But one of my closest friends recently forwarded an e-mail that took a more serious view of life. It said: "Available for a limited time only. Limit one per person. Subject to change without notice. Provided 'as is' and without any warranties. Nontransferable and is the sole responsibility of the recipient. May incur damages arising from use or misuse. Additional parts sold separately. Your mileage may vary. Subject to all applicable fees and taxes. Terms and conditions apply. Other restrictions apply."
This got me thinking about how fragile life is. I usually don't pass along messages about personal feelings, but this e-mail really resonated with me.
What does this have to do with business? Nothing — and everything. As the saying goes: "Don't spend so much time making a living that you forget to make a life."
Sometimes, what we care about the most gets all used up and goes away. So while we have it, we should love it, care for it, fix it when it's broken and heal it when it's sick. This is true for marriage, children with bad report cards, aging parents and grandparents, co-workers and anyone close to us. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it.
Life is important, just like the people we know who are special. Do your friends know you care about them? Maybe it's time to let them know how you feel.
When things get tough, are you the kind of person who starts complaining? If you are, you might want to stop and take note of the things in your life that are good. The trick is to not take things for granted, and though that sounds simple, people often cannot master this way of thinking. Sometimes this arises from the idea that life owes us more than we are receiving. Sometimes it arises from habits we have mindlessly picked up from other people.
• Stop and smell the roses. My sister, Margie, is always telling me this. Take some time out to acknowledge the good things in life. Take the day off and go to the zoo, take a bike ride or a walk to enjoy the beauty of nature.
• Get up and do something for someone else. Volunteer at a food bank, cook dinner for an ailing neighbor or just give a stranger on the street $5. The point is to change your focus to another person's needs. These types of activities can radically change your mood.
• Talk about the good things in life. Even if it feels awkward or even silly, say something positive. Fake it if you have to, but force yourself to say something positive at least once a day for a week.
One of my favorite "Peanuts" cartoons featured Charlie Brown saying: "I learned something at school today. I signed up for folk guitar, computer programming, stained glass, art, shoemaking and a natural foods workshop. Instead, I got spelling, history, arithmetic and two study periods."
Charlie's friend asks, "So what did you learn?" "I learned that what you sign up for in life and what you get are two different things."
Mackay's Moral: Don't worry about what you could do if you lived your life over; get busy with what's left.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.