Would You Trade Tomorrow for $1M?*

*Question borrowed from Brad Lea, entrepreneur, CEO, and host of the Dropping Bombs podcast.

If you’re here looking for my next book recommendation and lessons in leadership, fear not–I’ll be back next week with a discussion about learning. In the meantime, it’s Thanksgiving … depending on when you read this, you might be somewhere in the course of your holiday weekend. Perhaps you partook in some festivities or a lavish dinner. Or maybe your plans dissolved into the tumult that has been (and is) 2020. In any case, allow me a chance to express my own gratitude–for you, my reader, and for those parts of my life that mean the most. We all have them, those things that matter above all else. In good years we tend to lose sight of them in favor of work, money, travel, personal and professional goals, external stressors. In bad years, the same thing happens … we lose sight of what matters and what we have and concentrate on how bad the year’s been. But it’s absolutely vital that we don’t. That we don’t lose sight of what matters the most and what we have to be thankful for.

Maybe I’m just another person online expressing gratitude who doesn’t deserve it. I’ve thought that plenty of times since March, since COVID-19 made proverbial landfall in the U.S. ‘They’ said the virus may have been here as early as January; some believe earlier. It doesn’t much matter any more, not after a quarter-million dead and millions more sick, disabled, affected by this novel coronavirus. I’m compelled at this point to acknowledge each and every one of those who lost their lives, either due to COVID-19 or as a result of complications that arose as a combination of pre-existing ailments and exposure to the coronavirus. Any loss of life is tragic, no less so for the family members left behind. We should embrace those around us, even if only virtually, who have lost a family member or friend to this pandemic. To the many more who serve in healthcare, emergency response, and public safety–we are grateful for you and embrace you, for the time you’ve sacrificed with your own families and friends to remain ready for the next shift.

I’ve experienced pain in my life. And loss. And amazing blessing. More than once, I’ve caught myself waking up in the morning ‘dreading’ the day ahead. Because of work often times, but also the litany of personal and household tasks we all face. Calling the bank, trying to fix an insurance bill, scheduling a doctor’s, defending a decision to the boss. The lists never seem to end and often justify feeling terrible all day. Not to mention waking up! Just the alarm sound can send shivers down my spine. Then I caught a podcast episode from entrepreneur Brad Lea. He’s a controversial figure to some and isn’t shy with his opinions. But it was his Thanksgiving episode that got my attention. He focused on how we feel getting up in the morning and asks a simple, provocative question: “Would you take $1M and forgo waking up [tomorrow]?”

Well? If you answer ‘yes,’ then are you saying your life is only worth a million? And what would you do with it? What would be the point? Assuming you answer is ‘no,’ or perhaps HELL NO! … then think about what that means. Your life is worth waaaaaaaay more than a million dollars. That much is obvious, to your family at least if not yourself. Once you believe that, you realize waking every morning is akin to receiving at least a million bucks in cash. Every day. This is Lea’s point … approaching your life this way exposes how minor every other disturbance or nuisance is that you’ve been dreading. To be alive with open eyes is a terrific gift. We only have so much time in this life to make a difference in the lives of others, so why waste any sliver of it feeling shitty about the day ahead. That doesn’t mean we want to do all the things we have to do. But it does mean “we get to,” as Lea reminds listeners, and that we have the opportunity to move our own lives forward. If you’re unhappy or unfulfilled with some portion of your life, the gift you receive the next morning is a chance to change it. And change it now, since we don’t know how many more wakeups we’ll get.

I am immeasurably grateful–yes, for you dear reader–but for my family first. For my wife and children who stand beside and behind me every day. I am grateful for the small cadre of truly close friends with whom I’ve stayed in contact for years. I am grateful for the roof over my family’s head, the food on our table, and the scaled-down Thanksgiving dinner we enjoyed last night. And I am grateful to be alive, to have an opportunity to make a difference where possible and serve where I may do the most good.

I hope you are grateful for the live you’ve had, not to mention the life left to live. Today, tell someone you love them. Tell someone else you appreciate them. And tell yet someone else you’re there for them. We’re in this together seems trite now, we hear it all the time. Doesn’t mean it isn’t true. More binds us together than would tear us apart. Remember what’s important and keep your priorities straight. Stay safe this holiday weekend and strive to lead better. The world’s counting on it.

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