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A Hard Lesson I Learned About What’s Really Important

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I was recently reminded that there’s a lot more to life than hustling.

If you’re here for business stories or growth tips, I’m sorry. I don’t have any this week.

But I hope you’ll indulge me as I get something else off of my chest.

It’s a personal story about a friend of mine, but to me, it’s as meaningful as anything we’ve ever published on this blog, and I truly hope that it helps someone to read it as much as it helped me to write it.

At first, it’s devastating.

When you find out that someone close to you has been diagnosed with something awful, it hits you like a punch in the gut.

It leaves you breathless and disoriented.

But then, excruciatingly slowly, you begin to stand.

To build hope.

To nurture a belief that together with your loved one and everyone else around them, you’re going to beat this thing.

Hope and belief turns into absolute conviction. There’s no. fucking. way. that the cancer will win.

Not with how hard he’s fighting. Not with how strong he is. Not with all of our support.

That absolute conviction lets you get back, somewhat, to a normal life. Just like things used to be, only now you’re constantly walking around with this new battle in the back – and often, in the front – of your mind.

You work. And you live. And you battle. But you do it with a quiet confidence that, if you keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing, that things will turn out alright.

Until the day, maybe a few months later, maybe a few years later, that the call that you never in a million years dreamed would come…

Well, it comes.

We didn’t win.

We never even stood a chance.

It’s a story that so many of us have lived. And invariably, beyond the anger and the grief and the confusion that comes next, it makes us reflect.

And I’ve seen this terrible cliche end, more often than not, with a few promises to live and love better, a couple of weeks of concerted effort, and a sad, unnoticed slip back to the way things were before.

I don’t want it to end that way for me, and that’s why I’m writing this post: both to have a public record to hold myself accountable to, and as a reminder to anyone else who needs it that you can always re-commit to living the life you want to live.

There’s More To Life Than The Hustle. So Much More.

In the past few weeks, I’ve told my family that I love them more than I can ever remember.

I’ve put away my phone when I walk my dog, and just enjoyed my time with the little friend that brings me so much joy.

I’ve surfed, and put 110% of myself into the moment; being eternally grateful for every spray of mist that cooled my face.

These are the simple things that I always told myself I’d take the time to do “when this was all over.”

How ridiculous is that?

Those things cost me nothing, and they bring me immense happiness and reward. And yet I, like so many people, would get so drawn into “the hustle” that, at times, I’d hold back that satisfaction so I could work for another ten minutes.

In the time that I’ve been consciously doing these things, my productivity hasn’t skipped a beat. And even if it did, it shouldn’t matter.

We spend so much time chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, promising ourselves that once we get there, we’ll give ourselves permission to live the life we want.

But if you’re not the kind of person you want to be now, achieving your dream, whatever it may be, isn’t going to change that.

I’ve always valued work/life balance, but I was as guilty as anyone of letting myself slip. Of robbing myself.

It’s unbelievable to me that it should take a tragedy to help me internalize something so simple.

But Work Matters, Too.

I think it’s easy to take this to its logical extreme: that nothing else really matters other than enjoying life with the ones you care about.

But I don’t think that’s true, either.

Building something matters. Leaving a legacy matters. Doing something with my time and energy that makes life better for others matters.

At least to me.

And I’m not special enough to be able to accomplish that without a lot of hard work.

The hustle is important. Living life to the fullest is important. It’s too easy to sacrifice one side for the other, and it’s a balance I suspect I’ll always be fighting to achieve.

A Permanent Reminder

Yes, I realize that this post is riddled with cliches. And that it doesn’t have any particularly actionable takeaways.

But my hope is that it sits here forever, serving as a reminder to myself, and to anyone else who needs it, that life is about a lot more than the businesses we’re all trying to build.

That it’s worth taking a step back and appreciating everything – and everyone – around us.

And that while there isn’t a damn thing that you can do to change the past, it’s up to you to give yourself permission to live the life you want to live today.

Thanks for reading.

Next week, we’re back to our regularly scheduled startup journey (with a new My First $100K interview that I’m especially excited about).

But until then, I’m curious: what are the things, big and small, that are truly important to you in life?

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About the Author

Alex Turnbull is the CEO & Founder of Groove (simple helpdesk software for small businesses) who loves to build startups and surf.