The wake-up call

Dec. 1, 2005
From time to time, I need a wake-up call - a call with a message! In this increasingly chaotic world, I can easily lose my perspective.

From time to time, I need a wake-up call - a call with a message! In this increasingly chaotic world, I can easily lose my perspective. When that happens, I must get centered and grounded again. Where am I in my life? Where should I go next? Why? What does all this mean to me?

During an important time in my life, just such a call came in a very unexpected way. I was speaking at the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration’s annual meeting in Houston. One day, the 400 participants met together for lunch. I thought it would be a social gathering and time out from a great learning experience. I was wrong. The learning continued through lunch.

I arrived early and was seated near one end of the head table. I relaxed as the ballroom began to fill. And then I saw him. A man I did not recognize appeared at one of the entrances. For some reason, I felt compelled to watch him. He walked toward me, and when he got closer, it hit me. This man had “presence,” that remarkable combination of appearance, self-assurance, and poise. This had drawn me to him. I was surprised, but pleased, when he was seated at the head table, and I later learned he was our luncheon speaker. I knew he had something important to say to me!

I cannot explain my feelings, but I was anxious to finish eating and hear his message. His name was Rabbi Sam Karff, and, once again, I was surprised. The theme of his presentation was “The Meaning of Life” - hardly an ordinary topic for a speaker to tackle at lunch. However, Karff was not an ordinary man, and this was not to be an ordinary speech.

Unique and unrecoverable

The rabbi said several important things that day, but one moment was special. He acknowledged that many religions were represented in the audience, and that he did not wish to interfere with our personal beliefs. He did offer one comment, however: “No matter what you believe happens next, this life, the one you are now living, is unique and unrecoverable.” Of course, I’d heard the words unique and unrecoverable many times, but never in the context of the meaning of life. His comment shook me. I felt that Sam Karff was speaking only to me. I knew that wasn’t really the case, but I also knew that his comment was my wake-up call. He had sent me two messages that I could not ignore.

For days, I reflected on his words. When he said this life is “unique,” he implied that my life is distinctive. No one has ever lived a life exactly like mine, and no one ever will. My life is special, and I should treat it as a gift of supreme importance. To get the most from it and to unleash my potential, I must never take it for granted! Life must be respected and honored.

The word “unrecoverable” had an even more powerful effect on me. None of us knows how much time we have left. We do know it is one day less than yesterday. I could hear the rabbi saying, “Doug, when this life is over, it’s over. What’s left undone? What do you want to accomplish with the rest of yours?” Accomplish - that was the thought that hooked me. My perspective was regained. What am I capable of that I have not yet recognized? What aspects of my potential lay buried inside me, just waiting to be unleashed? How will I activate that potential? Action is my ally.

Wake-up calls are a jolt to my system, yet I welcome them. Once I fully awaken to new possibilities in my life, I can never go back to sleep. Oh, I can doze, but my awareness of what I can become will stay with me. Better yet, I know I have control over what to do with that awareness. Thanks for lunch, Sam. Next time it’s on me!

Doug Young, MBA, and his spouse Marlyn, MCC, have a professional speaking and executive/team coaching business in Parker, Colo. They co-author this column and share an interest in leading-edge business concepts, achieving personal and professional potential, serving patients, and improving how people work together. Marlyn’s insights into people and relationships and her coaching skills complement Doug’s motivating and mind-expanding presentations. Contact them by e-mail at [email protected], by phone at 877-DMYOUNG (369-6864), or visit their Web site at

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