People Power - Aug/Sep 2013

By Scott Humphrey

 

In my forty-plus years in flooring, I have been privileged to interact with many different people—mill workers, residential and contract flooring dealers, warehouse workers, retail sales associates, office workers and CEOs—and I have met individuals driven by all sorts of motivators: ego, money, philanthropy, family, security, love for their co-workers and employees, to name a few.

Some are second or third generation in the business, while others saw an opportunity and came into the industry from another field. Some are highly educated. Some started on their knees installing and progressed to owning their own store. Some have multi-store, multi-million dollar operations. Others have a single store and wonder if they’ll be able to make the next payroll. We are a melting pot of people that encompasses every race, religion and political affiliation, but despite our differences, I am convinced that we are the backbone of the country. We are the type of people and the type of industry that provides stability, a launching pad for greatness.

But the truth is, with all of these differences, it is not difficult to find commonality. There are two basic things that we all share: we were all born, and we will all die. And as important as those two events are, I don’t want to talk to you about the beginning or end of your life. Instead, I want to talk to you about your dash, the dash that exists on every tombstone, plaque or memorial. The dash represents the time between our birth date and the date of our passing. The dash is personal and encompasses the entirety of a life. And while we all will have a dash, what that dash stands for is as unique as the distinguishing mark of a fingerprint.

We all want that dash to have purpose. We want our life to stand for something. We want to be remembered for what we accomplished, the organization we founded, the lives we impacted. We all want that dash to matter.

I want to share three simple lessons that I learned from the life of my friend Jason Green, who recently lost his valiant battle with cancer. Jason was an amazing young man with a passion for living his dash. His life and friendship convinced me to focus on my dash. I am convinced that the following qualities, learned from a life well lived, will make your dash matter—and matter more.

Stay Positive/Don’t Complain. We have all known people who can’t wait to tell you what is wrong with them. You know the kind. Out of courtesy, you ask them “How are you doing?”, and for the next 15 minutes they tell you—and repeat the cycle every time they see you. This is the type of person who thrives off the attention they receive from their negative situation. They can’t wait to tell you what is wrong with their health, their job situation or their spouse. Internally, they have decided to be defined by their circumstances. The reality is, we all have problems, but some people want to be known by theirs. Occasionally, you just want to say, “Tell me something positive that is going on in your life.”

Jason struggled with recurring cancer for the entirety of our relationship, but if it were up to him, I likely would have never known. He certainly wouldn’t have told me. He was an amazing listener, who was much more focused on what was going on in someone else’s life than sharing with you what was going on in his. The irony is, if anyone had a right to complain about his circumstances, it was Jason. He battled cancer through most of his thirties. Worse yet, he had times where it appeared he had won, only to have the disease replant itself elsewhere in his body. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Jason didn’t choose not to complain because he had given into his fate. He wanted, more than anything, to kick cancer’s butt. But Jason chose not to complain because he wanted to be known for winning, not simply for being in the battle. He wanted his dash to represent what he had done, not what his illness had done to him. In short, Jason chose to be positive in the midst of one of the most challenging situations any of us could imagine. 

Jason chose to be positive. Why not you?

Focus on Others. Jason wasn’t always physically able to come to work. Due to his treatments and the ramifications of those treatments, there were many times our communication was by phone, text or email. I wanted Jason to know that I was thinking of him and praying for him, so I, and many others, would reach out. But inevitably, he would turn every text, email or conversation around to what was going on with our team at the office, with our company as a whole, and always ended with what was going on with my family and me.

Jason was a strong young man. One of the few times he got emotional with me was at the close of lunch one day. We had been talking, and I probably wasn’t listening as well as I should have been. He said my name several times, until I looked directly at him. I could see the moisture in his eyes. When he knew he had my attention, he said, “I need to know what’s going on. I need to be kept up to date. I need you guys.” 

In those three sentences, he said so much. He said that focusing on us took his mind off of what was going on inside of him. He said that he found purpose in his work and wanted to stay up to date so that he could easily transition back in when he had won his battle. He said: I hurt more when I focus on the fact that I am hurting. He said: focusing on you, your work, my job and the team keeps me from mentally letting this thing win. And I got it.

We all have choices. It would be easy to give into the trials and challenges in our lives. I once heard a speaker say, “You are either going into a trial, already in a trial or coming out of a trial.” It’s true. What makes you unique is not that you have trials. We all do. 

Live! Last, but certainly not least, I want to challenge each of you to live your life to the fullest. In fact, I would say that to do otherwise may be the ultimate act of selfishness. Others are depending on you to be your best, live your life to its fullest, maximize your dash. As a leader, parent and friend, to do anything less can’t help but have a negative impact on those who rely on you.

One of my favorite movies is The Bucket List. In this movie, two men are faced with the reality that their lives may be coming to an end. Their eventual response is to create a bucket list of things they want to do before they die. The movie is a great motivator to do and be more in your life. 

But the thing I love most about the movie is that everything the men check off their list has an impact on the lives of others. Many of these impacts are brought about by the change that happens in the two main characters as they, in the face of dying, finally begin to live. Their confidence changes, as does their self-esteem and the way they treat others. 

You don’t have to be facing the end to create a list like this. I have had one for years. I call mine a Life List. 

A couple of years ago Jason and I were in California on business, and during a dinner conversation with our mutual friend Ryan Heartt, we shared that surfing was on both of our Life Lists. It just so happened that Ryan was a surfer extraordinaire. Though we were flying out the next morning, Ryan volunteered to pick us up early. We would surf, clean up, and head to the airport. Jason and I could hardly wait to check surfing off of our Life Lists.

To all of you who are surfers, I owe you a big apology. I had only seen surfing on TV, and the pros made it look so easy that I thought it would be a piece of cake. Wow, was I wrong. Surfing is hard. The upper body strength and balance it takes to be successful are two things I am lacking. In addition, there was a triathlon going on, and the running part was happening on the beach right in front of our lame attempts. I struggled and struggled to get up, and I assumed Jason must be having the same trouble. Wave after wave took me to the bottom. 

Then it happened. I was tumbled again by a not-so-massive wave, and when I surfaced, I looked up to see Jason on his board riding a wave. In fact, he rode it so far in that the board hit the beach, and he tumbled forward, landing at the feet of several of the tri-athletes who were running by. Without hesitation, Jason jumped to his feet and struck a pose resembling that of a gymnast who has just nailed a dismount. Arms outstretched, he loudly proclaimed, “I’ll be here all week!”

Jason was an amazing guy who lived his dash to the fullest. What about you? Are you busy living your life, or are you busy justifying your inaction? 

If you are doing the latter, I want you to know that Jason was in the midst of chemo treatments when he checked surfing off his Life List, so what is your excuse?

Copyright 2013 Floor Focus 



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