How to Stop Waiting and Start Living

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How to Stop Waiting and Start Living

RichieNortonToday’s contributing writer is Richie Norton. Richie is the CEO of Global Consulting Circle, a boutique international business development consultancy, and the author of The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live Without Regret. 

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A decision had to be made. The impossible decision.

A nurse quietly entered the room and injected a dose of epinephrine into his I.V. I wouldn’t have noticed her, except that when she left, she slid the glass door closed behind her and drew the outer curtain for our privacy.

We were alone. After days and days of incessant attention by multiple doctors and hospital staff, the room was completely quiet. Quiet, that is, aside from the gentle rise and fall of the ventilator and the soft beep, beep, beep of the heart monitor.

Adrenaline coursed madly through my veins. The room spun around me as I sat, disoriented to the point of nausea, on a stool beside his bed. I gripped the bed rail to keep from tipping over. But I wasn’t watching him. My eyes were glued to her as she fell into the chair in the corner of the room and wept, chest heaving, face pressed hard into her hands.

“This is a decision we shouldn’t have to make,” she said almost imperceptibly, as she ran her hands frantically through her hair, pulling it tight away from her face.

Agony. There wasn’t any other word. I took her hands in mine and looked deeply into her eyes, and together, we made the impossible decision: Do not resuscitate.

Those were the wee hours of the morning on January 7, 2010.

Two Years Earlier

On a sunny Hawaiian day, in the spring of 2007, Gavin took a gray, plastic container and placed his journals, a beat-up card containing the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, and a few other precious possessions inside. He sealed the box and labeled it “To be opened 2027.” He took a Sharpie and adorned his treasure chest with a clever little drawing of a pirate and a short note to himself that read, “Hello, old man Gavin!”

He got on his salt-rusted beach cruiser, carefully balanced the box on his lap and pedaled with bare feet toward the lush Hawaiian mountains. Gavin had called Hawaii home for more than five years—nearly a quarter of his young life—and he wanted to leave a piece of his heart with the island that had taught and given him so much. He buried his treasure at the base of the beautiful Ko’olauloa Mountains, intending not to open it again for twenty years.

It was only a few short weeks later, however, that those journals were unearthed, and I found myself reading excerpts from them to a grief-stricken audience of hundreds who had gathered to celebrate his incredible young life. Less than three weeks after burying his time capsule, my healthy and vibrant young brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly in his sleep.

He was twenty-one years old.

A little over two years after Gavin’s death, my wife, Natalie, gave birth to our fourth son. With pride, we named our little guy after his late uncle. Baby Gavin was born October 24, 2009. He was perfect, and even his rough-and-tumble big brothers agreed. Yet here we sat, only ten short weeks into his life, alone in a hospital room. Alone except for the quiet nurse and her epinephrine. Natalie on one side of Gavin, and I on the other, the words “Do not resuscitate” ringing heavily in our ears as tears stung the edges of our raw eyes.

My initial response had been to give our son every fighting chance at survival. “Of course we will resuscitate!” I had confidently said. I was baffled that the doctors even had the audacity to ask. Words and phrases began pounding through my brain, clouding my thinking, impairing my sense of reason, and damming my judgment completely: “pertussis,” “secondary infection,” “experimental procedure,” “end of the line,” “nothing more we can do,” “time to say good-bye.” Then slowly, very slowly, the reality of our situation started to set in. I finally came to see the absolute hopelessness we were facing. I became aware that the violent process of resuscitation in and of itself would only lengthen Gavin’s suffering and not save his life. I swallowed, hard. And I gathered the courage to let go.

Natalie and I cried together. We spoke words of deep, profound love to our sweet little son. And moments later, my sweet wife rocked him tenderly in her arms, and I rested my hand on our son’s chest and felt the last beats of his tiny heart. We sang him a lullaby through our tears, and our boy was gone.

The weight of the world never felt heavier in my hands than it did the day we walked out of that hospital with empty arms. Baby Gavin lived seventy-six days.

“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days . . . as you make use of.” —Charles Richards, Canadian Judge

Gavin’s Law

Very shortly after the death of our son, my wife, Natalie, and I went to listen to a friend and mentor of mine who was giving a speech at a university near our home in Hawaii. After her presentation, she came to where we were sitting to say hello and to offer her condolences.

