The Driving Force
By Mitch Thrower
Why do we do what we do? What drives you? Sometimes we forget just how precious every moment really is. In this installment of The Attention Deficit Workplace, reality checks in and we all remember our "driving force."
My sister Stacy loved bunnies. She raised them while growing up. Dad would spend weekends building her hutches that looked more like the Four Seasons than rabbit cages for the little white and brown fluffy animals she so adored. Due to Mom’s influence, she also loved gymnastics, reading, horses, and life. She also loved listening to Rick Springfield. As teenagers, we took swimming lessons together at Longshore Club Park in Westport, Connecticut. She was beautiful with a wise-beyond-her-years moral code, and she always knew what was right and what was wrong.
These childhood memories hovered just below the surface when, during a business school panel presentation to close to 100 people at The University Of San Diego, someone in the audience asked me what motivates me to do so much- train for triathlons, teach at the university, become a serial entrepreneur. I paused to reply. Then, for the first time in my life, I uttered out loud these words, with a voice that was strong and clear: “When I was 14 years old, my sister died in my arms. She was 16.”
The room went silent. My heart trembled. I waited a bit, then continued. “My sister Stacey had bone cancer that spread to her lungs. I was trying to resuscitate her, to help her breathe, but my CPR efforts weren’t working. When your sister and best friend dies in your arms, something in your own life short circuits. Or rather, you suddenly become aware of new realities.
“For some, tragedy leaves them stuck in a pattern of prolonged sadness. For me, Stacey’s death locked me on a different track. Through the sadness of loss and an acknowledgment of my own mortality, I found motivation and passion to live each day to its fullest.
“When life disappears in front of you, it’s very big, and it’s very real. I had to grow up pretty fast after that. The loss of my sister set me on a course to make the most of this very short trip here on earth.”
Glancing around the room, I saw faces looking back at me with understanding. And then, the oddest memory suddenly flashed before me: My sister and I were hiding beneath her bed during a thunderstorm when we were very young. As the sky boomed and shook with fury, she comforted me with these words: “Mitch, it’s okay. Don’t be afraid. The storm will pass. All storms do.”
Lesson: Wake up. You might have either a dream job or a nightmarish job. Either way, acknowledge where you are and who you are working with. If you’re not content, rethink your priorities and ambitions. If you’re wasting your time or your attention, then start investing it wisely. Your last day here could be tomorrow or it could be 50 years from now, but it will come. My sister Stacey gave me one of the greatest gifts of all: the gift of perspective.
Mitch Thrower is an author, financier, triathlete, entrepreneur and philanthropist living in La Jolla, California and New York City, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.