Let Go of the Past and Future and Serve the Moment

Over the long holiday weekend, I was heading out for a day on the lake with my family when we came upon a motorcycle accident in the middle of a busy intersection. The accident must have just happened minutes before. There were no lights or sirens yet. No ambulance or cop cars. Just a mangled motorcycle and a man lying motionless on the pavement. A woman, who also saw the accident, was out of her car and started performing CPR. Traffic was stopped in all directions and minutes later, the first police officer was on the scene (I later learned that the motorcyclist had a warrant for his arrest and was trying to evade the cop). Because I was the first car that came upon the accident, my entire family had a clear view. The first responders were performing non-stop CPR and it was clear that the guy was struggling for his life.

After the scene of the accident was cleared and traffic began moving again, we stopped at a gas station to grab coffee. Just 500 yards from where I was ordering my dark roast, someone was laying on the ground taking their last breaths. It hit me kind of hard – the stark contrast of life and death and how quickly we can move from one to the other. Here I was just getting coffee to head out on our boat, people were laughing, having inane conversations, and just going about their day. It was a surreal feeling just knowing that just outside a man lay outside dying, and realizing, “Holy shit. All we have is this moment, right now.” Life will move on. It has to. It doesn’t stop for you, for me, for anyone. It keeps evolving. That’s what it’s supposed to do!

The next day, I found out that the motorcyclist had died at the hospital. It’s not a morbid thought. If anything, death should inspire us all to live and to check ourselves. Are you after more? Are you just searching for what’s next? Are you living in the past? Are you living in your head and consumed by the stories you tell yourself? Are you pissed off at the weather? Are you annoyed when the situation doesn’t meet your expectations? Or are you embracing it all? Are you enjoying each moment and allowing it to unfold in front of you, exactly how it is supposed to?

I bet when you take your last breath you won’t be worrying about the weather, someone’s political leanings, or how you looked in a photo, or how you can make more money, or where you should go on vacation next. What I hope for you is that you are completely at peace and feeling intense joy, knowing that you embraced each moment in your life without reliving the past or worrying about the future. I hope that you remained present to serving each moment in your life.

This motorcycle accident was an obvious reminder to me that life is precious and death can happen to me, or someone I love, just like that. Death doesn’t discriminate. This accident reminded me to stay out of my head and stay present to experiencing each moment (good or bad) that life offers, to lean into and find the joy in every moment.

Yes, we can find joy in everything we do. We can find joy in things that bother us or seem less than ideal. The gift of life is to embrace life’s moments and experiences, rather than resist them because they don’t align with our preferences or expectations we set in our mind. If we let go of our preferences and allow the moment to unfold, you’ll actually enjoy life even more!

We all face challenges (big or small) daily. And if fact, if you continue to grow and create a bigger organization or world, than you’re no longer get much good coming your way! As Rahm Emanual, chief of staff to Barack Obama said, “If it’s between good and bad, someone else will deal with it. Everything that gets into the Oval Office is between bad and worse.” Totally applicable to leadership. And those are the opportunities for us to stay intensely present and serve the moment before us.

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