After chatting for a few moments, she looked Natalie straight in the eye, and abruptly asked, “So, what have you learned?” Admittedly, I was somewhat taken aback b y the intensity of her question. Thankfully, Natalie—always on her toes—offered a gracious, eloquent, and genuine response, as I stood by, somewhat dumbfounded.

The months passed, but I couldn’t forget this question:

“So, what have you learned?”

That question changed my life. Here were the facts: my brother-in-law was gone, our son was gone, and there wasn’t a thing in the world I could do to change any of that. Suddenly, my life took on a very real sense of urgency. There was, in fact, a time limit!

Transcendent to the sense of urgency I felt, I found myself face to face with the realization that circumstance was completely outside my realm of control. Not only this particular set of circumstances, but circumstance in general. I suddenly realized that if we are sitting around waiting—maybe even begging and pleading—for our circumstances to change so that we can finally live life the way we really want to live, chances are very good that we will stay stuck waiting forever.

There will always be a million reasons to wait until later. This is simply the nature of the animal called life. Those Gavins taught me to live, today. I’ve summed up the lesson I learned from the deaths of my brother-in-law and my son into what I call Gavin’s Law:

Live to start. Start to live.

Don’t Wait. Start Stuff.

People are innately passionate about certain unique aspects of life. You are innately passionate about certain unique aspects of life. And people are blessed with bouts of clear and concise intuition that drive them toward distinct goals and aspirations within their jobs and their lives as a whole. (You are not excluded from this group.)

But people disregard these inspired thoughts, these high-potential opportunities, as “just another stupid idea.”

Why?

Perhaps they are concerned about a lack of support (perceived or otherwise) from others, or maybe they are afraid of what others will think of them if they fail. Whatever the reason, they convince themselves:

  “This would be a great idea for someone who has more free time.”

  “This would be a great idea for someone with a higher level of education.”

  “This would be a great idea for someone who has more money.”

  “Everybody thinks this idea is crazy. They must be right.”

No matter the justification, the response is the same. These inspired thoughts, these high-potential ideas, are stuffed deep into the drawer labeled “stupid,” and they’re never heard from again . . . or the waiting game begins.

People wait.

They wait for that elusive day when they’ll finally have enough time (guess what?—you never will), enough education (there is always more to know), enough money (no matter how much you make, someone will always have more). They wait until the children are grown (news flash: just because they’re grown, it doesn’t mean you’re rid of them) or until things settle down at work (they never will).

People wait until . . . until . . . until . . . They wait, and they wait, and they wait, until that fateful day when they wake up and realize that while they were sitting around, paying dues, earning their keep, waiting for that elusive “perfect time,” their entire life has passed them by.

Consciously living and breathing Gavin’s Law in every facet of my life and business has helped me realize the importance, the satisfaction, and the very real power that comes from starting something stupid. If you let it, Gavin’s Law will change your life, forever.

There is no greater time than now to start moving toward achieving your goals. Don’t wait. Start stuff. Live to start your stupid ideas, and start to live a life without regret—a life filled with meaning, freedom, happiness, fun, authenticity, and influence. After all, now is, in all actuality, the only time you’re truly guaranteed.

Life is too short not to start something stupid.

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Richie Norton is the author of The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen and Live Without Regret as well as the popular blog Start Stuff. Pacific Business News recognized Richie as one of the top Forty Under 40 “best and brightest young businessmen” in Hawaii. He is an entrepreneur, speaker and international business development consultant. Follow him on Twitter @RichieNorton.

 

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41 responses

41 Responses to “How to Stop Waiting and Start Living”

  1. Barbara says:

    I’ve read a lot of blog posts about getting started today, not letting life pass you by, etc etc, but none have them have resonated with me the way this story did. Maybe its because I also have a young child, and the thought of losing her and the impact that would have on my life makes this more emotional, but thank you for such a powerful wake-up call. I can’t just quit my job and jump off a ledge today with no plan in place, but reading this makes me want to!

    • Carol says:

      So make a plan and then JUST DO IT! This is pretty much how I’ve lived my life. It’s scary sometimes. I bought a small Class C motorhome after looking at them for 2 years but then it sat in my driveway for a year until I finally said JUST DO IT. (I think I used that phrase long before Nike came along, I should have registered it) I had NO clue what to do once I left that driveway but I didn’t return for nine months. While gone I decided to follow another dream and it was a dream. I wanted to move back to the country but felt I couldn’t since I live alone. I just bought a small house on a river and 5 acres. I can’t wait around for someone to share my dream. Life is too short.

