“Impatience is an argument with reality”
Several people responded to that, and felt a connection. I assume these people have been frustrated, and later learned that the “rock” they were pushing uphill, the thing that frustrated them, turned out to be the Universe and not some person, or rule. In hindsight, it was never something they could have influenced.
Stay with me… I bet some of the salmon swimming upstream are really frustrated by those waterfalls. while others are having fun. Some of them are probably competition-Salmon, trying to outdo each other, to see which one does the best leap. 20% are griping about the whole thing. Likely talking about the old days when the falls were higher or the water was colder. When bears were bears and fish were men, or something.
Arguing with reality reminds me of the futility of griping. If your lot is to swim, you should learn to love the leaping.
Personally, I think cancer taught me this lesson. I know that seems like a tangent but, again, stay with me.
Sitting in an exam room on the 14th floor of a hospital in downtown Philadelphia, an intensely earnest genetic counselor shared with me, and my wife, that my cancer was likely “terminal”, her word. She showed me a scatterplot diagram illustrating the disease outcomes for a thousand or so patients in my cohort, people with the same type tumor according to the tumor’s DNA . The dots were all deaths, dates on the chart indicating how long after diagnosis.
In the moment, the dots looked like a murmuration, where birds fly in a tight group all together, with a leading edge and a stream of dots tapering off. Not many people died right away so, left to right, there were only a few dots on the left but they grew in density moving to the right, sort of like the pattern the birds make. Before twelve months, on the chart, there were only a few. Twelve to twenty-four months, there were dozens. Twenty-four to thirty-six months, the dots melt together into clumps. Thirty-six to Forty-eight months still dense but starting to taper off. Then, four years and out, there are fewer dots than in the first year.
The counsellor struggled to tell me that meant, based on the experience of the people in the cohort, I was not going to live more than about forty months, most likely less. Things changed for me and my family that day, but it took months of therapy to make sense of it.
In 2008, after ten years in business, the other founding partner at my company retired and I became CEO as well as President. So, in 2011, I had been in charge for three years and my company had just launched a new software product. It was a huge deal and cost millions to execute. I had speaking engagements all over the country on the schedule including a high-profile panel discussion at the Clareity MLS Executive Conference in Scottsdale AZ. Plus, my wife was scheduled to go with me. Since we were going to be empty nesters in the fall when our second daughter went to college, there were big plans.
But, life had other plans. After the diagnosis, I went back to the hotel and started making calls to my team telling them I could not make it. I suggested we push back our release plans and cancel the trips. My daughter called and said she was reconsidering going off for college and staying home.
Instead of cancelling everything, my team stepped in and did all the work stuff with confidence and ability. Several stepped into senior roles, maybe a little early, and are still killing it out there in the world, including my brother. Amazing, good things came of it.
I had to focus on setting my family up for success after I was gone, and maybe even surviving although the odds were very low. I went on to get two kinds of chemo, plaque radiation behind the eye, lots of lasers, three surgeries; basically everything they could throw at it and I lived. And the kid went to college and, so far at least, everyone lived happily.
I did not learn patience easily, and I still struggle. But I did learn this huge take-away: the universe does not care about my expectations. After all of this, I made a list of things that are most important to me. When I was finished, I found that I personally did not make the list. Everything on the list was about someone else and all of it is more important than me: my wife’s happiness, even her future relationships if I don’t make it. My daughters’ futures, my granddaughter’s happiness, leaving the place better than I found it, supporting people who need a hand, I mean, those things will last and I won’t. None of us will.