Today’s post is the featured article from the May 2010 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

john-newShortly after we published Silent Alarm, an executive and friend at KPMG sent me a copy of Chasing Daylight.  He knew I would like it … and he was right! 

They are two totally different books.   

Silent Alarm is a parable.  It is fiction.  It is the story of recovery and second chances.  It is filled with hope.  There is nothing fiction about Chasing Daylight.  It is the true story of Gene O’Kelly, the former CEO of KPMG.  It is filled with reality.  It is a viewpoint of life when there is likely no second chance.  It is written in Gene’s final days … by him. 

I think these two books also have two things in common. 

They are both begging you to wake-up … and they both challenge you to carefully think about your relationships. 

At one point, I had recommended Chasing Daylight to so many people, that when you went to Amazon and looked-up Silent Alarm the Amazon website would inform you … “those who ordered this book have also ordered Chasing Daylight!”   Gene O’Kelly was dying and he knew it.  His writing was vulnerable and revealing.  After reading Chasing Daylight, one executive shared with me, “but if Gene had not been dying, he would not have been thinking that way.”  I simply responded, “exactly … and that would be the point.  More pointedly, that would be his gift … to you.  To wake-up!” 

So often, we just don’t want to wake-up.  We want to hit the snooze … and just keep on going. 

Frequently, I am asked about my own personal favorite lesson that comes from Silent Alarm.  I always struggle to answer that question, because I have always felt Silent Alarm was more about raising the questions that would inspire the reader to discover new insights than it was about providing a cookbook of answers.  But if still pressed to give my top three … the lesson of relationships is always on that list.  I was reminded of this, yesterday, when we were in the studio for the final recording session of the new audio version of Silent Alarm.  The lesson: 

Relationships are God’s greatest gift.  Love is what matters.

In Chasing Daylight, Gene O’Kelly talks a lot about relationships.  In his dying days he conducted “unwindings”  … his final connection with various relationships.  Some of these unwindings were done by phone, some by a card, some by email and some in-person.  Because Gene was in New York, some of the in-person meetings were strolls in Central Park.  I will never forget his reflection about these strolls: “The sad part was not that our walk in Central Park was our last walk together … the sad part was that, for most, it was our first.” 

We live in a world where relationships are plentiful.  Many come and go.  And it doesn’t mean, as these relationships come and go, they can’t still be genuine and meaningful.  I come across this repeatedly in the world of professional speaking.  I think of those incredible people that coordinate all the audio visual parts of a conference.  You know … those AV techs!  They are incredibly important to the quality of my presentation when I am on-stage.  I go out of my way to get to know them by name and a bit about them.  I have a huge respect for all they do … and I’m incredibly grateful when they care to do it really well.  And the fact that I may not see them again, does not diminish my appreciation for what they’ve done and I am grateful that we met.  We all move on. 

But sometimes it is different.  Even in the AV tech world!   

At least it was for Scott Erickson and me.  Scott has been the AV tech on literally hundreds of my presentations over two decades.  We first met at Arthur Andersen where, at big international meetings, I learned to trust him with my life when I took the stage.  And there was every reason to trust him.  I always thought of him as one super tech (ironically, now the branding for his AV production company at www.1supertech.com) but he also became a great friend.  We still get a chance to work together from time-to-time, but we would still be in touch even if we didn’t! 

In every arena of our life, there are differences … yet we live in a world where the differences begin to blend and blur.  And the speed, at which many of us move, entices us just to hit the snooze … and just keep on moving.  This blur shows up in relationships as well as in our abilty to “stay awake” to the lessons of life. 

I’m grateful for people like Gene O’Kelly who could uniquely see some things in his dying days and didn’t hit the snooze … but rather took the risk to help us hear our own alarms in the silence of our blurry lives.  

As we come-up on the Fifth Anniversary of Silent Alarm … I am reminded that it is a message more relevant than ever.  

The alarm is still ringing.  If you can’t hear it, maybe you need a super tech.  I have one I can recommend!