The Days of Our Lives

As you know, I’ve been rushing around like a true maniac: 45 days, 22 lectures ranging from 40 minutes to 9 hours, 10 countries, 5 continents, and about 76,000 miles. (Am just, as I write, vaulting the Dateline and in the process of logging Country 10/Australia and Continent 5/Antipodes … gorgeous & balmy & scintillating Sydney is nigh on in sight.)

Time flies, not creeps. Lecturing with delight on Lord Nelson and bravado leadership in London. Trying to hold the attention of learned Siemens engineers in Berlin—and relentlessly badgering them about the need for game-changer, high risk innovation. Enjoying the company and enthusiasm of an auditorium full of entrepreneurs in Bologna, Italy. (I was meant to be Italian, I’m sure of it.) Having the privilege to address 2,000 noble American home care industry leaders in Seattle. (Of course being unwell at home beats, if at all possible, entering the Killing Fields of a “modern” acute-care hospital.) Excitedly dragging my weary body to Trafalgar Square minutes before day’s end on October 21 … to join the tail end of the Y200 anniversary celebration of Nelson’s stupendous, world-altering victory. Power walking in Buenos Aires and Belo Horizonte and Santiago, and around the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and through Red Square in Moscow. Setting foot—for the first time—on the Peters homeland in the former East Germany/East Berlin. (And, alas, missing “FirstSnow” in Vermont on this past Saturday.)

Here’s my conundrum. I’m exhausted. In the service, many of us deployed overseas kept what were called “short timers calendars.” On these, which could be quite large and artistic and encompass hundreds of days, one crossed off the days to deployment’s/tour’s end. As officers, we weren’t supposed to keep them as we were to act as if we could hardly wait for the sun to rise over Monkey Mountain outside of Danang. (Of course all of us did surreptitiously keep them, except for a few gung ho types who, like the central character in Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” doubtless awoke chanting “Kill, kill, kill.”) Well, I’ve got on my Windows desktop a Short-timer Calendar for this 12 country, 60-day oral and aerial marathon in which I’m engaged. And I’m not happy. With the calendar, that is.

On the one hand, I can’t wait to see Susan, the animals, VT, get a good night’s sleep, hop in my trusty Subaru Outback and take the dirty laundry to Manchester, and put a temporary end to the recurrent “roadtrip nightmares” about missed flights, lost baggage, crashed computers, faulty sound systems and the like—those are the themes, by the way, night after night after long night on the road. On the other hand, as a general proposition I am vehemently opposed, especially as my 63rd birthday hovers nearby, at wishing away any day of my life!

So I’ve been consciously working on a new (for me) approach, with at least a smidgeon of success. Either at day’s end or dawn’s early light, I have a little meditation and self-counseling session on making the day count, rather than devoting the day to eager anticipation of the moment I can cross it off the calendar. Professionally, that first means looking anew and in depth at the forthcoming lecture to be sure that it clearly encompasses (as best I can) an ennobling purpose, challenges participants’ minds and engages their souls. (Will it at least aspire to the JFK idea that no speechifier should utter a word unless she “aims to change the world”?) Also professionally, I “work on” my attitude. This may be day 45 and mile 76,000 for me, but for the Client it is D-Day for an Important Event (often their year’s #1 event, for God’s sake); hence my exhaustion and accompanying short temper must be thrust aside … and downright cheeriness and spirited engagement must become the invariant orders of the day. Besides, such cheeriness, even if feigned, cheers me up first and foremost! Next, and in a way most important, even though I have little trouble infusing my lecture with meaning, I must thoroughly convince myself that this is a day every hour of which is worth savoring! Hackneyed though it is to write, 25 October 2005 ain’t gonna come around again and this 62-year-old is gonna be a day older and closer to checkout time when it’s done. My increasingly long and intense power walks help immensely, even when I anesthetize myself in the process with the likes of “Queen on Fire.” But it’s less such “formal” punctuation marks like a preplanned walk, and more an amateur effort to maintain a zen-like awareness of the moment and my novel surroundings all day long, starting with purposeful people-gazing on the streets. Hey, it was a miracle to be alive and healthy in ancient and durable Bologna last Friday, to power walk past the university from which Copernicus graduated. Etc.

That’s it. Fourteen hour flight nears conclusion. Philosophical musing on the passage of time done. Blog logged.*

Well, not quite …

This Blogpost, too, is a professional musing as well as a personal one. H5N1 may be approaching. (Headline in Sydney Morning Herald that I read moments after arriving in Aussie-land: “Economy at Risk of Meltdown If Killer Flu Strikes.”) Three billion Chinese and Indians want our (American) jobs … and have the skills and, more important, the will to grasp them. Artificial-intelligence apps that do much of what we do, only better, improve by the nanosecond. Hence I cheekily suggest that my almost 10-year-old Brand You-Wow Projects or Bust-Become a Whirling Dervish PSF/Professional Service Firm challenge is far more important and timely than it was when born in ’95 or so. To even survive professionally, I believe we each must, to steal the words of the immortal basketball coach, John Wooden, “make each day a masterpiece” …. or, usurping the phraseology of guru and pal Mike Ray, “make your life itself a creative work of art.” That requires busting a gut, immersing oneself in the moment, digging deep if necessary for an attitude fix, appreciating the marvels of the world around us and our mates within it, and devoting the day to an at least modestly ennobling purpose and project … beyond merely scoring another checkmark on life’s short-timer calendar. Don’t you think?

(*Don’t let me mislead you or inflate my successes. Sometimes none of these tactics work worth a damn. I find myself in a shitty mood all day long, growl and scowl at one and all, can’t imagine my lecture making the slightest difference to anyone, am certain that I am wrong about everything, and wonder why I’m pissing away my life collecting frequent flyer miles I have no time to use. On the other hand, there are less of those days than there used to be. Including today.)