What No One Knows and Everyone Needs To Decide

Sting’s lyrics from  “If you Love Someone, Set them Free’  plays in my head as I awakened this morning.  I am being challenged to set my sister free.  Yesterday THE Conversation took place.  The doctors stated, “We can make her comfortable.”

The sister I know is already gone even though her body is lying in a hospital bed.  Technically she is still here,  thanks to a ventilator.

It is our selfishness that insists the doctors  “do whatever is possible” to keep her here in this realm.  On the other hand, I want to dance my big sister into the next dimension.

The Wait

After all, she has released us.  I know this because she has left several times over the past two days. But they have shocked her heart back into a shallow rhythm with the defibrillator.  Some of the people who loved her are holding vigil around her hospital bed until they can release her.

While understandable, this ritual is not humane.  In the time that we’ve had to  acknowledge her impending end, we have spoken every platitude to explain the mystery of our coming and going in life to ourselves.

Holding on much too tightly

Every time someone dies we wrestle  with our own mortality.  It’s like, “Oh-oh that was close.”  We know our life will end at some point but we cannot conceive of our end except perhaps existentially. We hope we will not suffer. But we do not see ourselves curled into that fetal position.

At the same time our rational mind questions whether the death of the loved one could have been avoided if the person had eaten better, taken their medicine, exercised more or drank less.  Death makes us ask whether we are doing our part to prolong our lives?

The real truth comes from the lines of Luciano, the Rasta Man’s song that, ” Just like the wind, we come and go.”

Letting Go

My sister could see and accept her end.  She chose not to follow her oncologist’s  treatment recommendations until it was too late.  I know this because she began to mend fences with our brothers, her children and friends in preparation for leaving.

She gave me instructions regarding her children. She was not sentimental and she did not complain.  I found that she laughed a lot and she said thank you often.  Breaking tradition with what has been family custom, she asked to be cremated.

I know she would not want her children or husband to fret as they work through the guilt of giving her permission to leave. Unfortunately she did not have an Advance Health Care Directive,  so someone must say, “Do not revive her when she leaves again.”

What can we learn from this?

Many of us are hesitant to focus on end of life questions. Yet, communicating our  medical wishes is the best gift we can give our loved ones. In life we learn how not to force our will upon others but to, more accurately, make our wishes known in a socially acceptable way.  Here’s the one time when letting our loved ones know our wishes will be met with little resistance.

  • Think about  what types of treatments you are opposed to?  Try to find out what your options are relative to in home care  or a nursing home. What are my options in Palliative Care, Pain Management or Hospice Care?

  • Talk to your physician to understand your end of life options.

  • Identify the people you want to make decisions on your behalf.

  • Complete your Advance Health Care Directive Form. Provisions may vary from state to state

  • Notify the person you’ve designated to carry out your wishes?

  • Advise your doctor, family, and close friends about your end-of-life preferences.

  • Keep a copy of your signed advance health care directive accessible and let someone know where it is.

Share if you have had to cope in this situation?  And if you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed


Image: Dr. Joseph Valks

How generational insights will help you build strategic alliances

Selling Across Generations

Cam Marston says it faulty thinking to assume that what makes you interested in something makes me interested in something. And he has produced an informative video that unpacks this idea.

Baby boomers, according to the 2010 Census, comprise half of the 308.7 million population and advertisers have taken note.  A recent New York Times article reported that advertisers had shifted their focus from the youth generation back to the baby boomer generation calling them the “ideal customer” because they have money,  are optimistic,  and consume lots of media.

Since people often do business with people they like, understanding how the various segments of the generations see themselves can help us communicate better. Given the higher earning power of Gen X 45-54 years old and Baby Boomers 55-64 years old,  I am wondering whether this encourages you to re-think your approach to building strategic alliances?

If you found this interesting please comment and consider becoming a subscriber. Retweets always appreciated. .







Three things Tupac Shakur will not have to deal with as a boomer



Yesterday was Tupac Shakur’s birthday, may he RIP on what would have been his 40 birthday. Given the Huffington Post’s new section aimed at baby boomers, Tupac would have been one of its youngest members. Can’t you just see ‘Pac, blue headband tied up front still keeping it real, tweefing (that’s tweeting and beefing) lyrically about the demise of Social Security and Medicare.

The rapid growth in population that is projected over the next 30 — 40 years will occur in a nation more racially and ethnically diverse, with the aggregate minority population projected to become the majority in 2042 according to the US Census Bureau. Tupac could relate to this.

Even though Boomers will not be retiring in the near future as they thought they would, they will begin to develop health problems and need their bodies to support a prolonged work life. It’s not likely that Tupac would have retired early but he will not have to deal with at least three foreseeable things in our uncertain future:

  • 1. Joint replacements are big business and I don’t mean the kind of joints one might have associated with Tupac. Once you hit boomerhood, seems like half the people you come across either need a joint replacement or have already had an operation and are walking with steel. Because of advancements in the field millions are now able to lead better lives, and surgeons have begun to recommend replacements even to younger people. I don’t remember Tupac as a big dancer but I could imagine him pissing someone off and his perhaps needing a knee replacement.
    • 2. Alzheimers disease is the bogey man that ten million Baby Boomers fear.  Some claim Tupac lived in some corner of madness in his short life. But Tupac will not have to face the possibility of facing this mind-wasting disease.
    • 3. High Cholesterol and heart attacks used to be reserved for old people. But given the eating habits and lifestyle of at least Americans, people Tupac’s age need to be concerned about this too. Tupac will not

    We miss Tupac. May his spirit continue to soar


    5 Ways to Master Your Voice of Authority


    I introduced myself recently to an online group as an expert in failure. In response someone shared a few of Denzel Washington’s comments to the 2011 graduating class at the University of Pennsylvania.  He asked them whether they had the guts to fail and chided them by saying “If you don’t fail, you are not even trying.”

