Growing up I was always one of those people who had a plan. I never realized it until recently. My plans were the kind that consultants call “100,000 Foot Plans.” In the Air Force they described these as “Commander’s Intent.” I think most of you would define them as dreams rather than plans. They didn’t have specific steps as much as they had general outcomes. But nonetheless I had them, and over the years many of them came to pass without me ever getting to the specific steps. I like to think that I handed them off to my subconscious and it went to work while I did other things.
In the past 16 months since I quit working, I haven’t really had any semblance of a plan. I have greeted each day with wonder about what might happen. I’ve given a speech in Maui. I’ve ridden across the country. I’ve done some coaching. I’ve read and written a lot. I’ve shared my experiences with a lot of people.
Recently I’ve been reading heavier books. A year of fiction novels gave me a desire for something meatier. The last couple of books I read have been rather philosophical. In the most recent, Waking Up by Sam Harris, a phrase caught my attention:
We need not come to the end of the path to experience the benefits of walking it.
That captured what’s been going on with me lately. I’m just experiencing the benefits of walking my path. I don’t know where it’s leading me, but I’m enjoying the stroll, and the people with whom I’m strolling.
Port-to-Port Consulting’s office is located in the Old Northside Historic district of Indianapolis. This is an area of town that is in transition. As such, the area hosts a broad range of people, including a good portion of the city’s homeless. In the summer, we often have a small village on the northside of our building because it provides shade from the hot summer sun all day long. I struggle with what to do about this. Most of the time the humanitarian wins and I leave them alone. When the business owner wins out (usually when they are just short of installing satellite TV), I cop out and call the owner of the lot next to us to complain to him about policing his property.
In the winter, the story is completely different. For the past three winters, we’ve had a small, kind gentleman who sleeps outside our front door every night. The entryway protects him from the wind and my 50 year old building leaks out enough heat to keep him from freezing. Most weekday mornings, I would wake him up when I unlocked the door at the start of our business day. He was always polite and would thank me for the wake up then pack his things and move out to wherever he goes during the day.
I decided recently that it was time I got to know this man a little better. I thought perhaps I can help him by having him help me with some of the odd jobs around our office. When I went to have a conversation with him one morning, he wasn’t there. He didn’t come back. I asked if anyone had seen him and no one had.
A couple of days ago, another homeless man came to our office to tell us that the man we only referred to as “our bum” had died. I felt as if I had lost a dear family member. Then I felt tremendous remorse for not having acted sooner to connect with this man. I don’t think I could have gotten him off the street, but I could have made his life on the street easier. I’m also sure I would have learned valuable lessons from him. I missed that opportunity by a few days after having it available for three years.
Act while you can.