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October 24, 2014

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02/02/04 Siren Song Of Summer

I look back within a haze of memory on my summers as a boy: days of warm sunlight, relaxed freedom, and magical experiences with friends I thought would never end — the stuff of life.

Each new summer carried the anticipation of the coming school year — and quality time rolling in the grass, blowing poofy dandelions and hearing the sound of lawnmowers, staying up all night and sleeping in the next morning.

My gang all had to be inside by the time the streetlights came on, which in summer was around 9 p.m. Each day, we’d ride our bikes beyond the boundaries our parents had set and play basketball till the neighbors complained about the noise. We mowed lawns to make a few coins to buy Beatle records and Beatle wigs, but we didn’t buy Beatle boots. Only hoodlums wore those. Everyone knew that.

Richard Saul Wurman said something to me the other day, and it has been ringing like a telephone in my head ever since. I’d called him for his advice on a problem that required some perspective: I was financially involved in a project, but my heart wasn’t in it.

“Eric, how old are you?”

“I’ll turn 50 this summer.”

“I’m 68. I figure I’ve got about 12 summers left. You have maybe 30. How you spend them is up to you. My advice is that you spend them doing only what you love. You’ve done well, Eric. Now it’s time to do good.”

Richard’s metaphor of summer hit home with me. Why was I even thinking about doing something I don’t enjoy? Why would I want to go to work and burn my days toiling on a project that offers no compensation other than a wad of pale green paper?

Yesterday, I met with a sales director who’s been out of work for 60 days. “I was on the autobahn, going 150 miles an hour,” he said, “I never slowed down, and there weren’t any exits. I ran like a banshee for several years and was miserable most of the time. But I was afraid to get out of the car. I wanted to quit, but I was afraid. Now that I have my life back, I’ve decided that it’s not for sale anymore.”

People keep telling me that they no longer love what they’re doing, yet I see them keep on doing it. On vacation, they call the office, check their e-mails daily and feel guilty for being away. These peoples’ jobs are eating up their lives. Why do they stay? They certainly aren’t doing themselves or their employers any favors by wearily going through the motions. Why do they keep doing it?

How many summers do you have left? What dreams have you not chased because you thought you were too busy to pursue them? Take a deep breath, and make that overdue change right now. Don’t wait.

[Ring… Ring… Ring…]
Summer is calling. Are you going to pick up the phone?


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