My friend passed away last week at the way-too-young age of 48. He has left a beautiful wife and two great kids. He passed from colorectal cancer which is an insidious and horrible type of cancer to which there is no cure yet. It is all our hopes that the amazing scientists who wake up every day and go to work find a cure for this and all other cancers will do so within the next fifty years.
And that’s one of the reasons I wake up every morning; to help the business leaders of great pharmaceutical and healthcare companies find the cures to all illnesses that cause pain and suffering. I get to run one of my favorite business simulation programs next week for the senior R&D leaders for one of the many pharmaceutical companies taking the lead in oncology. It’s such an amazing and rewarding experience to help teach them how to develop the skills needed to do better budgeting and financial management so they are optimizing their efforts in their quest for the cures.
The lead eulogy at the funeral shared one of my friend’s final conversations. He knew his days were growing short, so he started to reflect on his short but incredibly fun, authentic, whacky, and love filled life. My friend was a brilliant doctor himself and specialized in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics. And comedy and magic. Not your usual collection of things to be good at. As I listened intently to the eulogy, I thought about the wisdom and simplicity of his words and how they transcend every part of life from family, to work, to leadership.
Here are the three things that my friend shared which I find fit perfectly as business leadership lessons in addition to life lessons:
Work in a field that you love
My friend loved what he did. It wasn’t work; it was his passion. He loved going to work every day and exploring new ways of advancing the science of sports medicine. I know it sounds cliché, but this has never been truer than it is today. There are so many choices and so little time. If you are a leader having a career conversation with a direct report, you have an obligation to look that person in the eyes and see if the passion is there for what they do. If it’s not, that’s okay, there is no shame in moving on to the next thing and then the next thing until you find the one that makes you happiest. I can’t think of anything worse than thinking back on one’s life and realizing that you hated what you did for a living.
Do everything with integrity and honesty
My friend was one of the most open and honest people I’ve ever met, and that high level of integrity rubbed off on everyone around him. Lying and being disingenuous was just such a waste of time to him and he had no time for the fake people of the world. He said what was on his mind and it was so refreshing. If more leaders and business professionals tried to do everything with integrity and honesty, work and the business results would be so much better.
Laugh every day because it’s the fun of the journey not the destination
My friend was the funniest person in the world. Or at least he thought so. There was no joke that was too rude, there was no practical joke that was too out of line, and there was no day that went by that he didn’t have a belly laugh. All the way to the very last days in the hospital when the people visiting him were encouraged to turn the gurney that helps lift very sick patients of the bed into an amusement park ride. My friend knew that it wasn’t the destination of life that was so hysterical, he knew it was the journey. And every day was just another step in the journey. Life is too short not to have fun. As a leader, it’s imperative to create that environment where people enjoy themselves and each other. Setting and executing a business strategy through operational decisions seems so tedious, but in fact, it is the journey and you must make sure you are enjoying every step.