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 ©iStockphoto.com/hypedesk, Image #1423652

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/hypedesk

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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    The People Part of Enterprise Collaboration and Virtual Teams Ken has five tips for making in-person and virtual meetings more effective: (1) maintain focus, (2) don’t tell stories, (3) reveal what you know, (4) decide on the next actions and

  • http://www.seibbooks.com.au Leona

    I understand what you talk about. I am finally home from an operation and enjoying perfect moments with my children.

    Leona

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    Ah, I just had one of those on Friday night myself, Mike. Our son and daughter-in-law came for dinner, but their real goal was to tell us we’re finally going to be grandparents! It was a time I will treasure forever.

  • John Y

    Profound Mike. Normally this kind of thinking comes around the end of December when we’re making New Years resolutions and are just tired from a long year and long holiday. There are too many tv channels, too many phone numbers where anyone can find us at any hour of the night and too many people needing 5 minutes? Know the feeling Mike? This is good coaching.
    To quote Norman Vincent Peale: Change your thoughts, and you change your world.

    Please make a note to come back and revisit this in a few months. Let’s see if this one “takes.” I hope so.

  • Jorge Hoyos

    Mike, this is exactly what all of us need to strive for. The business of life can easily overwhelm anyone in position. From the CEO to the janitor that stays after even the CEO has gone home.
    Take note, the only thing we take with us, and leave behind, are the “perfect moments” that we create with our loved ones.

    Blessings,

    Jorge

  • ram

    That was a very good/humble post Mike. And I can say with 100% confidence that you are a good guy and a GREAT leader. I know you from your blog & honestly you’ve been a great mentor on several thing in my life, I am in my late 20′s and getting a lot of education from several leaders like you. I will be visiting my family after 3+ years and looking forward to many such perfect moments.

    Thanks a lot,

    Ramesh.

  • http://www.buildingchampions.com dan

    Great post – being fully present is such a gift, and yet for most of us, we do it so little. Sometimes, it takes a true story that pulls at our heart to whack us on the head and to wake us up to the present!

    I also loved how he went from this predictability mindset (accountants want to AVOID surprises) to a spirit of embracing spontaneity. I did this with my wife last Thursday. A Friday strategic planning day got cancelled so we went to the mountain, and had a perfect Valentine’s moment that lasted three days. Praise God for those times.

  • lisa lehr

    Mike -
    My father has been on a ventilator since Christmas. About a week later, he condition became serious enough that we thought he would leave us at any moment.

    My sister in Ireland was summoned and got to the hospital in Wisconsin in 36 hours – arriving late in the evening. We, my 2 sisters and I, met my brother in the hospital’s ICU where Dad was restless and nervous. The hospital staff had given him a sedative, but he was resisting.

    The 4 of us surrounded his bed and did the only thing we could think of – we sang him to sleep with ‘Good Night Irene’. While one of my sisters is a professional vocalist, the rest of us can’t carry a tune in a bucket – yet, we some how managed harmony.

    Then, when it appeared he was calmed and resting, we sang him little song he wrote for us when we were very little.

    Dad has given us a legacy of memories singing the old songs,honky tonk songs – it was only appropriate that we should draw upon them when he needed them most.

    Dad is still with us – but everyday it is a struggle to trying to wean him from the ventilator. We are not sure how his memory is right now.

    But, all of his kids know and, at the time it happened, dad knew that it was
    a most precious moment. We wouldn’t have had it if dad hadn’t taken time over the years to ‘torment’ us with those old tunes.

    Lisa
    (We have found a way to forgive him for his disco version of Toot Toot Tootsie)

  • Anuranjani

    Beautiful post…..by the time we keep thinking about our future, the present becomes past.

  • Bill

    This is officially my favorite Mike Hyatt Blog entry of all time.

    Thanks, Mike.

  • Candy Rieger

    Perfect moments — outside time — I think this is what Paul meant by “redeeming the time”. We rob the temporal. The temporal specializes in robbing us of enjoying eternity NOW.
    Today I found your blogs — I’m just learning and enquiring –
    You have blessed me.

  • Gregg Stutts

    Thanks for a great post, Mike. I really appreciate the honesty and vulnerability in your writing.

