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What Are Best Friends For?

Greg has been my best friend for almost 40 years. When Mary Kay and I got married over six years ago, of course, he was our best man. I had a chance to hire him along the way and have him move to Florida from Illinois.

Unfortunately, he is still in Florida while I’m in Texas.

On Friday, as I’m about to jump on an airplane, I get an e-mail from him asking the following question: “If you died today what would you regret not being able to do?”

Interesting. I was about to jump on a plane to Miami to see a good friend of mine who is “facing transition” due to cancer.

The question was interesting—especially in light of what I was doing for the weekend. But, I wasn’t thinking about this from my own perspective when I got the question.

I found Greg’s question interesting in a couple of ways. First, I thought it is exactly what best friends should ask each other. Deep? Of course! But shouldn’t best friends talk about deep stuff instead of just talk about kids, sports, and what kind of beer they like?

Second, he was talking about “real stuff”—not “bucket list stuff.” I think there is a major difference. The bucket list, at least for me, is stuff that I would like to do before I ‘kick the proverbial bucket.” The real stuff is what I would need to do if the doctor told me I had a week to live and that I’d better get ready.

As leaders we need to start thinking about the “what ifs.” For instance:

—How are you spiritually?

—How are you with your spouse or significant other?

—How are you with your parents … your children?

—How are you with your siblings and other members of your family?

—What about the relationship you have with your employees?

—How about your vendors?

—Your friends?

As I sat with my friend with cancer on Saturday, we talked about life and death and the transition that occurs as one with cancer faces death. He is the CEO of his company and this has necessitated thinking about a myriad of things as he faces the inevitable.

As leaders, I believe we need to start putting together the “things I need to start doing today” … your “just in case” list. These aren’t just New Year’s resolutions that typically mean nothing.

You’ve all heard stories of how people changed themselves for the better. Usually it is when something tragic happens that motivates someone to make the change. Something like cancer.

Wouldn’t it be nice to make the changes as we continue becoming better leaders, for no apparent reason, rather than waiting for some tragic event? After all, this is the only thing in life we know that will definitely happen.

Thanks, Greg, for the question! Another reason we are such great friends.

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