Category: Decisionmaking

A Letter to My Child

“Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.”

- Paul Tillich

July 3rd, 2047

David arrives at his desk at 7 am. Today is his 40th birthday. David’s wife, Linda, planned a celebration dinner and asked him to get home a little sooner than normal. And thus, David decided to come in an hour earlier to start his work.

At the age of 40, David has accomplished a lot. He is a senior manager and a star performer at his organization, respected by his direct reports, his peers, and his bosses. But David has not been happy lately.

David turns on his computer and opens the report he has been working on for the last couple of days. It needs to be on the CEO's desk by tomorrow morning. Just then, he hears a ding. David remembers that he forgot to turn off the notification for e-mail. "Better do it now," he thinks. But somehow, David feels he needs to click on the e-mail icon instead. He doesn’t generally check his emails first thing in the morning.

When David clicks to open his email, what he sees startled him. “An email from Dad! That’s impossible!” David’s Dad passed away at the age of 69 last year, in a car accident. “What idiot is trying to prank me?!” But David clicks on email before he realizes what he is doing. Here is what he sees:

“Dear Son,

Happy Birthday!

You turn 40 today. How time flies! I remember the day you were born like it was just yesterday. But here you are, already the man I always knew you’d be: kind, honest, brave, smart, accomplished…the pride of our lives.

Son, you know how very proud I am of you and how much you mean to me. My heart hurts when I see you’re unhappy. You hide it well. But I know you haven’t been happy for a while. And I know what’s been going on.

Believe me. I was in your shoes once. And it sucked! What do you do? Do you stand up for what you believe in and risk losing your job? Or do you turn the other way and pretend everything is fine? What would happen to Linda and the kids if you lose your job? What would happen to you if you keep pretending that you don’t know about the breach? What would happen to those impacted by the breach, and those the breach will impact if it's not stopped?

These questions weigh you down like a ton of bricks. I know you’ve lost sleep over this. You’ve lost weight. Linda is worried about you. But you wouldn’t tell her what’s going on. You don’t want her to worry. In fact, you haven’t told anybody about this. “What for?” You think. “Who can answer to my conscience for me but myself?”.

That’s the loneliest place to be: just you and your conscience. No one knows that you know. Just you and your conscience.

I’ve been there.”

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One Year

An unexamined life is not worth living.

- Socrates

“If you only had one year left on this earth, and anything was possible, what would you do?”

I asked Jean, a client in her late fifties who sought me out for transition coaching. One of Jean’s goals was to figure out what exactly was missing in her life. “I can’t put my finger on it.” She said. “I just feel that something inside me is dying to be expressed.”

Jean is hardly alone. Most of us have known this feeling at some point in our lives. We can feel that something is amiss, we are aimless but don’t quite understand what is it that we’re missing; or, we do know what’s missing but are not sure what to do about it.

Have you ever felt this way?

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