You are born, you live, you die…

Someone once said that your life is the hyphen. The hyphen being the small dash on your headstone that connects the date of birth to date of death. I just received two emails from clients. One heralding the birth of a son. The other communicating the untimely passing of a manager with three children under the age of 11.

I have always strived to live life with no regrets. In fact, that is the reason I applied to flight school. I had one chance in my life to make that application and I am glad I did. The impacts of that decision on my life are many. From going to Japan and meeting my wife, to surviving a helicopter crash, to learning how to do something so few people get to do, to teaching young aviators who later flew into battle in Iraq and came home to thank me for what I taught them. and the list goes on. There are other decisions I have made that have similar importance on my life.

Today I am faced with some decisions to make. Mostly mundane, certainly, and seemingly not of importance in the grand scheme of things. And it is that thought that presents the biggest risk and challenge for all of us. When faced with the mundane day-to-day things that comprise life we reduce them to unimportant and in that unimportant moment comes complacency and in complacency we miss opportunities to be grateful, to be of service, to be a good person. We miss opportunities to engage with others. We miss opportunities to be alive.

We are told that familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t think so. I think it breeds complacency. It is complacency that breeds contempt. As we take relationships for granted we don’t tend to them as we should and as they wither and wane the contempt creeps in. Just as weeds creep into an unkept garden so too does contempt creep into those places we allow complacency to reign.  As we take our job and our current status for granted we get complacent and we lose gratitude. Our performance declines. We view ourselves as having arrived and worth of status rather than working to keep our edge. People look at us and wonder what happened to the fire in our belly?

Conversely, we cannot live every moment as if it were a peak experience nor can we live in overdrive but we must be alive to the wonder that life offers us. There are opportunities for wonder and engagement presented to you every day. For my leaders reading this consider it a challenge to work on those relationships that don’t get the attention they deserve. On those visits to the job site do you invest the extra few minutes to talk to the crew or do you simply wave (if that) as you get back in the car? What about that young accountant who spends her days poring over invoices and spreadsheets? Have you thanked her for her efforts or are you leaving that to her supervisor who has less people skills than you do?

Remember that those two emails to me were from clients. How rewarding and special for me that clients consider me part of the family. But that place at the table didn’t come without work. It came with sincere effort and a dedication to service and value that defines me. I aspire to be a better businessman, a better citizen, a better parent, a better father. etc etc.

When I no longer strive is when I know complacency has set in. Should you see that in me please kick me out of it. When I no longer strive the hyphen becomes merely a notch in marble.

Today I am faced with some decisions to make…How about you?

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"As a result of the session you delivered to my group, using “No Yelling” as the guide we have experienced an exceptional start to our 2009 construction season. Safety as usual is paramount, and our production rates have exceeded even my high expectations. There has been a positive shift in ownership from all that attended, which leads me to believe we could have the same success if we did the same kind of training with our front line labor force."

Bob Peeke
Construction Manager
Alberta Highway Services Ltd.