I didn’t always have it. Understand it. Or embrace it. And then when I thought I did, I realized I didn’t fully get it.
When I was growing my first business, I clearly didn’t have it. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s no way did I have it. I don’t think most people have real perspective in life.
When I became a father in my 40’s I started to understand it. When I started a new career it became clearer to me. And, as I started to embrace my own spirituality, I think I got much closer to having it. Maybe it was the maturity and growth I needed to be able to finally understand what perspective meant.
I was always aware of death. My own mortality and of those around me. I came to see that thinking of death on a daily basis was actually a great thing. It forces you to appreciate every moment. To live as if every day is a blessing. To never take anyone or anything for granted. And to always tell people how much you loved them as if it was the last time you would speak to them. Thinking about death daily helps me live in a total state of appreciation.
That kind of perspective I seem to always have.
But I don’t think I truly understood what having real perspective meant until recently. As my kids started to grow older, I would capture every moment with them in my mind. Take photos in my head of small moments for future reflection. I was present all throughout their youngest days, and I am still that way today. When in their presence, I give them my fullest, undivided, “non cell phone in hand” attention! I knew these days were going to go fast. And I have zero regrets about where I was during their earliest years…I was with them, locked in!
And with my wife, my friends, my colleagues, I really make a concerted effort every day to be present with them and to enjoy every experience as well. To laugh loud, to live in the moment and to really celebrate all of life’s miracles.
That’s THE perspective I had. Knowing moments were fleeting. Knowing life passes in the blink of an eye. I grew to understand that having a perspective like this was really helpful in living a mindful, rich life.
A few months ago, I read an amazing book, Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. I don’t read alot of business books, but something about this one called to me. And I loved it. Really one of the best books I ever read. Not because of the history of Nike (which is pretty friggen amazing), but because of the spirituality woven throughout the narrative of the authors life.
And from this book, I really learned what perspective truly meant. It’s found at the end of the book and it really, really touched me. He describes in great detail throughout the book how he built the company from humble beginnings, how he overcame impossible odds and challenges and built something truly legendary. But at the end, recognizing he is in the twilight of his life, he reflects on his long journey and closes with his regrets. That type of honesty and humility can be found throughout the book. It is far from an arrogant, self congratulatory book that you perhaps expect from someone who has accomplished so much.
Back to the end of the book. Knight begins to discuss his regrets. He is in his 70’s at this point and the fact that he is one of the worlds wealthiest men, having built one of the most iconic brands and companies in history, and yet the fact that he is describing his regrets is truly humbling, and very emotional to read. Kinda haunting actually.
He begins to look back at the early days of building Nike with his pretty dysfunctional team of misfits. He paints pictures of their struggles to survive and literally just live as a company for another day. And he sees those days now through the eyes of a much, much older man in his twilight. One line just hit me…
“God, I wish I could relive the whole thing.”
That one line got me good. He is talking about reliving the hardships, the struggles, the stress, the pain and the uncertainty of it all. He vividly recounts the fights, the arguments, the near-death experiences and wishes he could relive them. Again, he wishes he could RELIVE them all.
That really hit home for me. That’s the perspective I WAS MISSING IN MY LIFE. I realized that while I was totally appreciative of all of my blessings and good fortune, and I was appreciative of every moment I was given to experience life, I didn’t though see my challenges as part of that narrative. I didn’t see that small moments around a conference table with my work colleagues struggling to get our young company off the ground as something I would one day want to relive. I didn’t see the challenges I encounter in the course of raising a family as things I would look back one day and wish I could relive. I only saw the good. I didn’t see the hard.
Most of us go through life like that. We of course look back fondly on the golden days. The blessed days. It’s easy to look back at all of the great moments. Perhaps the perfect vacation. Maybe a great night out with family or friends. A milestone achievement from your kid. A crowning achievement at work of some sort. But what about looking back and seeing the struggles as the things you would miss one day? What about the idea of knowing that one day, when you are older, perhaps Phil Knight’s age, and thinking back on your life and seeing those challenges as things you wish you could relive.
To me, that’s real perspective. To me, that’s life changing.
And so perhaps while you are arguing with your kids at the dinner table or even your spouse:) about some challenge, stop for a minute and think to yourself that one day you will wish you had these days over again. Or maybe while at work with some incredible obstacle that is driving you mad with frustration, you will see that experience as a great period of growth for you when you are so much older and don’t have those types of challenges any more.
It’s called perspective. And this book really, really helped me understand it fully.
I think what Phil Knight’s real gift with this book is is NOT what he tells you about Nike, but what he teaches you about life. He is teaching us to really live in these moments while we are still making our way, finding ourselves and pushing our own boundaries and comfort zones. And how we should keep the perspective that we are still writing our own story and that one day, like him, we will look back on these days with wonder. And I am sure with some regrets. But mostly, we will look back when we are much older and long to relive these moments again. And in particular, the ones that are the most challenging. Because there in lies the magic of being born and truly discovering ourselves.
I have come to really understand that life does truly exist in those “stretch” moments. Those moments of struggle and hardship. In pain and suffering. In those small moments which inevitably pass by us in what seems like the blink of an eye, that is where we truly grow as people and become who we are.
And that’s the real journey.
PS-Here is the entire quote, while not completely relevant to this blog post theme, it’s inspiring and so I wanted to share it…
“God, how I wish I could relive the whole thing. Short of that, I’d like to share the experience, the ups and downs, so some young man or woman, somewhere, going through the same trials and ordeals, might be inspired or comforted. Or warned. Some young entrepreneur, maybe, some athlete or painter or novelist, might press on. It’s all the same drive. The same dream. It would be nice to help them avoid the typical discouragements. I’d tell them to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years. I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.
I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye. It’s not one man’s opinion; it’s a law of nature.”