This week I said goodbye to somebody I once worked with. Taken way too soon. Only 29 years old. A tragedy. We only worked together for a short while. Less than a year. But for those who know real estate, it has this strange knack for becoming your second family.
She kind of reminded me of myself at that age. Her drive and ambition. Her passion and dedication to her work. When we met she was about 26 and had somehow managed to establish her career at this early age, which I really admired. I took longer. I knew sales was my ‘thing’ – I even abandoned my pursuit of a legal degree, something I thought I always wanted – ever since I was a kid, when I discovered my love for sales at the age of 19! But it wasn’t until the birth of my son, when I was 33, that I finally found myself in the industry that would soon become my ‘other family’.
As people settled into the room for the service to begin, I observed how many people that were there – the room was full. Not a single seat was free and those standing were shoulder to shoulder, filling the side aisles and the back of the room. Her story was told. The eulogies were presented. People were sobbing, some loudly, some trying to hide behind tissues which they rubbed their red eyes with. Babies were crying, including the beautiful boy who would now never know his mother.
As I watched the slide show of photos commemorating her life, it occurred to me that I actually hardly knew her. She had such an interesting life. It made me wonder how much we really know about those that are around us. How much time do we take to really get to know people. We chat at work, we say hello and goodbye, we ‘like’ one another’s social media’s profiles, ‘poke’ one another’, share and retweet, ‘tag’, ‘follow’, comment on status updates, send emojis, Snapchats etc, but do we really know anything about what is going on in each other’s lives? What they love, what they hate? Where they came from? How they came to be where they are now?
We race around, so busy, trying to reply to every email, every message, every phone call, 24/7, making everybody happy. Trying to be everybody’s friend. We miss lunch. We miss family events. We’re late to things that are important in our personal life, so that we can finish or put in that bit extra, to our working life. Sometimes we snap at those important to us, because our day was long and difficult and we are tired. Sometimes we say things we regret later simply because we are too busy or too tired to have taken the time to think before we reacted. Sometimes we make demands of people we don’t even know because we believe that what we need, at that moment, is more important than anything that could be going on with that person standing in front of us or on the other end of the phone or email.
But when the end comes, what matters? I didn’t hear anybody say today how great she was because ‘she returned every message before the end of each business day’, or ‘consistently met her KPIs’. People only talked about how she made them feel and the loss they felt because of the amazing young woman that was now gone.
In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the late Steven Covey said: “Think with the end in mind”. When we are gone, how do we want to be remembered? What will people say about us? What do we want them to say about us? What legacy do we leave behind? Sounds a bit bleak I know.
The last time I saw this person, the day I resigned from that business, I didn’t say anything to her. Not even good bye. I wish I had. I wish I had told her how amazing I thought she was and wished her success with her career and her life. When she got engaged I wish I had passed on congratulations. When she had her baby, I wish I had have been there to give her some (probably unwanted and certainly not needed from what I heard at the service!) ‘mum’ advice.
I suppose my message is this: Think of and about others. Get to know people. Consider their needs. Connect meaningfully. Share generously. Respect their differences. Be kind. Be good to one another. Even to strangers. Even to people you don’t like. Even to yourself. Be mindful.
Before you press ‘send’ on that message, think about it first and decide if that is REALLY something you want to say? Because you can’t take it back. Before you walk out that door, is there something else you should have said or done? Before you send that ‘shouty capitals’ email because you’re having a bad day. Before you hang up on that person on the phone. Before you react to your colleague’s negative actions towards you. Before you raise your voice at the kids in the morning because they won’t hurry up for school. Before you yell or pick at your partner for not doing something. Consider this: What if today was their last day – or yours?
Take some time to go outside, take your shoes off and go for a walk, feel the green grass under your feet, dig your toes into the sand, feel the sun on your face – or the rain, the wind brush your skin. Encourage others to the same.
Pause. Smile. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Do it again.