    Until recently I have felt great pain about making this admission. Although I am proud of what I have learned from the mistakes I’ve have made in blogging and in business, my stumbles in succeeding as an entrepreneur trouble me.

    And as a boomer who has experienced a sense of authority in other aspects of my life, blogging has caused me to question my definition of success?

    What is your definition of success?

    Is it what you get or is it what you give? Is it  the people with whom you connect? Is it what you do in life? Or is it where you go? Success could be defined by the answering any one of these questions or a combination of all of them. So why can’t I accept the fact that success like happiness is not some static thing.

    Accept that a failure can be your master class

    I have set out to build several entrepreneurial projects over the years with varying degrees of success. While working full time for a foreign government, I tapped into my knowledge about travel, my love for art, and my travel connections to create small group tour experiences. The intention was to provide a service to a segment of the market generally overlooked by large non-profit institutions. I know much about this prospective customer because I fit the demographic. It is a group whose members can afford a general membership level say of $200 or less at a large museum but who feel disappointment that at this level one does not enjoy the enhanced experiences of large contributors like private dinners with collectors, artists or curators.

    Identify a need then do something about it

    So here is what I did. I designed a trip that included visits to private collections of art in British and Belgian private homes. It was priced modestly to meet this market’s budgetary restrictions. But the people who responded were wealthy, savvy,   travelers from Telluride, Colorado and New Orleans – not the working stiffs such as myself for whom the trip was intended. As a travel experience the trip was a huge success. However as a business model, I did not reach my intended market and the profit margin was slim relative to the work involved. I interpreted my stint as an independent tour operator as a failure.

    Don’t wait for external encouragement: Try again

    I tried to integrate what I had learned from this first experience by creating another small group travel experience to the South African Biennale. This trip was created for artists, art historians, curators and collectors. Feedback from the travelers confirmed the experience was both unique and of high value.But the profit margin again gave me pause. Rather than reengineer the concept,I internalized this attempt  as a failure but realized a business could not be built on price alone or on miscommunication with my projected market. I’d read this in books before but this time I understood the lesson.

    Build on what you learn.  Put lessons from failure together

    A more recent experience drove the point home that every failure brings its own lesson.  I got another epiphany in the fear engendered in the aftermath of September 11th.  realized I wanted more autonomy over how I used my time on earth. I decided it was time to try something different than the 9-5  job where I had been working for the past eighteen years.Leaving my job did not mean retirement.

    My dream lifestyle was to run a seasonal business May through September.   My goal would be to run the business for three years then sell it to fund  my ability to thereafter work from anywhere in the world.  I thus created  a healthy beachfront food business.

    In real life, this turned out to mean a three and a half month marathon of 18-hour days that were  subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Sea Greens Live became known for its cold spicy gazpacho, spelt cake, wild salmon burgers, wheat grass shots, fresh fruit smoothies, cold noodle salads and the like.  It had a pretty good following; but the business receipts could not a sustain the business. My competitors sold hamburgers on white buns and outsold me 7 to 1. When the rents skyrocketed for the three month season, it was time to go.

    Acknowledge your feelings: How failures made me feel and what I did about it


    I felt like Rodney Dangerfield.I just could not get any respect for what I was trying to do. It was as if I was standing outside a patisserie window with my nose to the glass facing failure again. So close yet so far away from success.

    How to overcome feelings of inadequacy?

    If you have had your share of failures, you know the feeling I am describing.  The conventional wisdom  that declares If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate it will not make you feel better.I recommend the following:

    * Focus on what you have done and not what  you have not done.

    * Accept your shortcomings.After all, you do not have to explain your failures to a bank, a VC or to a family member.

    * Understand that as experts re resources, not fairy godmothers/fathers that provide faultless solution.

    * Remind yourself that your job as an entrepreneur is to solve problems.

    * Embrace the unfamiliar and accept failure as part of the learning process.

    Then begin to speak from your experiences.  This will give your theoretical knowledge a certain fluency.   When you accept your failures you prepare yourself for more successes, those both possible and probable. Every lesson learned will allow you to gain mastery over your life’s purpose.  They will increase your voice of authority and allow you to put that knowledge to work for the things that you are passionate about.

    The Failure conversation

    I have been working all day on a post about how failure helps you master your voice of authority.  I came across Margie Clayman’s post about the cult of failure. Her post references “Grow,” yet another  blog that generated  a lot of discussion on the topic of failing forward fast.  Since my post needs a little more polishing, I thought that I would share this post which references Are You Worshipping Failure?

    Share: Do you have a personal philosophy about failures?


    Why what you know may not be the key to change

    Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive.

    Bonus: How can your goals improve the present and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral?

    Author: Jonathan Mead


    This is the latest prompt in the online 30 day writing challenge.  It dovetails with my early morning thought that nothing happens until you start. Thoughts are just thoughts. There is no limit to possible thoughts except our ability to actually act upon our thoughts.

    I am preparing to live the next chapter of my life as a successful social entrepreneur.  To reach that goal, I have accumulated realms of information from other online entrepreneurs about what things are.  Like me, you too may be spending weeks researching  a topic. That is the free part.  What we really want to know is  how to convert what into action.  The answer to this question is the online promise/offer and this is what costs money.

    We will all be paying for what until we are able to act upon the information we have. Henceforth I will put my time into implementing, shipping, and living as a social entrepreneur.