his 90s) who was obviously not Jewish, sat down by himself next to us. He ordered a big deli sandwich and proceeded to dig in with gusto. After each bite, he stopped, put the sandwich down and let out a great gasp of satisfaction. After watching this for awhile, I turned to him and remarked how nice it was he was enjoying his meal. With a big smile on his face he said,”My doctor says I shouldn’t eat like this. He told me to wait till I’m 100 before having a meal like this, but I decided, the hell with it! Why do I need to wait this long! I’m enjoying this today while I still can!” And he proceeded to eat all of his meal, savoring each and every bite.
  • Keep the equipment well maintained.  Medical technology notwithstanding, we are still limited to one body per person. It’s up to us to take care to keep that body in good shape, well taken care of and well maintained, as best we can. This means we have to watch the fuel we put in the machine (Would you run a Ferrari on low grade junk fuel and expect to get high performance? Likely not.), we have to follow a solid maintenance schedule (including all those nasty tests we love to hate like mammograms, colonoscopies and the like), and we need to get out on the track and take the ole machine for a good run on a regular basis. Even a well cared for car will rot away if it doesn’t get out and driven on the open road once in a while.
  • Drop the excess baggage from the train.  My mentor, Million Dollar Consultant Alan Weiss says we need to not just drop that excess baggage we’ve been carrying for years, we need to hurl it with great force from the train so it no longer travels with us. And if we kill a few cows along the way, sobeit (Figurative cows, folks, figurative.).
  • Exorcise negative influences from your life.  Some of these are easier to remove than others. If you have a job that is sucking the energy from you, leave and find another one. Same thing if your career no longer motivates and energizes you. Same thing in spades for the negative people in your life. Whether these are friends, colleagues, relatives or even spouses, do what it takes to extricate yourself from those forces that are pulling you down. It may not always be cheap, but hey, that’s why there are lawyers, right?
  • Relentlessly pursue your passion.  This can be work-related, a hobby or a cause you’re involved in. Find something that motivates you and jump in with both feet. It’s not just the body that needs to be maintained, but the spirit as well. Find what excites you and recharges your spirit. Then nourish it daily. Passions are fragile like plants: If you don’t feed them, nourish them, and let them see the light of day, they’ll shrivel up and die an early death.
  • Surround yourself with people that support you.  Once you’ve gotten rid of the deadwood, fill the space with people that support you, nurture you, keep you up when you’re down and will sincerely celebrate your successes with you. And while you’re at it, get a good pet. No one loves you as completely and unreservedly as your dog (sorry, cat lovers). And there’s nothing like a good pet to remind you how important you are in the world–in fact, you ARE their world.
  • Stop worrying about sleeping.  With all due respect to my colleagues in wellness and healthcare, stop worrying about silly things like how many hours a night you sleep. Absolutely no one gets to their deathbed and says, “Gee! Wish I would have slept more!” Instead, focus on how you use the time you’re awake. If you fill your life with stimulating activities (including the passions and exercising mentioned above), you’ll have no problem tiring yourself so you can sleep just enough.
  • Leave your mark.  Whether it’s in your professional life, your personal life, the probono volunteer work you do, or some other way…consider what you can do to give back and leave this world a little better because you spent sometime here. Steve Jobs talked about putting a dent in the universe. Stop considering and go out and actually DO something about it.
  • Live life as if this is all there is. I saw this poem many years ago hanging on the wall in a chiropractor’s office and I think it pretty much sums things up:

Live as if this is all there is

So go for it. Today’s the day  to eat a chocolate on the good china in your very best new outfit. Follow your dreams. Don’t put it off till tomorrow. Live as if this is all there is.

What are you waiting for?

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