  • http://stockkevin.com Kevin H

    Thank you for sharing this with us. As a college student, it truly puts things in perspective as to what I want to pursue after college. The majority of us want to chase the dollar, which is fine in some sense. But as both you and I know, the important things in life don’t always come from money. Your blog has been truly inspirational. It has reinforced my desire to pursue my passions and live life to the fullest.

  • http://xiaofenwang.blogspot.com Mary Wang

    Life needs constant adjustment when we don’t know what to do.

  • http://lemonytree.wordpress.com James

    Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow.

    Treasure today thats all there is.

  • Mary Graham

    Mike I remember this from awhile ago but I love it even more now. Such profound truth from such simple joys. Thanks for sharing this and, mostly thank you for being this kind of person, and this kind of leader. You lead strongly through the complexities and realities of life and work but you never lose sight of those relational bonds that give it all meaning.

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  • Angela

    Awesome post, Michael. I have been following you on Twitter for a few months now, and I truly enjoy your insight, perspective, and energy. Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog. My husband and I have been focusing a lot on the NOW of life recently, and I look forward to sharing this entry with him. I am a big believer in the power of NOW and the beauty of MOMENTS.

  • http://www.cheerupnation.com brian papa

    Mike, your blog has quickly become one of my favorites. You always provide so much value and aren't adverse to admitting you're constantly learning as well to be a more fulfilled person. That takes bravery.

    Look forward to your next post!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/VinnyLingham VinnyLingham

    Thanks for the recommendation. Although you may have wept silently – I read this book and bawled my eyes on – the person next to me thought I was crazy. This book changed my life in many ways, some I have yet to fully understand. Thank you!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Beaconhillnw Jim

    this hits hard…this Christmas I am leaving the Blackberry and the laptop at home. I'm looking forward to a fully present time with the family for 2 days…i've decided to set some personal safeguards due to the type of work that i do.
    My recent post How To:The Year in Review

  • Curt

    Thank you for sharing this Mike. I shocked someone the other day when they asked me if I could help them with a project they're working on. They were so careful with their wording when they asked for help. "Now, I know you're busy and I promise not to take too much of your time…." I responded, "Whatever, I'm not that busy, what do you need?" Are we really that busy or do we like to say we are? If I'm ever too busy to find the "perfect moments" then I should really make some changes in my life.

  • Maureen

    I will add this title to our book posts at Our Cancer.

    You wrote a lovely post.

  • FemiStevens

    This is a great read. It put things in the right perspectives and order of priority. My mum passed on recently and I ve not recovered from the pain of the lost perfect moments I should have had with her. When we are young, life is a race and we are always on the run; chasing life and separated from the essence of life itself-people. Lesson learned, slowed down, paused to take in the beautiful things nature has blessed us with. Redeeming the time by seizing the moment, being there and enjoying it with our loved ones. Yes we can freeze the time!

  • http://www.michellemasters.com/blog Topiary Lady

    A lovely post. Thank you for the reminder of what matters in my day today. Everything can certainly change in a moment.

  • http://survivalguru.wordpress.com winnie

    funny how we always think of all the things we do if we had only very little time to live. i have said that so many times in my blogs "What would you do today, if tomorrow Never Came" and no one listens. We should live in each moment like it was our last. Realistically I know we have all kinds of obligations however…i miss special moments with the man i was once with and now they are gone.
    Thank you so much for posting this ..it should be sent out to the world to see and read.
    My recent post Have you Found what you are looking for?

  • Andrew Malek

    Fantastic article, thank you very much!

    I was blogging about the same topic, hence me finding you, really glad to connect under the influence of "defining PERFECT"

    All the best!

  • http://twitter.com/geekgirl01 @geekgirl01

    Everyday, it becomes clearer to me that in the end, it is the perfect moments that matter in our lives. Your post has helped immensely as I (poorly) come to grips with the realization that soon, my mom will lose her valient battle with cancer. I am striving to create as many perfect moments as I can for her and with her while she is here. Thank you.

  • http://www.kathyfannon.com Kathy Fannon

    I had a perfect moment this past week. I rode with my parents to my dad's cousins house out of town. We spent the afternoon looking at old (teens, 20s, 30s and 50s) family pictures. She has an amazing collection! I LOVED listening to Dad and Patty talk about family members who are no longer with us and hearing their memories of when they were kids (and the naughty things they did!). I love family history and the time together was so wonderful. It's an afternoon I will always remember and cherish.

