“I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get … Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.”
Words of wisdom from Anna Quindlen written in the front cover of a book given to me from one of my fellow nursing colleagues. It was a book saying goodbye to me but also encouraging me to take this next part of the journey with gusto and passion.
Only a few years later, this same nursing colleague was diagnosed with a terminal illness and goodbyes were said in a matter of weeks, as she left us bewildered and shocked at our loss.
Loss always causes refection, but sudden loss brings on a whole new dimension. For me, it was a reflection on leadership in the face of no tomorrow. My friend was a great leader. If she could, I know if she’d share things she wished she had done differently in her leadership, but I do not think there would be many.
She always asked the wicked hard question that everyone was thinking — but no one would say. She sought out information to assure she understood the full impact of changes or decisions. She felt great passion, love and kindness for her team. She laughed openly. She cried openly. She was an authentic, servant leader.
What would our leadership look like if we thought that tomorrow would not come? If we ask ourselves that question, we immediately will reason there is a tomorrow. That is our challenge: We always give ourselves time.
Time, in this case, is not our friend. Time brings on complacency. Time makes us focus on what is the crisis before us and not on the horizon. In many ways, we feel like whack-a-mole leaders dealing with whatever pops up our way.
Leadership in the era of healthcare today is not for the faint of heart. It is a challenging environment, with twists and turns that no one can predict. What we do know is that how we lead today cannot be in the manner we led yesterday.
Bold, courageous leadership is needed. Passion and joy must be found in what we do. Maybe thinking about our leadership in the terms of “no tomorrow” will allow invisible rubber bands to snap and hold us back from our old habits and thinking. Willingness to ask the wicked question, not out of anger but appreciative inquiry, can help open new doors of thought and action.
My friend also wrote another quote in the book citing Donny Osmond: “If you’re climbing the ladder of life, you go rung by rung, one step at a time. Don’t look too far up, set your goals high but take one step at a time. Sometimes you don’t think you’re progressing until you step back and see how high you’ve really gone.”
Martie Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ, is the chief nursing officer at Medline Industries Inc. and a corporate advisory council member for the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel.