Moving piece in the Times yesterday, about the CEO and Chairman of KPMG being diagnosed with brain cancer, and what he set out to do in his final three months. In a very accountant-like-mindset, he set out to resolve (or 'unwind') all the relationships he felt were important (having done a kind of concentric circle mapping exercise from wife, and family outwards). this he mostly seems to have achieved, and it is interesting to read about this process in the extract from his book (snappily titled Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life ).
But it's also incredibly sad for another reason: that it took such an event to make him readjust his priorities, and have the kind of realisation he did. As he notes in the course of the extract, he was telling his employees about the importance of work-life balance without having any himself: there was a severe disconnect between what he "knew" was 'right', and what he did, it seems. Obviously, he enjoyed work, and enjoyed working hard, but he clearly didn't enjoy missing time with his daughter / his wife / his friends etc. It's extraordinarily sad to read:
It's a curious thing, really; that people need a big wake-up call to put things in perspective, and realign in terms of importance. And this isn't a smug sermon from someone in the social sector whose work is therefore rewarding/worthwhile etc. This sector's work-life balance is sometimes even more skewed due to personal investment and commitment, albeit values rather than profit-led. So a piece like this is a helpful reminder that an awareness of death/your mortality can actually reinvigorate your life, and give you a renewed sense of purpose about what you want to achieve, and what you are doing it all for. And everyone can do with a bit of that every so often.
My wake-up call came in two stages: one, when the founder of the Global Ideas Bank, Nicholas Albery died suddenly in 2001 - he'd achieved so much already in his life (by the age of 53, bizarrely the same age as the KPMG CEO above....) and inspired so many...
The second was , shortly after, when someone close to me almost died in the Greek ferry accident a few years back. They were my age, and the feeling of needing to grasp every opportunity, to take every chance was almost all-consuming at the time.
So, in a week where the combination of BT's idiocy, work-related pressures and volunteering commitments have pushed the stress levels upwards, it was good to have a gentle push to keep things in perspective.