I spent the last hours of my 39th year reflecting on my life. I wrote down a long list of things I was proud I had accomplished so far. It was good to take a 40-year view of life. In fact, I consider this moment one of the pivotal moments in my adventure on Earth. It helped put my journey and path in perspective. After I took inventory of all the good things I had accomplished and experienced I turned my attention to the future.
I asked myself a simple question:
If life ended right here, what things would I regret not doing?
This was an exciting question. Because it would form my to-do list for the next chapter of life. At that point I felt like I was living up to most of my expectations. My personal life was great. I had a wonderful wife (Dawn), a daughter (Ava) and two sons (Johann and Magnus). My parents, sisters and their families were all doing well. I have a huge and wonderful extended family and great friends around the world.
My career was going very well. I was the Chief Creative Officer of a 275-person advertising agency called Engauge, and we were about to finalize a deal to sell the agency to Publicis, the giant advertising agency holding company out of Paris.
The 4 Things
With my personal and professional life on track, what were the things that I would regret not doing if died the next day? There were 4 things that quickly rose to the top.
- More international travel. I had visited 11 foreign countries at that time. But that left about 200 that I hadn’t seen.
- Starting an advertising agency.
- Starting a real estate business.
- Donating blood.
This became my checklist of things to accomplish in the decade ahead.
The Advertising Agency
Within 2 years I began plans to launch my own advertising agency. And within 3 years I had actually left my job, started the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and had clients in Atlanta, Boston, Quebec, Milwaukee and San Francisco.
The Real Estate Business
By the end of that 3rd year, Dawn and I had bought a new house and converted our home in Atlanta into a rental property, complete with tenants and rental income. Which meant that we had birthed our real estate business.
The International Travel
Last year I had a really exciting opportunity to travel to India to film a video for a great client, Fifth Third bank. My experience there was incredible. In fact I summarized it in this popular blog post, 20 interesting things you notice when you travel to India. Now America is the only country that reads my blog more than India.
I am excited to be making good progress on these 3 areas. Which are the toughest 3 on my list to accomplish. Which leaves just one of my goals for the decade unaddressed.
Yesterday morning when I got on the elevator to go to my office I saw a flyer posted above the keypad. There was a blood drive, from 10am to 2pm in the office space directly above The Weaponry. I was thrilled. This was the sign I needed. And today was the day!
A quick bit of background. My Dad, Robert Albrecht donates blood like it is his job. He is the equivalent of a Million Mile Flyer for giving blood. But I had never given blood myself, and have always felt bad about this. When I was on the track team at the University of Wisconsin our coaches discouraged us from giving for training and performance reasons. After graduation I simply never found the on-ramp to giving. I have no fear of blood or needles or ‘I gave’ stickers. I just hadn’t done it.
At 11am I left my office and made my way to suite 307. I was more excited than most people to donate blood. But then again, most people don’t have donating blood on their bucket list. I walked in the room and was greeted by a blue scrubbed technician. I said, ‘If you have any time slots still available I am full of blood, and willing to give some to you.’ She laughed and told me there was an open slot at 11:50am.
I was thrilled. And at 11:50am I was back and got the process started. I signed in on a clipboard and was taken to a semi-private cubicle for my pre-screening. They took my driver’s license and entered a bunch of information about me into a computer. Then they had me scan a binder previewing the questionnaire I was about to take.
Then I took the questionnaire. It was crazy. It asked if I was, or ever had been pregnant. It asked if I took any drugs, received a blood transfusion, had AIDS or Cancer. It asked if I had ever had man on man sex, or sex with a prostitute. #thingsIhadn’texpectedtoreadthatday.
When I was finished with the 45 question survey I only said Yes to one question. The technician then reviewed my answers and said, ‘It looks like we have just one question to review.’ It says that you have traveled outside of the US or Canada in the past year. I proudly said, ‘Yes!’
The technician asked where I had traveled. I told her I had been to India. She then asked me what area I visited. I replied that I had been to Bangalore, in southern India.
She then pulled out a binder to check on any restrictions that may apply, based on my travel. Once she found what she was looking for she turned the binder around towards me. She put her finger next to the word India. She then slid her finger to show me that travelers to India were prohibited from donating blood for one year, due to the threat of Malaria.
I was denied.
She told me to come back at the end of September and they would happily take my blood. She then handing me my parting gift. It was a ticket that provided free admission for four people to Mt. Olympus Water Park in Wisconsin Dells. While I love a good water park, this was little consolation for not being able to check off one my major life goals.
But I couldn’t help but smile, reflecting on the last few hours of my 39th year. That night I declared I would launch my own business. Which lead to exciting international travel. Which prevented me from donating blood. In other words, I still have unfinished business.
Take inventory of your life. Give gratitude for all you have and all you’ve done, both personally and professionally. And think about the things you will regret not doing next. Write them down. Prioritize them. And give yourself a deadline to accomplish them. Then take action. Even long lives fly by. If you don’t recognize, declare and take action towards the things you want most, they will never happen.
I am excited to have made such good progress on 3 out of 4 Decade Goals. In September I expect to knock off another. Unless, of course, I have more exciting international travel before then. Which is always a possibility. Afterall, it is on my to-do list.
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