WE DON'T FIGHT AGAINST COMPETITORS
My phone rang…
“Simeon, we have a fifteen-year-old kid with a ruptured aorta! Do you have a suitable size thoracic stent-graft in stock?”
My heart stopped. It was Professor Ivo Petrov, a good friend of mine who is one of the best interventional cardiologists in Bulgaria. I knew the answer straight away — it was no. I also knew no one else had these devices in Bulgaria. They were very expensive, and the health fund was not reimbursing them. So no distributor or hospital had any in stock.
The doctor was close to tears. I wasn’t far off either. I told him I’d try to do something and asked him to wait for my call.
I called one of the regional managers of our partner manufacturer, a U.S. company with a European warehouse in Germany. She picked up right away.
“Anna, we have an emergency!” I went on to explain everything as fast as I could.
“I got you, Simeon. Let me call you back in five minutes,” she replied and hung up.
I was stressed out. It was the first time we’d had such an emergency. I knew orders always took a few days to arrive, even when they were noted as urgent. But we didn’t have a few days here. The boy would be gone by tomorrow. And it was already the end of the day ... I was hoping for a miracle.
A few minutes later, my phone rang…
“Simeon, one of our colleagues is on his way to the airport. He’ll fly from Austria to Germany, pick up the stent-graft and then catch a plane to Bulgaria. I’ll send you the details of his flight by email.”
I couldn’t believe it. A minute later, I opened my email, and I saw that their guy would arrive in several hours — at about 9:00 p.m.
I picked him up from the airport and drove as fast as I could to the hospital. As I ran through the narrow corridor toward the operating room, I saw the parents of the kid waiting outside. The mother was crying on her husband’s shoulder. My heart was going to explode.
I rushed inside, where the physician’s team was ready. The boy was lying on the table, unconscious, connected to all kinds of systems that were still managing to keep him alive. I handed the device to one of the nurses, and the intervention started.
So many people stayed late that night. The control room was packed with doctors, nurses, and people from the hospital’s administration. I’d never seen anything like it before. I was there too, watching how the team performed the minimally invasive surgery.
It was quieter than usual. Everyone was holding their breath … hoping for the best.
An hour later, Professor Petrov turned away from the operating table and slowly walked out and into the control room. He started moving through the narrow, crowded corridor, looking straight into my eyes. He was crying.
It was only when he pulled his face mask off that I saw a huge smile on his face. He gave me a strong, brotherly hug with the words, “We did it!”
The boy was saved. A few days later he was back to his normal life.
The story got into the news. They were praising Professor Petrov and his team for the incredible procedure they performed and for saving the boy’s life. They were praising our company for the support in making it all happen. But they didn’t know that this miracle wouldn’t be possible if not for someone else who got away unnoticed. Someone whose Mission was so inspiring, so pure, so powerful, that it made a gigantic organization (with over 12,000 employees) move as fast as a garage-based startup.
When I asked Anna Such, the regional manager, how much we needed to pay for the extra costs that their company accrued because of our request (the last-second flights and hotel, the time of their representative), her team said that there was nothing to pay for.
The founder of this company once said that they don’t fight against their competitors. They fight against disease. And that’s exactly what they did that day.
William Alfred “Bill” Cook died in 2011, but his Mission is still alive, saving lives all around the world. The name of the company is Cook Medical.
I believe that the two highest powers in our world are Love and Mission. These are the two key ingredients that make up an exciting life filled with meaning.
It’s painful for me to look at how people live their lives without a Mission. Some of us think that our intimate partners are responsible for bringing this missing sense of fulfillment in our lives, but that’s simply not true. No wonder so many relationships end up in a disaster after years of broken expectations.
AND NOW TO THE MOST LIKED LINKEDIN ARTICLE
In January 2018, the most liked and shared article on LinkedIn was “Really – Always leave the office on time.” This article was liked by over 260,000 people and shared by more than 70,000.
The author of the article shared such statements to support his advice: “A person who stays late at the office is not a hardworking person. Instead, he/she is a fool who does not know how to manage his time. He/She is a loser who does not have a personal or social life. He/She is inefficient and incompetent in his work.”
“You did not study hard or struggle in life to become a machine.”
I’m not sure how to describe the feelings I experienced after I read this article. It was a mix of emotions, none of which was great. I couldn’t believe that such a message was so widely spread and accepted in a professional environment like LinkedIn.
Do you think that if Professor Petrov and his team, Anna, or the manufacturer’s representative who took four flights to bring the life-saving device were all following the advice above, that boy would be alive today? Are we all just fools who don’t know how to manage our time? Have we messed up our work-life balance?
