Friday, February 17, 2006


Reassessment and prioritization

Late last week I learnt that a buddy of mine (he would say a "mate", in his British way), an IBM colleague from our Hursley Lab, near Winchester, England, spent the month of January dealing with an illness, and will not soon be through dealing with it. Brian had a subarachnoid haemorrhage resulting from an aneurysm, which caused a blood clot, which caused the symptoms he was having (mostly, severe headaches and general malaise to go along with them). He had surgery, they took care of the clot, they put a clamp on the aneurysm, and he should have a full recovery over time, with a normal life expectancy. That's the good part — that's the excellent part!

The not-so-good part is the recovery period. Originally understanding that he could consider going back to work after three months, he now knows that three months is the time when he starts discussing the matter, and it's likely that he'll be out for six months, or maybe as long as a year. And he won't be allowed to drive a car for six months, anyway. Still, when one considers that he could well have died, up to a year of enforced "R & R" isn't something I think of as such a bad thing, and I think he agrees.

Of particular interest to me are Brian's comments about how this has changed his outlook on life. In my paraphrasing and interpretation of what he's said, he intends to be more open about how he feels about people, and what things mean to him, and expects to reassess issues of what we at IBM like to call the "work-life balance". I think about that sort of stuff a lot too, and more so when I see people I know and care about go through something life-changing.

Long ago I taught myself to (generally) not worry about things I can't do anything about. I don't always succeed in that, but even doing it most or some of the time has made a big difference in my attitude, over the years. And it seems that reassessment and re-prioritization is very much related to that: don't spend the energy worrying about things one can't change, but do evaluate what one can change, and align life's priorities with those things that are, in the end, truly important. The priorities and the decisions will be different for everyone, of course — what makes me happy won't be the same as what makes Brian happy, or what makes you, who are reading this, happy — and so we each have to do that assessment for ourselves.

I know Brian will have a lot of time to think more about all that in the coming months, and he'll have his family with him as he does. He'll also have us, his colleagues, supporting him in the ways we can. Here's my wish that Brian's recovery be speedy and complete.

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