Thursday, October 22, 2009


What if today were all you had? How would you live it?

What if you had just this year? What would you change in your life?

What if you were to live forever, never sick, never without? What would you do differently?

How much in your life is what you've settled for? How much in your life is what you've dreamed of?

What would you change?

Everything and Nothing
The other day, Iris asked me what I would change in my life. I thought about it and it occurred to me that, at a macro level, not much. I really love the life I've chosen. I'm apparently, based on the feedback of others, incredibly happy and content. I certainly feel that way.

Yet, at a micro level, there are gazillions of things that I would change. I would spend more time playing music. I'd figure a way to get my kids to come visit us here in the middle of nowhere versus us always going to them. I'd spend more time writing and more time singing. I'd cure cancer. I'd solve the energy thing. I'd cook more. I'd run more. I'd spend more time talking with friends late into the evening. There are so many things that I would do.

What an interesting paradox: being totally contented and wanting so much more. It's pretty amazing.

And yet...
There are times when I'm not so contented. There are times when I start pressuring myself to deliver on my wants. I start believing that I'm not working fast enough or hard enough or smart enough. I start believing that I'm not enough... that I should do better.

Perhaps it's an interesting side-effect of always assuming that you can do the impossible or the improbable or at least more than you thought was possible or probable. Over time, you slowly raise the bar higher and higher and higher. What was a stretch goal becomes an expectation. What was a stupendous victory becomes ho-hum.

Over the past few months, I've been pushing myself really, really hard: perhaps harder than I have ever pushed before.

My friend Jonathan gave me this amazing opportunity to write the software for his device that precludes heart attacks. My friend Kat gave me an amazing opportunity to work with her to develop a website that will help families of kids with autism and other developmental challenges. Iris gave me an amazing opportunity to play music with a great group of musicians who are the sweetest people in the world.

It's all been, well, amazing!

What If I Can't Do It All?
I've been running as fast as I can to keep up with all the opportunities that I've been presented working at least twelve hours every day of the week, and yet, I feel like I'm always just inches behind where I need to be.

The thing that I noticed today is that my attitude towards myself has been slowly shifting. Rather than seeing myself as doing remarkable work and valuing my effort, my heart and my skill, I've started judging the fact that I'm always just shy of where I want to be.

It's not a disabling kind of judgment per se. I don't spend time lying in bed bemoaning my situation. Some might even call it an enabling judgment in that I actually work harder and longer. But still, I'm quite convinced that, by focusing on the spots where I'm missing, I've started to undermine how effective I am.

It's a subtle thing that shows up as a tightness in my neck and shoulders or as a shallowness in breathing. My very concern is undermining my ability to address that about which I'm concerned! Maybe more importantly, the work I love so much has become less fun. It's almost become, work.

A Milestone
Today, I go the this incredible email from Jonathan regarding the software that I'd developed for the heart attack device.

By way of background, medical devices (even implantable ones) are typically tiny computers that run software. Unlike the software that runs on the computers that we see on our desks, medical device software has to be really, really efficient (so that the battery can last for years, not hours), and it has to be really, really, really reliable. Blue screen of death takes on a whole new meaning.

One of the things that was special and challenging about the software that I wrote for Jonathan is that he wanted the exact same software to be able to run both on the device and on a the desktop computer that doctors use to program the device. Typically, these are developed independently because the tiny computer on the medical device and the big computer on your desk are so different from one another.

Jonathan knew that, if you developed the software once for both, then you could dramatically improve the quality of both systems; by testing one system, you would also test the other. This would also guarantee that whatever the doctors saw on their program console would be exactly what was happening in the device that was implanted in their patient.

Over the past few weeks, Jonathan has been running tests on the software, tweaking little pieces as he goes. In his email, Jonathan told me that he'd just run a test that successfully processed and analyzed thirteen million segments of heart attack data (more than 300 million heartbeats).

As I read the email, I thought, "Shit. It's really working!"

And then, I just stopped.

Celebration and Closure
A few weeks ago, I handed off the software to Jonathan and his team and then raced back to the Berkshires to pick up the next task at hand. Internally, I don't think I even paused to acknowledge the accomplishment, let alone celebrate or relish it. I had too much left to do.

As I sat with Jonathan's email in front of me and paused, I could feel my neck and shoulders relaxing. I could sense my lungs opening and my breathing slowing. I felt an ease that although normally present, had been evading me over the past few weeks.

So, I've decided that one of the things I'm going to change about my life is to take more time to to recognize and enjoy my accomplishments. Not just the big ones... Not just the ones that go according to plan and schedule... Not just those that others would consider important...

I'm going to start recognizing and celebrating anything that I see as an accomplishment simply because it feels really good.

Happy Thursday!


  1. Really really neat, Mark. Thanks for sharing this... I've been doing this (celebrate and be grateful) ever since I learned it at Option, but as you said, I don't do it nearly enough, and this is a great reminder for me.

    Congratulations on the software success; that sounds like a HUGE accomplishment!

  2. Hey Sree, Thank you for your comment.

    After posting the blog, I really dug into pausing and celebrating. It's amazing what a difference it makes to just stop and enjoy the moment.


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