overcoming life's disappointments

I opened the mail at home in the fall of 2019 and in the envelope was this book: “Overcoming Life’s Disappointments” by Harold Kushner. It was sent to me by one of my best friends in the world, Jimmy Minamoto who I met in high school in Commack, NY.

By: Tim Murray, CEO Aware Senior Care

Jimmy and I met as part of the high school band at Commack North which had an amazing music program. Jim played clarinet and I played trombone. We became great friends as we remain today. Jimmy is a highly successful lawyer living and working in Tokyo, Japan since 1990.

In 2010, Jimmy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He’s an amazing man and through cutting back at work, eating well and focusing on himself and is family, has fought the disease into near remission. He’s always inspired me, and I think you can get a sense of why he mailed me this book.

The Example of Moses and Overcoming Life’s Disappointments

What really fascinated me was the book focuses on learning from Moses how to cope with frustrations. I thought to myself “Moses really? He was a hero!”

The book is not about Moses, it’s about you and me and what we can learn from Moses experiences both triumphs and failures. I came to learn that Moses had some real highs such as parting the red sea and striking a rock in the desert and water poured forth, to failures and frustrations like coming down from the mountain with the 10 commandments only to find the flock worshiping idols and at the end of his life when he knew he was dying and never see the promised land.

And you know what? He was at peace with this because he never wavered in his faith, always tried to do the right thing. To him, that was serving God and when he went to heaven, God would take care of him.

As I read the book, I took notes on my iPad of things that really resonated with me and I wanted to adopt in living my life.

Lesson One: Keeping Your Promises

“Keeping one’s promise is the cornerstone of responsibility, and I have long considered responsibility for one’s behavior to be the defining characteristic of a mature human being.”

How many times have you made a promise either to a friend, loved one or yourself and broke the promise?

I have and when I reflect, I felt bad and wished I had not. This galvanized me to be a true man of character. My word is bond. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I admire people who are loyal and back up what they are saying or promising. That’s who I strive to be. Loyal, true to my word, and dependable.

Lesson Two: Don’t Expect Reciprocation for Doing the Right Thing

“Expecting the world to treat your fairly because you are an honest person is like expecting a bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian.”

I don’t know about you, but this made me laugh mainly because I get it.

Just because you do the right thing and treat people fairly doesn’t mean they will return the favor. We see this in the aforementioned Moses example. In the Home Care business, this occurs frequently.

Our mantra, the Aware Way, is to always do the right thing even if the client or caregiver do not or do not appreciate it. We’re at peace with ourselves because we’re making the effort, we are doing what we said we would do.

We had a sermon in our Church a week ago that spoke this sentiment. It was based on a reading from the Book of John. The main lesson was this “God rewards effort, not results.”

Lesson Three: Live a Complete Life

“Five elements of a complete life: family, friends, faith, work and the satisfaction of making a difference.”

This section of the book really bought it all together for me.

For Gina and I, owning and running Aware hits on the two last points. We’re working with the knowledge we are making a difference every day.

The other three are also important to us. It starts with family and making it a point to spend as much time with family as we can.  Friends: We love the friends we have and making new friends. I always remember the scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Peter Bailey opens the book his guardian angel Clarence gave him and sees written in it.

Watch this video on YouTube.

“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”  So true.

Finally, faith. So many people don’t have the Church in their lives. Gina and I are Catholics. The church and our faith are so important and comforting. As we get to the end of our lives, our faith will be a bright spot in them.

Lesson Four: Balance Your Priorities

  • Think seriously about your priorities and where to allocate your time and emotions. Then act on those conclusions instead of letting events and other people’s demands make the determination for you.
  • We are not defined solely by our work. Underline this and take to heart. I personally crashed in 2011 defining my life by my work. Never again. Work is part of your life. It does not define you. You need to be you at work. That you is based on the five elements of a complete life.

Lesson Five: Aim High in Life

“A person will never achieve much in their life unless they aim high, and to aim high is to virtually to assure oneself of a measure of failure.”

I can personally attest to this on several occasions. The failures helped shape me for the current successful run with Aware Senior Care.

Lesson Six: Age Well

Pick up the book “Aging Well” by George Vaillant. Old age does not have to be a time of loss, regret, and playing out the string. Just as the last innings of a ball game can be the most exciting. Vaillant identified two traits as the key to contentment late in life:

  • Grow your circle of friendships in a “widening social radius” instead of shrinking the number of people in your life.
  • Nurture your ability to forgive slights and injuries. Look back with gratitude rather than regret, with fondness rather than bitterness.

Summary

This book helps you understand what it means to live a good life. There are highs and lows, triumphs and failures, and people are imperfect. Don’t let your job define you. Make it a goal each day to be the best person you can. Recognize you are human. You can or will make mistakes. Make it a goal to do the right things. Trusting in these principles will make overcoming life’s disappointments not quite so daunting.

As we say in the Rotary in our 4 way test (when making a decision or taking action):

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER friendships?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Good questions to help you along your way.