If we could predict exactly how much time we had on this earth a natural question is how would we deal with good-byes?
That is the exact dilemma that Eugene O’Kelly chronicled beautifully in his book Chasing Daylight. Confronted with an inoperable brain tumor, Eugene who was the CEO at KPMG, decided he would compartmentalize his final words to friends, loved ones, and colleagues in three modes of communication; In-person, phone, or in a written note. As he explains, his time was precious, and while he would have preferred visiting with all he needed to be disciplined so he would be sure that all heard from him directly.
I first learned about this book from the late Roger Raber a friend and colleague and at the time the CEO of the National Association of Corporate Directors, who was one of the recipients of a note from Mr. O’Kelly.
Relationships are the essence of life and business. Over the past four years (and in particular the past year and a half) ever since Ruotolo Associates became part of Collegium Holdings, I had to adjust to working with the family of sister firms that comprise Collegium. Managing relationships and communication with these companies and working closely with Meitler Consultants, as our strategic partner, has been a welcome challenge and an opportunity to learn and grow together.
Philanthropy and life are rooted in the quality, form, and function of communication. It’s important to remember that decision around how, when, and with whom we connect is complicated because what might work well for one person is not be the right recipe for all.
An example of this is for the past twenty-five years I have made a practice of rising very early every Christmas morning and writing individual letters to my three children. Using O’Kelly’s strategy they would all warrant a personal interaction but I believe the written form can sometimes be more impactful than face to face. Sometimes your interaction can and will be more substantive if the recipient has a chance to reflect on the message.
To my amazement these letters have been saved and from what I understand cherished.
Taking what O’Kelly said into consideration, it has motivated me to live life more intentionally and methodically especially with those important to me. In essence, even before our good-byes, the message is to think before you decide not only what to say but how it should be delivered.