The fifteenth of August 2001 will always be a day I’ll remember.
Picture the scene. I’m a tennis coach and preparing for another day. I’m sorting my kit, deciding what to wear, checking registers and eating on the go. Another regular morning.
I do remember that it was scorching hot. The kind of hot that leads to restless nights, and even after a shower you still feel sweaty and grubby. And I was irritable. Spending 60+ hours a week on a tennis court, a bad back and little or no sleep will do that to you.
I also remember the phone ringing and answering it. The conversation went something like this:
“What do you want?” (irritably)
“Your sister isn’t at the airport.”
“So what? You know what they’re like, they’ll be on the next flight – I’ve got to go, I’ve got work to do…”
My sister Seema and her best friend, Fiona, worked in Egypt at an ex-pat school in Mahdi. They were loved and respected teachers at the school and they knew how to live life to the full.
Every holiday they would pick a point on the map, book flights and go. Just go. They’d explore, discover new things and meet new people while I’d still be working out which pair of shorts would impress the ‘ladies who lunch’ most.
That year, August 2001, Seema and Fiona had spent a month in South Africa. It’s a beautiful place, vibrant with stunning scenery, but dangerous too by all accounts. My parents were at the airport to pick them up before they went back to Egypt. But a few hours later, I got another call.
“It’s dad, can you come to the house so we can work out what to do?”
“Bloody hell dad, I’m busy teaching. Why is this important?”
“Just come, Ash.”
Sometimes you just know…
A short while later I pulled up at my parent’s house, knocked on the door and waited impatiently (and irritably – it’s still hot!).
As the door opened, I found myself staring at two police officers, helmets off.
And I knew.
I mean, I just knew.
They started to speak; telling me my sister had died in a car crash while travelling to the airport. I heard the words dimly through the noise of the blood rushing through my head.
But I didn’t need to listen to them. I knew.
My little sister wasn’t coming home.
I’d never see her again, hear her voice or listen to her ‘laugh till she cried’.
I’d never have her there to stand up for me, even when I was wrong.
I’d never be an uncle or interview another boyfriend.
I’d never get to witness the impact she’d have on the world.
You never know what’s around the corner
It’s 19 years since a tow truck driver lit a fire by the side of the road to create smoke and deliberately cause a pile-up so he could generate work and feed his family. It’s 19 years since the driver of the articulated lorry behind the hire car carrying the girls didn’t stop. Witnesses say he was on the phone. Both he and the tow truck driver walked away without being punished.
And even though 19 years have gone by I’ve still had to stop to compose myself several times while writing this. But I must share her story. If I don’t, then everything she lived for and the lessons I learned from my sister will fade. That message is one I want you to understand.
Living life with a purpose
You see, my sister – Seema Taylor – and her best friend Fiona Marks, lived with purpose. Not a purpose that was a vision of a distant future but one that they could involve themselves in each day.
They affected everyone around them with their laughter and their positive attitude. They never waited for tomorrow or next week. They did everything today. Because it was the only way they could cram all the things they wanted to do into the time they had.
Yes, they worked hard. But work wasn’t about saving for the future or building a pot for a retirement fund when they would be too old to enjoy it. They spent it now, enjoying it now.
A lesson learnt
Me? I was busy building. Making as much money as possible so I could hoard it for the future when I was old(er) and grey(er). And I forgot something. I worked for me; I could choose what to do and when to do it. I had more choice than Seema and Fiona. But even as employees, they still made better choices than me.
They gave so much of themselves to others – helping build a school in Nepal; educating hundreds of children, and always standing up for those less fortunate. That attitude gave them more reward and value than saving for a retirement that never came.
My sister taught me that you can have everything today. You can choose to enjoy everything you have right in front of you now. Or, you can choose to spend that life building a business for the future that you may never get.
Work for the right reasons
I’m not saying don’t work. I’m saying be sure you’re working for the right reasons.
Yes, we all want to build a legacy for our children and spoil our other half with nice things; but not at the expense of neglecting them now. And, of course, you want to be able to do fun things – but who will you go with if your friends never hear from you?
The things you’re putting off right now, the things you say you’ll do tomorrow – they’ll never get done. Because tomorrow never comes.
I hope that I’ve many years ahead of me but just in case I don’t I’m going to make sure that when I see the inside of my coffin lid, I can smile and have no regrets. There will be no “I wish I had”.
Time to take action
So, if you’ve got a business you hate. Change it. Do your friends irritate you? Walk away. Got a yen to go wing walking? Book it. Got an ache that you know isn’t right? Go check it out.
Some say I come across as a little lazy. I’m not. I’ve learned how to work hard, but at times that suit me; so I have time to do the things I enjoy.
Our ethos within The Business Clubhouse community is built around helping you find that balance.
It’s not easy, and you have to work hard maintaining it, but it’s worth it.
And when I forget? I think of my little sister Seema and her friend Fiona; their life force snuffed out at 27 years old. A pair who lived life to the full and for whom – tomorrow didn’t come.