I had always kind of figured that my dad would die of a heart attack at his desk.
It seemed logical given his incredibly long hours, heavy workload, high stress, poor diet, minimal exercise and little sleep. It’s an understatement to say that he pushed himself hard. His autobiography was appropriately named— he was driven.
Eventually he did have a heart attack. He wasn’t at work, as it turns out, but it was only one of a host of significant health issues that eventually caught up to him.
Our family was fortunate to spend my dad’s last couple of weeks by his side. One of my life’s greatest blessings is to have seen that at the end of his life he was at peace with himself and the life he’d lived.
I knew absolutely that I wanted that same peace when my time on Earth was up. I also knew that Euripides was right— No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow. I felt an urgency to start living the life I wanted, in a way that made me feel peace, now.
Observing my dad’s life and death caused me to think that one of life’s major aims must surely be to learn to die well.
In the final analysis, I don’t think there’s much my dad would have changed about his life even if he could have. I think of Patton’s words, “If a man has done his best, what else is there?”
When I debate with myself whether or not the high cost he paid for his success was worth it, I reflect on the jobs he created, which today number about 10,500. I think about the families supported by the income from those jobs, and the healthcare benefits provided.
I think about the scholarships awarded, and the innumerable opportunities for personal and professional growth. I think about the existence of a company that employees can be proud to work for— a company that does meaningful work that enriches lives.
I think about all the taxes collected that help keep the government running strong and ultimately enhance the quality of life for so many.
I think about the speeches my dad gave, the mentorship he provided and the lessons he taught formally in classrooms and informally everywhere.
I think about all the customers served, and all the goods, services and experiences transacted in safe and clean facilities by excellent employees.
I think about the philanthropy that he and my mom provided so quietly that I often didn’t know about it.
I reflect on Albert Schweitzer’s words, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
When we serve others we are happy. My dad found many ways to use his time, talents and energies to serve others. He served until he was literally unable to do so any longer.
It is impossible to say whether or not the price my dad paid for his success was worth it. I often think that he could have achieved 90% of the success he did by putting in only 60% of the time and effort.
But he was at peace at the end of his life. He genuinely enjoyed the work he did and he loved serving others. He wouldn’t have changed much about his life.
For all these reasons I tend to think that the price my dad paid was worth the results he produced. Ultimately, I know, whatever results we achieve come at a cost— we’re always trading our time and energy for something.
Whether that something is worth the price we pay for it is a question we should ask ourselves from time to time.