The Perfect Moment

Last night, my daughter Mary and her husband, Chris, came over. The weather was unseasonably warm, so we sat out on the porch and talked. We reminisced about their wedding among other things. We laughed. We even cried. It was a rich, full time.

Photo courtesy of ©, Image #1423652

Photo courtesy of ©

Before long, I opened a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. It’s my very favorite white wine, and I was eager to share it with Mary and Chris. They had never had it before. We savored the hints of peach, passion fruit, and, most of all, grapefruit. We delighted in each drop.

After a while, we ordered some pizza. Our conversation lingered over dinner, even as the night grew colder. We eventually got some blankets, but we were reluctant to let go of the moment. I honestly don’t remember all that we discussed. It really doesn’t matter. I just relished the intimacy and the joy of being with people I love.

My experience was what Eugene O’Kelly calls a perfect moment.

I read O’Kelly’s book, Chasing Daylight [affiliate link] , this past weekend on the recommendation of my dear friend (and coach) Dan Meub. It was, as they say, “a quick read.” I started it on a flight to Orlando and finished it before I got back. Few books have had such a profound impact on me in such a short time.

O’Kelly was the former CEO of KPMG, one of the largest accounting firms in the world. He had a great life, a wonderful marriage of 27 years, and two adoring daughters. He loved his job, and he loved his golf.

As with most CEOs, his life was very busy. Over the course of a decade, he had managed to have a weekday lunch with his wife just twice. His calendar was booked 18 months in advance. He routinely worked 12-15 hour days. Most of his waking moments were spent thinking about the future.

However, all of that came to screeching halt when suddenly, at age 53, he was diagnosed with late-stage brain cancer. His doctors soberly told him he had maybe three months to live. He quickly came to the conclusion that recovery was impossible. A miracle was unlikely.

Over the next 90 days, he determined that he would die well. In true CEO-fashion, he created goals for himself. He made a list of important relationships he wanted to “unwind.” By this he meant that he wanted to bring closure to those relationships and communicate how much each person had meant to him. He also learned to meditate. And, most importantly, he tried to create as many “perfect moments” as he could.

According to O’Kelly, a perfect moment is an experience with others when time stands still. It is a time full of the present, when the past is left behind and the future is set aside. It is a special time of focused attention and heightened awareness. Interruptions and distractions are consciously excluded. Cell phones are off. Hearts are wide open. All that matters is this moment—the people I am with and the conversation we are having now.

I wept silently on the plane as I finished the second half of the book. Maybe it struck a little too close to home. Maybe it was because I realized that these perfect moments are so rare in my own life.

I also was extremely grateful that O’Kelly had taken time to write this imperfect but important book. The time he took to write it was time he, frankly, didn’t have. It was a selfless act. But it is a gift to people like me who need a reminder that this moment is all I have.

The phrase “the perfect moment” has now given me an important distinction. Now that I know what it is, I am going to strive to have more of them. I mean honestly, the past and the future are way over-rated. I want to be more present with the people I love.

Question: What “perfect moment” have you experienced recently?
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  • Peter H Schuyten

    My father was born in Belgium and went through WW2 with rations. He always thought that money was the answer to fulfill him.

    He worked and worked and worked and was never home for us. He eventually retired at 65 with all that money in the bank ready to reap the rewards of all his effort. He died of a heart attack at age 66, I am sure due to all the stress of all those years.

    In the later years we eventually had a relationship and I was never denied anything in my youth, aside from a relationship with him which I would have given up all the “perks” for.

    Money doesn’t make you happy. Look at the statistics on Lotto winners. Nearly 40% say that to do over again they wish they had never won the money. They no longer know who their friends are and many are broke again in 5 years.

    As an average salaried guy just making it I have learned that money will not make you happy. I drive an old car, live in a modest house and I learned through him that it is a better path the hard way.

    I watched an interview with Reba Mcentire years ago. She was asked what her favorite thing to do was with all her wealth. Her answer surprised me. She said she loves to put on a wig and simply go to Wal-Mart and shop and not be recognized without her body guards. Just to be like you and me. No photos, no autographs and the fan fair.

    So go find those “perfect moments” and make life count as someone who has been on both side of the tracks and take it from me the grass is no greener in the end.

  • Roger Benge

    Michael, What a great post. I need to get O’Kelly’s book, Chasing Daylight. Sounds like a great book. Andy Andrews wrote an e-book titled “The Perfect Moment”. He was giving it away for free to people who subscribed to his e-mail list. I believe he recently changed what he was giving away for free but you may be able to still find it on his sight It’s a great little story about a perfect moment with one of his boys.

    Thank you,