CHASING DAYLIGHT: HOW MY FORTHCOMING DEATH TRANSFORMED MY LIFE, by Eugene O’Kelly
Thanks to a handful of flights and a couple days of silent retreating, I’ve read a bunch of books in the past week. And this one was, by far, my favorite. My friend and ys CORE team member, dan jessup, recommended it to my a while ago, so strongly, that I knew I needed to read it.
Short summary: eugene o’kelly was the ceo of kpmg, on of the “big four” accounting firms. He was a powerful and influential big-business leader, with all that stereotypically goes with that (in terms of perks and schedule and priorities). On may 24, 2005 (my birthday, btw), he was – with no real forewarning – told he had about 100 days to live (which turned out to be fairly accurate). O’kelly resigned and set about to make the last 100 days of his life the best period of his life.
Clearly, the guy was an accountant (not only be trade and experience, but by character). He says this. And he approaches the “project” of making the last 100 days of his life the most meaning and rich period of his life with a methodical to-do-list approach that would be foreign to most of us. But there’s a fascinating brilliance in his almost-detached approach. He is very quickly clear about what he wants to accomplish; he writes these things into concise goals; and he sets out to accomplish them.
One of the most fascinating ideas (and practices) he pursues is the “unwinding” of all his significant relationships (which, for him, numbered well above 1000). He broke these relationships into various levels, knowing he couldn’t approach all of them with the same amount of time, and attempts to create positive last-connections with these people – not filled with what-ifs and if-only’s, but with affirmations, positive reminiscing, character naming and reinforcement, and the hoped-for “perfect moment”. I loved this idea: looking to live into and notice “perfect moments”. His deep desire was to string together perfect moments into perfect days, and hopefully have perfect weeks with the few he had to work with.
There was an almost ignatian sense to this ‘noticing’. I loved it. Made me tear up more than once.
O’kelly is also a man of faith, which colors most of the pages of this book. In fact, he notes that the only people who seemed to not be capable of experiencing the “unwinding” in a positive way were those who did not have some kind of faith to provide an anchor.
Really, this book is one I’d recommend to anyone and everyone. But it seems especially suited to type-a leadership peeps (like me) who live at high speed and often get life priorities out of whack.
O’Kelly’s chapters end rather abruptly (he wrote this book during those three months), as he was thinking he’d have another week or two of lucity. The last – beautiful, poignant and emotionally-packed – chapter is written by his wife.