Every Day is a Gift

The most important lessons we will ever learn as leaders are the relational lessons we learn through life. These relational lessons are so critical to leadership success because leadership is primarily about building relationships. I would like to share a personal story about a relational lesson I learned almost thirty years ago. This relational lesson has influenced the way I have sought to provide leadership for others throughout my life in a variety of leadership roles. I share this relational lesson with you in the hope that it will have a positive impact on you as a leader, and ultimately upon the lives of those you lead.

Shortly after my thirty-third birthday, my father was diagnosed with cancer and was given six months to live. Within a month of my father receiving that diagnosis and prognosis, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she too, was given six months to live. Within a short period of time, I watched the two people who had made the most significant investments in my life deteriorate before my eyes physically and emotionally. Within six months, both of my parents lost their battles with cancer, dying within six weeks of one another. Through this journey with my parents, I learned that we often, too easily, take life and our loved ones for granted. Choosing to take our loved ones for granted is an all too common relational mistake we can’t afford to make.

As I walked through that excruciatingly painful season in my life, God taught me a relational lesson that has shaped my approach to leadership ever since. I learned that life and relationships are both fragile and precious. The loss of my parents taught me that there is nothing in this world that has more value than the life of another human being. Leaders must lead in light of this timeless truth. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly reminded all of us of the fragility of life. It also has the potential to remind us of the preciousness of life. Without warning, I lost two of the most important people of my life in the blink of an eye. In my extreme loss, I gained an acute awareness of the fragility, and the preciousness of life. This negative experience has had a positive result in my life. It has taught me to approach each new day as a precious gift that is to be valued, and celebrated. I have also discovered that people are drawn to leaders who create enjoyable work environments for their people. We are all looking for leaders who grasp that every day is a gift.

I often remind people that death may be the end of a life, but it is not the end of a relationship. The influence, example and love of my parents continues to impact my life every day. Shortly after losing them, I decided to discipline myself to begin each day reminding myself of the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” These words remind all of us, that every day of life is to be received as a sacred and precious gift. As leaders, we must model attitudes, and behaviors that communicate to our people that we want to create a positive, and joyful work environment that releases creativity, while promoting a sense of community for them. All leaders are like emotional thermostats who regulate the emotional environments their people work in. Don’t wait until the last days and hours of your life to learn that life is precious, and that every day is a gift. Learn that lesson today. Never stop reminding yourself, that no matter what, every day is a gift! The people who work for you, and those who live with you, will love you for it.