Today is the last business day (but not the last day) of Elul. As such, I am nearing the end of my annual introspective season. Sunday night (all Jewish days begin at night; the Tora says, “There was evening, there was morning, one day”) is Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year).
The first day of Elul was the anniversary of my mom’s death and the coming of age of my eldest daughter. Elul or Rosh Hashana are normally associated with the advent of the academic year. Plenty of reasons to wonder: Am I where I want to be? But, the questions I will pose today are ones we all need to examine each and every day….“How much do we really need?”
I’ll give you a hint: we don’t need much. We don’t need a fancy car, we don’t need that fancy house, we don’t need that new smartphone. When you get down to brass tacks, it’s pretty obvious we really don’t need much.
Here’s what we do need to live a fantastic life: good food, good shelter (something that feels like home- it doesn’t have to be a mansion), fantastic relationships with people we love, work that sends us to the moon, and, most certainly, a sense of tikun olam (leaving the world a better place than when we arrived.) [I’m sure that you’ve noticed that subtitle to my blog and also on our company’s website- that’s the term’s definition in vernacular!] That’s it. We really don’t need anything else. (We are not talking about wants right now.)
A few years ago, the East Coast of the US was subjected to an earthquake (the one right where the powers-that-be said I was nuts when I complained [minor understatement] when they chose that same site for a nuclear power plant). Which was followed by the present of Hurricane Sandy. When those calamities hit, what did you consider protecting? What were your thoughts at 1:52pm on 23 August 2011 (the day after my daughter’s birthday) when your building shook? Or the week before Halloween when Sandy flooded much of the eastern US coastline? Many folks lost their houses, their computers, had no work… all they had was the clothes (or pj’s) on their backs. If that was you- and it certainly could have been- what you have have left after all that destruction?
Your relationships. You. That’s it- and that’s what counts. Our relationships are vital. I think they’re the most valuable things we have (besides ourselves). If we lost everything, we’d still have our relatives (real or simulated) and friends to fall back upon should we need a place to stay, or need some help financially. We’d still have valuable contacts in our network to get a job again. (OK, I know the economy still sucks, so that is easier said than done, but you know what I mean). And, most importantly, those folks would be there to provide the love and support that we are going to need- big time! And, you know what? Your house was not destroyed (I hope). The river didn’t just flood you out, nor did the earthquake destroy your belongings. But your friends and family ARE there to provide you the love and support to nourish your life.
And, even with all the tchotchkes you have, the single most most valuable possession you have is you. You are the best thing you’ve got! Not that Lincoln MKX, not that executive jet- or whatever other toy you are dreaming to own. You must insure that YOU are the hero of your own life. No matter what happens, you have the skills and experience to build yourself back up. Trust me on that!
Even when faced with losses, you can bounce back- as long as we leverage our relationships, our skills, and our experiences. So, what is the takeaway from these events?
We must act and think as if we have nothing. We must insure that we maintain those relationships in our lives (not a tweet- a phone call, a visit, a bottle of wine.) We must maximize OUR human capital (now, there’s a REAL return on investment). Invest in what we really need to maximize the returns on OUR lives. Ditch the rest- in the end, they don’t provide the return we each seek or need.
How will you plan your next year?