Four Life And Business Lessons Learned From Unlikely Experts

Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Healthy Living Network, one of the largest post-acute home health providers in the western U.S.

A health care practitioner recently shared something with me I’ll never forget: “When I ask my patients who in the world they would listen to the most for advice on any subject, who do you think it is?”

I made a few guesses, but not what he was looking for.

His answer: “Most tell me they would ask a billionaire.” After a pause, he added, “Instead, we should all listen to patients on hospice. They are the ones who remember what it is like to be a child again and remind us what is really important in our lives, and it isn’t the accumulation of money.”

After this conversation, I started thinking more about what business leaders might be able to learn from those we least suspect. In order to open our minds to a new way of thinking, here are four things I’ve learned from unlikely experts that I believe we can all assimilate into our lives today:

Find your love. (Hint: It isn’t work.)

I once spent an afternoon with a man during the last year of his life. He had secured a fortune and a long list of awards and buildings named after his generous donations. I asked him what his greatest success was, and he pulled out a letter written decades ago by the love of his life. “I had nothing before I met her, and she still chose me. Simple me,” he said.

He concluded by emphasizing that love and relationships were paramount to finding peace in this busy world. He felt that interactions with loved ones outweigh the presence of prestige and wealth. How often do we see venerated entrepreneurs thrive financially and become the beacon of success in their profession, but fail in their relationships at home?

This helped me see the importance of prioritizing your home life just as much as your professional life. Entrepreneurs should consider taking time off occasionally, make dates a priority and continue healthy traditions with their families and friends.

Follow your dreams.

Around 2006, I met with a senior executive of a multibillion-dollar company. Although he was massively successful, he told me that he had missed taking opportunities when he was younger due to fear, and he didn’t want fear to dictate his life anymore. He then shared with me his vision to start his own company.

After working out his business plan, he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. I will never forget attending his funeral. This amazing individual had planted in me a desire to seize my moment when it came.

A few years later, I was offered a promotion that would include more money, travel and the title I wanted. As tempting as it was, I chose a different path. I am constantly thanking my dear friend in his absence for his influence. I feel like I lived a dream for both of us.

I believe this is an important lesson for other entrepreneurs as well. Taking the leap toward your dream isn’t easy, but the determination to keep pushing, along with support from your loved ones, is essential to your success.

Be in the moment.

It has been said that we need to remember the difference between visiting a relative at a nursing home and shopping at the grocery store. As a kid, I learned how to ride on the back of a shopping cart, and I use that technique today as I round the corners at the local grocery, screeching to a stop at the cashier when my shopping list is complete.

Visiting my late grandma was a different story. I would take my time, listen to whatever was on her mind and even join her in activities. It wasn’t rushed with an agenda and exit strategy, nor was my phone programmed to go off as an excuse to depart.

As busy entrepreneurs, we need to make minor tweaks in our daily routines to reinforce the importance of being present in the moment. This means putting our phone to bed when we get home, limiting our social media consumption, looking at someone when they are speaking versus the half-listening nods as we stare at our smartphones or developing traditions like dinnertime with our families.

Finish the race.

In 2014, I competed in a Mud Run with my 12-year-old son, who was still struggling with the effects of ongoing medical treatments. Toward the end of the grueling race, he wanted to quit. I placed my arm on his shoulder and, for a moment, forgot about the noisy race around us. I instead saw my young boy in front of me: someone who had been in and out of hospitals since he was a toddler, been made fun of by other children due to his high-dose medications and missed important events because of endless treatments.

As he focused on my eyes and slowed down his breathing, I told him it didn’t matter how fast others were running the last quarter mile; we just had to finish the race together. And we did.

As leaders, we often find ourselves in situations where we would rather quit than have to endure pain, challenges and loss unless it’s bringing us money. Instead, we should focus our time on finishing the race in partnership with those around us. This requires entrepreneurs to be incredibly concentrated and not allow distractions to hamper our progression. It’s too easy to be stuck in the mud looking down at our current misfortune when our eyes should never lose sight of the finish line.

No one knows what their future holds, but as I have had the privilege of working closely with hospice patients and other “unlikely experts,” I have learned much from their wisdom about how to move forward with optimism. Find your love, follow your dreams, live in the moment and finish the race. As a result, we can begin anew today with hope for the future.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

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