Why You Should Go Home Early Today

Last Updated Oct 20, 2011 2:44 PM EDT

My client called me the night before he committed suicide.

Several days prior his business offices had been raided by investigators, and while he shared few details, he was desperately concerned about what would happen to him, his employees, and his company. The next morning, alone in a home he rarely visited, he shot himself.

I often wonder what he thought about in his last moments. Certainly he regretted some of the business decisions he had made.

Yet I feel certain he regretted personal choices he had made. While I was his ghostwriter, we had also grown to be friends and he could at times be startlingly -- even uncomfortably, at least for me -- frank. He sometimes talked about how he wanted a family and children he could spoil and cherish. He talked about finding friends who liked him for himself and not for his connections or influence or money.

He talked about his wife who, years ago, had committed suicide and whether he without knowing bore some responsibility.

That's why I think he thought mostly about choices; choices he desperately wished he had made differently.

If you knew you only had minutes left to live, what would you think about? You wouldn't think about work or business. It's a cliche, but true nonetheless: No one on their deathbed regrets not spending enough time at work. Would you really think about money you never earned, or projects you never completed, or companies you never started? Would those be your regrets?

Would those be the types of choices you would want back?

Of course not. You would think about the people you love and how you would have spent more time with them. You would have told them, over and over, just how much they meant to you. I think those are the decisions he thought about in his last minutes. At heart, regardless of mistakes he made, I think he was a good man. Flawed, like all of us, but still a good person.

I tried the best I could to express his love for family and friends in his eulogy. Still, I sometimes wish I could find a better, more lasting way to honor his memory.

There is a way. But I need your help.

Today, go home early. Not tomorrow and not some other day. Today. At the latest, leave right on time. Projects and contracts and promotions and money and glory will be there waiting for you tomorrow. Go home, find somewhere quiet, and sit with your spouse or significant other and tell them how much they mean to you. Set aside any baggage or resentment, take off any emotional armor you wear, think about why you fell in love in the first place, and speak from your heart.

Then hang out with your kids. Talk to them. Praise them. All your kids want is your attention. Attention is the easiest and the best gift you can offer.

Or call a friend you've lost touch with. Swallow your pride if necessary and reach out. Take the first step.

Above all, live today differently. Someday we will all probably wish we had made a few different choices along the way, but at least we won't wish to change anything about today.

I think my client -- and more importantly, my friend -- would like that.

Jeff Haden is a ghostwriter and speaker and has ghostwritten four Amazon #1 bestsellers.
Related: Photo courtesy flickr user midiman, CC 2.0
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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.

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