Like tulips emerging in spring, flags appear on the final Monday of May. Here in the United States, volunteers placed miniature American flags to honor the men and women who died serving in the Armed Forces yesterday. Originally known as “Decoration Day,” this day called a nation to remember the soldiers who died in the Civil War. Later, the day was extended to honor all who died in military service.
Denying the inevitable
Death is viewed as a natural progression in the cycle of life in many cultures. Not so much in America — we seem to prefer denial. Listen as we describe it as someone “passed away.” Given to extremes, we like to iconize dead people (especially performers, “celebrities” and historic figures.)
My intent is not to minimize the stress and emotional crisis of “losing someone” you love. Bereavement is real. Rather, my intent is to invite you to let this life advocate help you live today and live it well.
Embracing the inevitable
We all know death is part of life. The question is this: how will you allow this reality to enhance how you live?
In an interview, bestselling author of Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon was asked: “Who or what is your ‘Muse’ at the moment (i.e. specific creative inspirations)?” Listen to his answer…
Reading obituaries. I find that thinking about death every morning makes me happy to be alive and guilty that I’m not making something.
Kleon learned how to allow death to be “life’s discreet advocate.” He thinks about something most people don’t like to talk. For him, thinking about death inspires gratitude and accountability.
Leadership and success requires thinking
Creating space to think is the breakfast of champions. The best predictor of future success is the ability and willingness to learn and change, achieved through consistent reflection on truth found in the Story. The secret to leadership development and personal success is creating space for reflection: time and place to think.
Today, the pace of life (“I’m so busy!”) is the enemy of consistent reflection. Leaders make time to think. If you are not creating space to think about the truth (what’s really going on in your life or business) you limit your freedom in life and performance. When the pace of life is out-of-control we live out-of-control lives.
What do I mean by creating space?
It is the disciplined use of time, place, and resources to listen to the story for truth and to bring truth to the story. Truth is about reality, the facts — feedback, experience, success, and failure. If you fail to listen to the truth in the story you limit your performance and success in life and relationships.
Before you can fully lead others into success, you must create space for yourself. This is as simple as making a daily appointment to think.
While we may choose to not think about death, it is a reality of life. When we see death this way, it just could become a discreet advocate for living life well. Scanning obituaries may not be your thing, but I hope creating space for consistent reflection is. Thinking is the work of leaders — and you, my friend are one!
Yes, you are writing your story. Let’s talk about it: if today were the last day of your life on earth, what would you do?
One-on-One Minute (Video 1:11 seconds)
Our hearts and prayers continue to go out to those who suffered loss in the city of Moore, Oklahoma due to the F-5 tornado. Such stories can create a sober gratitude for life and call us to live this day well…to be present.
While writing this post, I Google “obituary Tulsa.” The first result was the Tulsa World’s obituary/life story: “Tulsa native, WWII veteran Gordon Gayle dies at 95.” I know this post comes after Memorial Day, but if you have a minute, read his amazing story here.