  2. David Ross says:

    I had tears in my eyes as I read this post. Your beautiful words resonate deeply with my own sense of how important – no, vital – it is to act on inspiration, act on passion, be goofy, take the risk of failing. Because if we don’t take that risk, we never really live. And isn’t that the point?

  3. Beautiful powerful post and if you ask me what I have learned from you Richie, it’s truly to go out and seize each and every day.

    I like to think I do this and inspire others to do the same but your words have leapt off the page at me to do this with even more abandon, and right now.

    I commend you for the courage you’ve shown to live your life despite these tragic events and to take the very real lesson from them to do good in the world by ensuring others live their best life.

    Thank you for that

    Natalie

  4. Nic Cornell says:

    Yes!

    Thank you for this! It brought up some intense emotions for me as well.

  5. I awoke last night thinking anxious thoughts about whether I should start another website. The one I started 2 years ago is about the death of my son and is meant to encourage other parents to share their stories. This new one would be about what I have learned before and after my son’s death-more a resume of learning. I’m 78. My heartfelt thanks to you for sharing this blog and so many others.

  6. We don’t realize that life changing events are also teaching us about life. I have walked this road and appreciate the story that was so well written and shared so openly. We all need to tell our story!

  7. Ann Marie says:

    Thank you for sharing your courageous story Richie. My heart breaks for you and your wife as you deal with these senseless losses.
    I’ve read many stories about “living now”, but this one strikes deeper and harder than most. The most important thing to remember is that to live now you don’t have to quit your job or radically change your life. You can start by doing one thing you love and see what happens.

  8. Eva Papp says:

    thank you Richie for sharing such a profound willingness to stay open in the face of such crushing life events. It’s inspiring, and the deepest lessons are always learned when drinking from that well. Blessings, and thanks again Johnathan.

  9. Wow. Incredible story. I have to say, I can somewhat relate. Two weeks ago, my father passed away at 68. He was in the ICU for a week before I, his only kin, had to make the call to “do not resuscitate.” With parents, you expect them to go before you do, so I can’t fully relate to what you went through in losing a child. I’m very sorry for your loss.

    My wife and I are expecting our first child in August. Funny how those things work out. An event like the one I just encountered with my father makes one stop and think about mortality, the shortness of life and what lessons to pass on to my child through his memory. My father was a good man but put off a lot in his life waiting for the golden egg that never came. Thanks for sharing your story as it’s great to see how the horror and despair of death becomes a wake up call to the living to… live. Thanks again.

  10. Sara Mazenko says:

    Richie, beautifully written but the message of your post is by far the best part. People are so afraid to try for fear of looking stupid. When you eliminate that factor everything changes. I teach women about this very thing – trying, believing in themselves, and acting courageously even when they just feel plain stupid – and thanks to your writing feel an even greater sense of urgency to reach them.

    Thanks. I’ll be out starting something stupid …

    Sara

  11. Patty Soffer says:

    Stunning post.

    There’s nothing to say.

    Only to do.

    Thank you for your insight and precious time.

  12. Thank you for this article and for the reminder that you can’t take ANYTHING or ANYONE for granted. Because of this post my life today will be more rewarding!

  13. [...] Click here to continue reading… [...]

  14. Thank you for your touching story, your raw authenticity and for sounding the alarm so we, the readers, might avoid regret. The perspective is priceless.

  15. Mike Lane says:

    Thank you for this post.

    Some of it difficult reading with two young ones of our own. It gave me pause to think as to what I spend my time doing and those missed opportunities. It also made me want to hug my kids.

  16. Inis says:

    So sorry for your losses Richie.

    To live life full-on is the ultimate memorial to those we lose too soon.

  17. Paul Copcutt says:

    Even when we have experienced these types of moments ourselves we still need constant reminders, because even then things do get in the way, excuses can be made and reasons can sound logical. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Chris M says:

    The power of now! What an incredible piece of writing.

  19. Gulp,sob, glad I’ve started something recently.

  20. Gina Stamas says:

    Inspired to get on with things, beautiful, Thankyou for sharing this. Right on the pulse of truly living and experiencing.

