This was sent to me via email from my friend, Angela. It deeply resonates with me.
My friend Steve Sjuggerud, Editor of True Wealth, used to call occasionally and ask if I'd read any good business or investment books.
Since both of us already had shelves groaning with them, it got tougher each year to find new ones that offered any fresh insights. That was before I read Eugene O'Kelly's Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life. Six years ago, O'Kelly, the Chairman and CEO of KPMG, one of the largest U.S. accounting firms, was diagnosed with inoperable, late-stage brain cancer. He was told he had three to six months to live.
He was 53.
Suddenly, the life of this rich, powerful and privileged man, whose days were filled with executive meetings and business appointments, became something very different. Chasing Daylight is his memoir, the story of his final journey.
"I'd always aspired to be a Renaissance Man. To know about wine and opera, to read books," he writes. "But after a quarter-century at my firm, I rose to the top position. My life changed. The balance in it faded. Spontaneity died... I was always distracted by work."
Suddenly, he was left with less than 100 days to live. "I had so little time left to learn," he says, "yet - ironically - the first (and maybe the last) thing I needed to learn was how to slow down."
With dignified restraint, O'Kelly describes discovering the world around him - nature, family, friends, living in the moment - as if it were all brand new.
"No more living in the future. (Or the past, for that matter - a problem for many people, although a lesser one for me.) I needed to stop living two months, a week, even a few hours ahead. Even a few minutes ahead. Sixty seconds from now is, in its way, as elusive as sixty years from now, and always will be. It is - was - exhausting to live in a world that never exists. Also kind of silly, since we happen to be blessed with such a fascinating one right here, right now. I felt that if I could learn to stay in the present moment, to be fully conscious of my surroundings, I would buy myself lots of time that had never been available to me, not in all the years I was healthy... I would soon discover, though, that staying in the present and being genuinely conscious of my surroundings were just about the hardest things I'd ever attempted."
If you've ever tried to meditate - to still your mind for even a single minute - you know what he's talking about. It's difficult to embrace - and not take for granted - the fleeting moments of our lives.
"Enjoy every sandwich," he writes.
With the clock counting down, O'Kelly makes a list of his closest friends and colleagues and plans a final encounter with each one.
"I stopped at each name and made myself recall, in the closest detail possible, all the moments the two of us had enjoyed together. How we met. What made us become friends in the first place. The qualities in them I particularly appreciated. The lessons I learned by knowing them. The ways in which having met him or her had made me a better person."
His friends were touched - usually overwhelmed - to know how much they had meant to him.
In the course of saying goodbye, he would sometimes invite a friend or acquaintance to take a stroll in the park. This "was sometimes not only the final time we would take such a walk together," he writes, "but also the first time."
O'Kelly saved his last goodbyes for his closest family and friends, finally succumbing on September 10, 2005.
Most of us promise ourselves that one day - not too long from now - we'll slow down. We'll spend more time with our family. Enjoy a lazy day out with friends. Or just take a walk alone on the seashore. Some day...
If - like me - you're one of the millions who has often deluded himself this way, O'Kelly offers three words of advice: "Move it up."
Alexander Green is the Investment Director of The Oxford Club. The Oxford Club Communique, whose portfolio he directs, is ranked among the top investment letters in the nation for 10-year performance by the independent Hulbert Investment Digest. Alex is the author of three national best sellers including, most recently, Beyond Wealth: The Road Map to a Rich Life. He has been featured on Oprah & Friends, CNBC, National Public Radio (NPR), Fox News and "The O'Reilly Factor," and has been profiled by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Forbes, and Kiplinger's Personal Finance, among others. He currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia and Winter Springs, Florida with his wife Karen and their children Hannah and David.