  • Ron Smith

    The perfect moment. Brings dark areas of ones life to light. Brings hope and faith to the front. Connecting by the heart and not by phone, tweets, or etc.

    Great article….I will buy the book.

  • http://levittmike.wordpress.com/ Michael Levitt

    During this Advent season, we all need to take this advise, slow down, and cherish our families, friends, and the blessings we all have.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

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  • http://www.thegiftofmondays.com colleen laquay urbaniuk

    i’m ordering the book and choosing- on purpose – to make perfect moments happen for the rest of my life. thanks for the reminder.

  • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

    I have a 7 month old daughter to match my 12 and 14 year old daughters. I get a perfect moment often when everyone else is asleep at 3 am except my little one and I. Although the conversation tends to be one-sided.

  • http://www.andygill.org/ Andy Gill

    Wow, great post Michael. Buying the book now. Just reading this post is eye opening in the sense that I’m always planning for the future and assuming i’m going to have next year or even the next few months, all the while completely ignoring the present and all that God’s blessed me with right here right now. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510922312 Jeneen Jefferson

    Thanksgiving, being with my dad, mom, 7 siblings and their spouses and children as well as my own.  The children played games, the adults played board games and drank wine, listen to music and laughed.  We all ate until we couldnt eat anymore.

  • Woodruff

    Thank you for the reminder, Mike. I can no longer excuse my busyness for whatever good, at the expense of “The Perfect Moment”.

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  • Cheeba

    Thank you Michael for this poignant article. Perfect moments of late include: stopping everything to enjoy a weekend visit with our f ive year old granddaughter, spending some uninterrupted time together dining on our deck and most recently stopping my devotions in mid-stream to find a destination direction for our 22 year old son! All so needed. All such a blessing.

  • Kvang71

    Thanks for sharing Michael. I can picture your family out on your porch sharing that intimate time together. I long for those moment as well, but it’s hard to come by. Thanks for sharing about the Perfect Moment.

  • http://blessingmpofu.com/ Blessing Mpofu

    i couldn’t agree more. one of my perfect moments >> http://blessingmpofu.com/life-in-a-moment/ Thanks for sharing yours Mike. Can never get enough reminders.

  • http://www.mavenofsavin.com/ Lynn@MavenofSavin

    Thank you so much for the recommendation and the much needed (and timely) reminder.  This is something I crave and need to make a priority in my life.  I cannot wait to read about and pursue it actively!  THANKS!

  • Jpencek

    Michael, This is a great post and really makes you think about what’s truly important in life. I also thought of another book I read awhile back called “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch (and Jeffrey Zaslow). Not fully the same content but I believe same or similar idea. My question is why is it we, as humans, have to be on our death bed to realize this? Both Pausch and O’Kelly didn’t see this is as important until the ultimate ultimatum was made. I keep “The Last Lecture” on my desk so I have a daily reminder that I have other important things in my life besides work. That way I will never have to write a book when my calling comes.

  • http://www.judiholler.com/ Judi

    I have read the book and it profoundly impacted me too!!  It’s has really made me focus on trying to stay as present as possible while still preparing for the future. It’s a REALLY tough thing to do.  Those “perfect moments” are priceless … so I’m always on the lookout for them.

  • Kmhanks

    Scary that this was your post. I finished a difficult treatment for an aggressive breast cancer a year ago. My job is one I love, but has taken over all of the time in my day and night. I tried to find a balance and have failed. I put in my resignation for a job I loved because life is precious no matter how old we live. I am committed to finding a different job I love so that I can also take time to be PRESENT with my family, to remember and enjoy my hobbies that I once had, and focus on a healthy lifestyle.  
    Last night instead of going back to work I took the time (which normally I would not have done) and ate dinner with family and played with my niece. I am so grateful for last night’s perfect moments!  

  • http://www.facebook.com/1234567890pa Paulo Andrade

    Why we always remember the good things of life when we are faced to a disease or a major problem? Life should be wonderfull all days, we must disconect from all noises. Last sunday with my girlfriend, listen the sea and watch the sunset was a perfect moment. We do this every weekends….

  • http://www.facebook.com/Skyton 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.

  • http://www.RogerBenge.com/ 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 http://www.AndyAndrews.com. It’s a great little story about a perfect moment with one of his boys.

    Thank you,

    Roger