  21. Tracy Hall says:

    This post kind of punched me metaphorically in the chest. I lost two dear friends to cancer in a few years ago and even though these losses have helped teach me what I need to change about how I live my life, I haven’t made those changes urgently, and subsequently I’m still stumbling toward the changes I so dearly need to make. I’m still progressing, which is great, but attaching urgency to this has been reignited after reading this post.

    Thank you.

  22. Jesse Price says:

    Yes! Thank you Richie!

  23. Momo says:

    Thank you for so eloquently sharing this important message. Interestingly, I am at a point of deciding if I should do something that will be disruptive to life as I know it. I certainly can feel the fear lurking in me, holding me back. Coincidentally, I have a motto that’s similar to Gavin’s Law – learn to pause, pause to learn. So often, we are hurrying along headlong into things without always knowing where we are heading. Your sharing has given me further pause to consider what I will learn in the days ahead.

  24. Yama says:

    Jonathan
    A stunningly beautifully meaningful message
    Thanks for relating it
    Yama

  25. Thank you all for your kind comments. It means the world.

    Now, go start something stupid!

    Deep respect.

  26. Thanks for a powerful post.

    I’m 50 years old. Based on multiple experiences with death, I would only add this – starting something could also mean starting to be a better husband, parent, friend, nephew, son, etc. Choose what matters most to you and do something.

  27. [...] is too short not to start something stupid. One of the most honest and poignant posts I’ve read in [...]

  28. Beautifully written and extremely touching. Thank you for sharing, you have tremendously impacted my day.
    XO

  29. [...] blogs. Research, I told myself. Or commonly called procrastination. I only got as far as this man, Richie Norton and his story of having to make the unbelievable decision to turn off his youngest [...]

  30. [...] How to Stop Waiting and Start Living by Richie Norton on jonathanfields.com “I suddenly realized that if we are sitting around waiting—maybe even begging and pleading—for our circumstances to change so that we can finally live life the way we really want to live, chances are very good that we will stay stuck waiting forever.”  This is one of the most gut-wrenching, challenging, honest and beautiful things I’ve ever read. [...]

  31. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Life is so precious. Thank you for shining the light on this truth.

  32. [...] “I suddenly realized that if we are sitting around waiting—maybe even begging and pleading—for our circumstances to change so that we can finally live life the way we really want to live, chances are very good that we will stay stuck waiting forever.” ~Richie Norton [...]

  33. Jake Baker says:

    Touching post. Thanks for sharing.

    It’s easy to put things off, but it is often those things that need our attention. This makes me prioritize my blog.

  34. This is a very inspirational blog post because it truly shows what you can achieve when you put your knowledge into action. Most people wait around waiting for things to happen that never end up happening

  35. Steve Errey says:

    If I had a magic marker pen I’d go through the article and put big red ticks next to key passages and the stuff that resonates.

    I can’t really know what you’ve been through, but I think everyone has their own “crucible” moments of different sorts that help to crystallise the truth that “now is, in all actuality, the only time you’re truly guaranteed.”

    And as for starting stuff. Yup. Frankly, I don’t much like the alternative.

  36. Renee says:

    What a powerful, well-written piece. The habit of waiting is so incredibly difficult to get past and is probably the most wide-spread bad habit.

    I, too, have had the task of DNR with a parent. Facing it with a child is . . . there are no words. I am sorry for your loss and commend your ability to learn and grow from the experience.

  37. Ann says:

    I recently decided to just start something and I am learning a lot and you are right about there always being something to learn. I have put things off for so long because I felt like I needed to be an expert and in order to be an expert, I have to know everything. If I wait until I know everything, the time will be gone.

    The power of words is clearly demonstrated with your writing and I appreciate your work. Thanks and I will stop wasting time and start living now.

  38. Darren says:

    very encouraging post. It is not easy to get rid of waiting to live and I think most people have this for this reason.
    I will try your advices though, as me too a subscriber of this waiting habit. Thanks for sharing this and have a nice day.

  39. Phil Stanoch says:

    This has been sitting in my Inbox for nearly 5 months, and I just read it now. The timing couldn’t be more perfect as I have been spent the past couple of days going through the internal struggle of the desire to start my project vs. the fears of criticism and failure.

    Thank you for sharing your story Richie, and thank you Jonathan for giving him the forum on which to share it.