Friday 16 September 2011

My 5 personal and lasting lessons from 9/11

Today my grandson Hamish celebrates his 10th birthday. When he arrived 5 days after 9/11 our joy was in stark contrast to the grief of thousands.

Here is a part of what I wrote in Sparkenation 7 (Living our lessons from 9/11) of my Changing What’s Normal book.


Most people respond to something bad happening to them with revenge and fail to grasp the opportunity to do good.

Changing What’s Normal

On 9/11, the day my daughter was due to give birth, my wife was in Perth with our daughter and I was at home in Adelaide with a flight booked to fly to Perth on the 13th. That night, my wife and I spoke on the telephone about what kind of a world our first grandchild was likely to grow up in?

On the day of my scheduled flight, the airline I had booked on, Ansett, then an iconic Australian company, suddenly closed down. I was not able to get a flight on another airline, or a seat on a train or bus, so I got in my car and drove to Perth, a 36 hour drive.

What occupied my mind for much of that trip was the question, “what is the purpose of my life?”

I couldn’t even begin (still can’t) to imagine the horror for those who died in the World Trade Center and the devastation for their families, yet it inspired me to think deeply about my own life, and how I could do more to make a difference in the world.

The long drive to Perth was full of defining moments for me where I made decisions that still drive my life and my work.

When I held the precious new life of my Grandson in my arms for the first time I realised that what was becoming ‘normal’ in our world, at that time, was not the sort of normal world that I wanted him to grow up in. I made a silent promise to do everything in my power to never accept ‘normal’ when that means that less than what is possible is happening in our world.

This book is part of my action plan. It’s a big task and I am just one person. I am asking for your help. I am asking you to do your work, so that together we might co-create a world where everyone can win and nobody loses.

In 2005 my wife and I were in London partly due to my work and partly for holidays. We traveled on the London Underground the day after the terrorist attack on that rail system. You could feel the fear and yet also the resolve of travelers to not be beaten by people who commit terrorist acts. This experience was another defining moment for me in my life.

My 5 lasting lessons from 9/11.

1) “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.”

I first came across this wonderful line in the film ‘Strictly Ballroom’.

Chances are that if you are not achieving what you really want in your life right now, you are not doing something that you fear. Get over it. Do your work.

The most amazing thing about doing what we fear is that usually we end up wondering why we were so frightened in the first place.

2) “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do about it.”

These are the words of W Mitchell an amazing man who has overcome hardships in his life that would have taken the life of most people.

Stop worrying about your circumstances. Worrying is a useless emotion and along with guilt the most debilitating. Whatever your circumstance, do something about it. Take action now.

3) Don’t get distracted by what other people do or don’t do

We are responsible for our intentions, feelings, thoughts, and actions, never other people’s. Stay your course, be true to yourself, maintain your focus and the right people for you will join you and the wrong people for you won’t.

4) What we believe is just a belief. What we do is what really matters

A client of mine is a devout Christian. Another client is a devout Muslim. Yet another client strictly follows what she sees as the Buddhist way. Still another is Jewish to his bootstraps. I could go on. I know people from most walks of life who strongly believe what they do. I greatly admire each of my clients, yet I share none of their belief systems. What we do share is the fact that behaviour matters more than belief.

Many belief systems are tied up in a faith of some kind. Faith by definition cannot be proved. If it could be proved it wouldn’t be faith! The ‘proof is in the pudding’ the saying goes, meaning what we do counts for far more than what we believe. As one of the Apostles of the Christian Church is reported to have said, “Faith without works is dead.”

A lot of faiths are dead today because the actions of many of the faithful betray their stated beliefs. I meet a lot of people more interested in being right than being compassionate. Compassion for me is at the heart of all the world’s religion’s.
If we are not living and breathing a compassionate life we render whatever we believe as null and void, regardless of what we say.

A new world is being born. Compassion is a key component. There is a place for faith in this new world however belief matters little, what counts is behaviour.

5) However long we live, we leave a legacy

Every life matters. Everyone leaves a legacy. The question we must all answer with our lives: Is the legacy I am leaving the one that I truly want to leave?

Happy birthday Hamish.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

1 comment:

Roberta KISTS said...

I was really moved and touched by this and the way it all came together. Many people experienced life changing moments around 9/11/2001 that forever changed their lives. What I love though is that you actually took the lessons and wove them into so many aspects of your life and business.
Thank you for sharing