The title is a line from William Faulkner’s 1930 novel, As I Lay Dying. I don’t know if you believe in an afterlife or not. But the line Faulkner wrote during the 168 or so odd hours he spent writing this story, from the hours of midnight to 4 am over the course of six weeks, captures not only our imagination but our emotions. It’s not lost on me that 168 hours is also the number of hours in one week. Nor is it lost on me that this work was produced in 1929 while Faulkner while worked night shifts at the University of Mississippi Power House. I suppose keeping tabs on a power plant at night isn’t arduous enough work to prevent a writer from writing. But then again, perhaps nothing is powerful enough to prevent a true writer from writing. He’d just gotten married and was only 32.
I’m well past 32, but the line he wrote in the wee hours of one night in 1929 provides sober notions of what really matters in our life. And provides some sense of urgency about what we must do with life in this sphere.
In 2016 a TED talk was published featuring Robert Waldinger, the current director of a 75-year study on adult development. In the presentation, Dr. Waldinger, a psychiatrist, asks and answers the question, “What makes a good life?” I only take issue with the lack of spiritual considerations, but you should take about 13 minutes and watch it. Spoiler alert: it’s relationships!
It’s not money. Or fame. Or power. It’s people. It’s connection.
From a work perspective – and even a personal perspective – our lives are largely measured by the people in our lives. Those we surround ourselves with. Those who allow us to surround them.
“Memory believes before knowing remembers.”
That’s another line from the novel. Brilliant enough to make me envious of Faulkner’s wordsmithing talents.
Leaning toward wisdom is hard work. Doable, but hard.
This is about living. It’s about living in a way where we have far more great moments than not. Where we’re impacting people by helping them achieve levels of success unlikely without us. Where our family, friends and other people we care about are positively influenced by us. Where encouragement is high.
I'm driven by two words: legacy and significance.
I don’t consider Faulkner’s words to be so morose. I consider them challenging. Challenging us to get to the heart of the matter. To face the reality of why do what we do, or why we make the choices we make. Of all the things we could be doing instead of whatever it is we’re doing — we’re choosing to do this. Why?
Death is the end of life here. If we assume we’ll live to be 80 or older, it’s not a lot of time. You’re likely between the ages of 27 and 70. Maybe you’re younger. Maybe older. No matter. You’re either statistically ahead of the “death curve” or behind it. Meaning, you’ve either got more future in front of you than past, or you’ve got more past behind you than future in front of you. This timeline of life is always moving us further up the road toward the end. It’s our reality. All of us.
What Are You Doing With Your Time?
The crux of my work with CEO’s, business owners and leaders isn’t time management. For starters, I don’t believe in it. Not for myself anyway. I prioritize on the fly. Always have. I scan what’s happening and immediately (with speed) put the urgent and important thing up at the very top. Urgent but less important things tend to not be considered urgent for me. I have trouble labeling anything urgent that isn’t important. Illustration: I was out and about and my gas light came on. I pulled into a gas station and fueled up. The morning 38-ounce water bottle I had emptied was catching up with me. I had the urge, but the gas station was one of those cashier booth only kind of places. So I fill up and head toward home. By the time I got home it was urgent. Might not seem so important, but tell my bladder that. It was URGENT. And it was IMPORTANT. I guess somebody may be able to convince me there...