Adopting a New Perspective
Like most business owners, my entrepreneurial journey has been wrought with high-pressure meetings, major disappointments and nail-biting challenges. In spite of the high-octane stress, sudden setbacks and unexpected obstacles, I have rarely lost a night of sleep. What’s my secret? Perspective. Everyone is given gifts in the form of experiences that help shape their approach to life. The three most impactful life events that serve as my guideposts are as follows:
It Could Always Be Worse
When I was 19 years old, I was a Private First Class in the U.S. Army and on the front lines in the Gulf War. A month before the official start of the war, my unit finally received latrines. And as the lowest-ranking member of my unit, I was assigned to emptying those latrines. This involved pulling out the large metal pots of human waste, dragging them to a burn area, pouring helicopter jet fuel in the pots and then stirring the waste while it burned in insanely hot weather. Little did I know that I was being given a valuable life experience that would shape my perspective! I now go into every challenge with a sense of calm, because I know that I survived not only the war, but the worst job in history.
It’s the Journey, Not the Destination
Five years ago, I received a call telling me that Greg, my best friend of 20 years, had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Greg was the epitome of a life fully lived. I will never forget when I learned Greg had cancer, nor my time watching him battle the disease with courage, dignity and humor. The day before Greg passed away, a small group of his close friends had one last beer with him. We thanked him for the gift he had given us— the realization that life is about the journey, not the destination. I use this knowledge as a guidepost every day. I now live with a sense of urgency, knowing that one day I, too, will pass. To keep this top of mind, I carry around my annual, quarterly and weekly goals as a reminder to not waste a single day.
You Get Back More than What You Give
My third guidepost is best summed up in a lyric from “The End”, the last song The Beatles ever recorded. It goes: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Four years ago, my family took a mission trip to El Crucero, a poor village in Nicaragua. We fell in love with the people and chose to plant our flag in the community. Since then, I have seen the good our medical clinic, soccer courses and feeding programs have done, but the greatest impact has been on me and my family. By giving back to those in need, we have been enriched beyond measure. I use this small oasis as a guidepost in my daily life. It shapes how my wife and I relate to our time and treasures, as we look for new ways to support others.
Everyone has those moments in life that define who they are and how they want to live. These are three of mine. I challenge you to search for your experiential gifts and use them to shape a perspective that will enable you to achieve the greatest version of yourself.
Sean Tonner is managing director of R&R Partners, a full-service marketing and public affairs company. Fun fact: If you contact Sean in the winter months, he will likely answer from his second office— the ski slopes of Colorado, USA.