It was the World Series. Philadelphia versus Kansas City. Tug McGraw of the Phillies was pitching. It was the fifth game of the series, the bottom of the ninth, with the Kansas City Royals behind four to three. The Royals had the bases loaded with two out. Kansas City had just won two straight games to tie the series, and now they had a chance to win a third and go ahead of Philadelphia three games to two. The game was being played in Kansas City. The ball park was packed. The crowd of over fifty thousand frantic Kansas City fans were on their feet, yelling their heads off. It was bedlam. In the middle of all that commotion, Bob Boone, the Phillies’ catcher, asked the umpire for a time out and walked to the pitcher’s mound. He said something to McGraw, turned, and walked back to home plate. You know what he said? He said, “Isn’t this exciting?”
What a wonderful thing to be able to say.
— Chuck Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Just one simple question: isn’t this exciting? What I love about this quote is that not once is the outcome of the game ever mentioned. There’s nothing about the fame or endorsement deals that would follow if they won. Like the old adage about the journey and not the destination, this question asks you to be fully present and to focus on the moment. It’s a mindfulness that can be easily forgotten amidst all of your day-to-day responsibilities and stress.
But even in the best of situations, it can be easy to get caught up. Days, weeks and months can go by and you might never stop to really appreciate what is in front of you. If it’s that easy to get off track when things are good, what do you do when things take a turn for the worse? Where do you find the excitement and the appreciation when you’re in the midst of a life-threatening illness?
In my mother’s case, it began with a rash that lead to a doctors visit that lead to a cancer diagnosis. Even with her great attitude, the poor prognosis that she received made those first few weeks especially difficult. The bright spot that she was aiming for was a trip to Hawaii with her best friend that she had been planning for months. But due to some complications from her first round of treatment, she developed an infection and was advised by her doctors to cancel the trip.
The change in my mother was my first real introduction to the emotional toll cancer takes. As I watched her struggle through those next few weeks, I knew that we were going to have to do something to help with her depression. So on the weekend when she would have left for Hawaii, we threw her a surprise luau. It was a day filled with friends, family and food but more importantly, it was a day where she could forget about her treatments and the missed trip. It was a reminder that there were still things worth being excited for.
I realized that we had to find that excitement within every chance and every opportunity that we had. And if we couldn’t find something to be excited about then we’d have to create it. After the fact, it was easy to see how desperately we had needed that party and it was a lesson we would come back to many times throughout the course of her disease.
I was reminded again of the importance of finding the excitement right before my business partner and mentor passed away. He had battled neuroendocrine cell cancer for eight years and had been told numerous times that he should get his affairs in order. It was during one of these periods of time that he developed a rather severe infection and was advised to take some time off.
He was the kind of guy who hated to sit still. Always on the move, he was out the door each morning on his way to meet people, make sales calls and negotiate deals. But as both his disease and infection worsened, he had to spend more and more time off of his feet, conserving his energy and focusing on getting better. Being stationary was never part of his nature and after about two weeks, he hatched an ambitious plan to take eighteen of his closest friends and family on a ten day trip to California. Although I encouraged him, I thought the idea was crazy. I hadn’t even seen him walk in over a week.
The morning after he made the announcement for the trip, I stopped out to see him and the change that I witnessed was nothing short of miraculous. I walked into his house and found him walking around (with the help of a cane) making calls, dictating emails and negotiating deals for the travel and hotel. In his previous situation, there wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about. So, through force of his own will, he created it. He sought out the excitement. The trip did happen and will stay with me as one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Throughout the hardships and the setbacks, both my mother and business partner found things to be excited for. It wasn’t easy and they both had to work for it. But what a difference it made. Regardless of your life’s situations, remember to pull back. Take a look out over the proverbial crowd. Smell the air. You might not be playing in the World Series but if you want it and if you look hard enough, you can always find the excitement.