People have become so caged in their fears and their excuses. They don’t believe that they can be great at both their Mission and their family lives. They believe they must make a severe compromise with one or the other (or with their health, hobbies, etc.). So they make career their enemy (some even make family the enemy) and thus never follow an inspiring Mission — living and experiencing half of their whole being.
The mindset is the enemy, and all the excuses about why we can’t have something we want. Not our jobs, not our bosses, not our circumstances, our families, our lack of time. When you accept that there is a way to be great in both career and family, you’ll take the time to sit down, strategize, and work until you find a way that fulfills this reality. When you keep on making the same excuses as everybody else around you, there’s no change to be expected.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to the following: Do you want to be an A team player, or do you want to play in the B league? Or even worse — sit on the bench while others are playing. And that’s more of a decision about who you are and who you want to become rather than about your work, your boss, and when to leave the office.
I doubt Thomas Edison came up with anything meaningful at quarter to five, while looking at his watch, getting ready to leave. Magic doesn’t happen between nine and five. It just doesn’t. Not if you don’t commit to pouring your heart into the game you are playing. And if you are waiting for the clock to hit five to close the door from the outside … well, maybe you are playing the wrong game, my friend.
Find this game where you’ll never feel “forced” to work hard but will be inspired to do so! Not because of somebody else, but because of you and your Mission. Leave your heart on each field of play! Every day! The world doesn’t need us to be the mediocre version of ourselves. It needs us to be the best we could possibly be.
People love talking about work-life balance. I don’t see any balance in doing something that doesn’t inspire you for eight to nine hours every day. I don’t see balance in bringing this lack of fulfillment and half-heartedness back home to your beloved family. It’s a state of mind your spouse and kids didn’t sign up for. Balance is not achieved by “always leaving the office on time.” It is achieved by making sure that all important areas of your life are taken great care of (health, relationships, emotions, mission/career, finance, free time). If one of these is broken, the rest will suffer as well.
“Work-life balance” seems to have become the best excuse for many people not to take responsibility for their professional and personal growth. But this “balance” that all of us love to talk about is not something conceptual. It is achieved by strategic, focused, hard work. It doesn’t come by default or when we say the magic words. That’s why many of us are leading lives far from our potential for success and fulfillment — because we wait for balance to happen, and it never does. I’ve been there, and it sucks.
Most of us haven’t taken a single hour of our lives to think about what work-life balance means to us. Needless to say, we put zero effort into planning about it, working for it, living it. Open your calendar and show me what your work-life balance looks like. In 99 percent of cases, it’s not there — it’s nowhere to be found.
What upsets me most is seeing the lack of belief in people who think that they can only have one or the other. People who think they will never be successful in following their Mission because they also have a family to take care of. That’s only true if you want to believe it. You only need one example of a person who has it all — and there are many. We must not shy away from setting exciting goals. And those goals must include being great in both our professional and personal lives.
The author of the original article later commented that he didn’t write these arguments himself. He mentioned that the source is the former prime minister of India, who is also a rocket scientist.
It turned out that the original seven points come from the eleventh president of India (2002–2007), Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The professor’s achievements (there are many notable ones) and apparent care for the well-being of others are something that deserve great respect and also something that clearly illustrates that he, himself was not one to “always leave the office on time.”
Who the source is, however, is less important compared with the interpretation of the president’s words and the impact it had on the LinkedIn community.
If we are to see more successful and fulfilled people around us, we shouldn’t blindly follow people’s advice basing it on their CV, whether it says Founder, CEO, Prime Minister, President, or any other label that may sound important.
We must not use our families as an excuse not to take responsibility for our personal Mission in life. That’s just wrong! It’s easy to say, “I’m a family guy,” and hide behind that story. But that’s a made-up reason that lacks any amount of courage and integrity.
Balance is work hard, play hard. Not work average, live average.
I honor the fears and struggles we all experience. We are human. That’s our nature. But we already know what giving up on our dreams feels like. I invite you to try to see what the opposite is like. There’s nothing to lose. We’ll all be gone someday anyway.
All the people who we look up to are there, on the field, playing the game. They are not any better than us. They just started and never quit. How long more are we going to stay on the bench to watch and comment? How long are we going to use our families, our circumstances, our gender, our age, as an excuse not to step in and get in the game?
We don’t want our stone to say: “He/She was balanced … and sad.” I prefer mine (and yours) saying: “He/She played full out!”
Never listen to people who want to drag you down to their level of fearfulness! Prove them wrong and pull them up to your level of bravery!
After years of testing, after all experiences as a professional racing driver, an entrepreneur, a Neuro-Linguistic Programming Coach, and simply a human being that wants to grow, I've narrowed down a set of skills that help me win the day, the week, and the game of life.