I was browsing Rijac's blog when I saw this article published by The Times. It was so good that I thought I would just post it here, again. Thanks Rijac.
Closing the Circle
Three months before he died Eugene O'Kelly (Former chairman and CEO of the large accounting firm KPMG LLP ) was one of the most powerful businessmen in America. Then he was told he had brain cancer. In a moving memoir he describes what his preparations for death taught him about his life.
Former chairman and CEO of the large accounting firm KPMG LLP
One day not long ago, I sat atop the world. From this perch I had an overview that was relatively rare in business, a perspective that allowed me access to the inner workings of many of the world’s finest, most successful companies and the extraordinary minds that ran them. At times I felt like a great eagle on a mountain top — not because of any invincibility I felt, but for the picture it afforded me.
Overnight, I found myself sitting in a very different perch: a hard metal chair, looking across a desk at a doctor whose expression was way too full of empathy for my liking. His eyes told me I would die soon. It was late spring. I had seen my last autumn in New York.
The verdict I received in the last week of May 2005 — that it was unlikely I’d make it to September — turned out to be a gift. Honestly. Because I was forced — at the age of 53 — to think seriously about my own death.
Which meant I was forced to think more deeply about my life than I’d ever done.
As CEO and chairman of KPMG, the $4 billion (£2.32 billion), 20,000-employee, century-plus-old partnership, one of America’s Big Four accounting firms, I was not a man given to hypotheticals — too straight ahead in my thinking for that — but just for a moment, suppose there had been no death sentence. Wouldn’t it be nice still to be planning, building and leading for years to come? Yes and no. Yes, because of course I’d like to have been around to see my daughter Gina graduate and marry and have children (in whatever order she ends up doing all that). To spend next Christmas Eve, the day before my older daughter Marianne’s birthday, eating and talking and laughing the way we did every year. To travel and play golf with my wife of 27 years, Corinne, the girl of my dreams, and to share with her the retirement in Arizona we’d planned for so long.
But I also say no. No, because, thanks to my situation, I’d attained a new level of awareness, one I didn’t possess in the first 53 years of my life. It’s impossible for me to imagine going back to that other way of thinking, when this new way has enriched me so. I lost something precious, but I also gained something precious.
In my past life, here was a Perfect Day: I’d have a couple of face-to-face client meetings, my favourite thing of all. I’d meet with at least one member of my inner team. I’d speak on the phone with partners. I’d complete lots of the items listed in my electronic calendar. And I’d move ahead in making our firm a great place to work, one that allowed our people to live more balanced lives.
For me personally — for any executive, but especially the top guy — that last plank in the platform was particularly difficult to achieve. Don’t get me wrong: I loved my firm. I was passionate about accounting. (Don’t laugh.) But the job of CEO, while of course incredibly privileged, was relentless. My diary was perpetually extended out over the next 18 months. I worked weekends and late into many nights. I missed virtually every school function for my younger daughter. My annual travel schedule averaged, conservatively, 150,000 miles. For the first ten years of my marriage, when I was climbing the ladder at KPMG, Corinne and I rarely went on vacation. Over the course of my last decade with the firm, I did manage to squeeze in workday lunches with my wife. Twice.
Before this starts to sound like complaining, I must be honest: As long as I could handle such a high-pressure position, I wanted it. As profound as my devotion to and love for my family were, I could not have settled for a job just because it guaranteed that I could make PTA meetings. People don’t walk into the top spot. They’re driven.
Click here to read the entire story at TimesOnline.