This is a post by Gary Bonner, a regular contributor on Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.
It was during those 5 hours that I reflected on how I got myself into this health mess. The company was relentless in demanding results on the very visible, very important project that I was providing a considerable amount of shoulder to lift off the ground. This project was a transition and I had to continue doing my former duties as I developed a new project. The requirements consumed me. Even when I was home I didn’t rest because I was planning for the next day’s work in my head.
Laying there listening to the beeping monitors, in between interruptions for x-rays taken by a portable machine and the nurses checking in on me, I started thinking about my family and my loved ones. I thought about how I hadn’t paid any attention to them and had let life events pass me by in the name of “getting the job done.” Then it dawned on me. I remembered a moment twelve years ago, when I had sat on the side of my father’s bed (he was a victim of cancer) as he peacefully took his last breath. My mother, his wife of 50 years, his older son and daughter-in law, his only brother plus his nephew and wife stood next to him.
Then the thought just crystallized from somewhere deep inside: “No one lays on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time at the office.” And here I was. I had crossed the Rubicon with Caesar back into Roman territory. I would never look at corporate life the same. I would do what I had to do but I wouldn’t, couldn’t, bite off more than I could chew ever again.
Over the next several months I underwent a series of stress tests, special echo cardiograms, and finally an angiogram. This procedure runs a tube, with a camera at the end, through your groin muscle through your body cavity to look at the arteries of your heart. You are awake but your body is “knocked down” by a Valium I-V. If there had been blockage, the doctor would have inserted a stent to insure good blood flow. Fortunately the cardiologist, a doctor of world wide respect in his field, announced that there was no blockage and that I had one of the strongest heart muscles he had ever seen.
I wish that was the end of the story.
That was in November 2004.
When I returned to work nothing had changed, the attitude of management had become more unrelenting. I withdrew from the new project to return to my old job. I steadily refused to put in extra effort and felt the heat turn up on me. Timid to fight back because I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to get fired and lose my medical benefits, I operated in a world of conflict between my personal health needs and, from my viewpoint, the demands of a high pressure job. My health broke again. I wound up back in the Emergency Room 3 times between 2005 and 2007.
The last time I said to my doctor who had wheeled me to the ER, “You know, my ticket book from the ambulance company doesn’t only contain round trip tickets. There is a black one that says ‘one way’. I am tired of playing Russian Roulette with my health.”
I needed a lot of rest to stabilize and restore my health. While out on disability the company terminated my employment. (As of this writing I am exploring to see if I have any legal remedies for their action)
I lost out on an opportunity for a lump sum retirement payment and will have to accept a monthly annuity that will be modest at best. Why? Because I demonstrated to the company that I had the capacity and ability to accomplish results with a good work ethic. I gained a reputation as a “go to guy” if you were faced with a hard problem.
One of the rules of business is “if you find someone who can get something done right the first time, give him more to do.” In the 20th century, management took care of their workhorses by grooming, feeding and taking care of productive people. Now, in the 21st century, things are done differently. If a company rides a workhorse until it breaks down, managers just pull their pistol and shoot the horse. They’ll get another one.
Our world runs at lighting speed and is faster than the one I joined thirty-five years ago as a “go-getter.” People now hitting their stride in the work world are quicker, better informed and very energetic. The same was said of my generation by my parents. It is important to know that the fastest and best workhorse today will one day be eclipsed by a younger and faster one. How you use your resources now will determine how long you will stay “in the harness” and how much you will enjoy life. At some point “overtime” will mean something much different than it does today. I found out the hard way.
There are much easier ways: stay focused, stay balanced, stay healthy.
This afternoon, I’ll share with you the thoughts I had when Gary first emailed me this story (we had never intended for this to become a post, it was just a conversation between two people that I felt told a powerful story) and why I asked him to share it with everyone.