Dear Why Team member,
I hope this week’s message finds you well and mentally open to receive.
Have you ever been awe struck?
I remember the first time I went to the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, NC; WOW! The home is out of this world. The footprint of the house covers an area the size of 4 football fields.
It took a staff of nearly 80 to support and care for just 3 residents. The home built from 1889 to 1895 is 178,926 square feet :-) There are 250 rooms, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, and three kitchens.
The house had electricity because Mr. George Vanderbilt, who built the home, knew Thomas Edison. Every conceivable luxury available at the time was acquired. Vanderbilt made numerous trips overseas to buy thousands of furnishings for the house, including tapestries, carpets, prints, linens, and decorative objects dating from the 15th century to the late 19th century. I remember reading that he had brought back 300 rugs from the Orient. I’ll always remember he even had Napoleon’s Chess table. An interesting keepsake considering Napoleon’s real life movement of men and horses.
If you haven’t been to the Biltmore, it’s a must see. But the most impactful memory I formed was while I visited the museum area where you could see the personal effects of Mr. Vanderbilt; his journals and letters. And it was here that I read of his death at age 52. I had a feeling of awe that overcame me, unaware until that moment that I had somehow thought the rules were different for him, that all that money could somehow protect him from death, I guess. A ruptured appendix and…he was gone; everything he owned left behind.
I was stunned thinking - “that’s it?”
The story is over just like that?
All the travel, all the building, all the possessions and then it just ended?!
And we’re all here trying to make sense of it? What was the point?
Whatever illusions I had until that moment, they were blown away.
Am I not better served to have them blown?
The gift of disillusionment - the moment our illusions are dissed - the moment our mind’s preconceptions are blown. What a wonderful experience of awe at this enormous incredible home, the largest private residence in the country, pictures of them on their horses, walking their dog, living a life of leisure and then boom, it’s over, just like that, he’s dead at 52 - and his legacy?
Well, there is talk of the local town that grew out of the enormous project of construction - plenty of jobs created and the gifting of land that accounts for most of the Pisgah National Forest. But as much as I was struck by the home itself, I was more struck by the finality of his life and that the wealth and possessions accumulated in such a short period of time amounted to nothing in the face of sickness - what meaning did they have, what value did they bring beyond their enjoyment in the moment? One may add none, hence the need to travel and find something new all the time that could be gratifying.
What events in your life have blown your mind?
Are you grateful?
Did you learn something new about yourself?
What events in your life have blown your preconceptions and provided you greater perspective? Ideas you didn’t even know you had until they were blown away?! Some might call these character building experiences.
I like nice things in moderation, but I don’t want to just be remembered for having a lot of nice things. Where’s the meaning, where’s the purpose?
As Steven Covey says in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Habit #2 is to Begin with the End in Mind. Who knows what Mr. George Vanderbilt would have done with his life if he lived another 20 to 30 years, would he have been remembered differently?
Andrew Carnegie was an incredibly ruthless businessman who ended up giving away almost all of his wealth late in life to build 1,689 libraries across the country.
Why blow your mind -
sooner than later?
To get beyond it - to disconnect from it - to go from micro to macro - to be humbled - to gain perspective - to fuel curiosity - to become excited by how much we do not know - to get to spaces of unknowing for growing :-) to expand the space in which we live.
Can we not stand back right now, gain a bit of perspective, no matter our age, and not put off till tomorrow the good works that can be done today? Tomorrow is promised to no one and if tomorrow was our last day, how would we be remembered?
I’ve won many sales awards over the years and would enjoy winning more, but there is no greater reward than to hear that my life has made a positive difference in the lives of others.
It is said that we teach most what we want to learn. This reflection serves as a reminder to me how I want to be: less like Vanderbilt and more like Carnegie late in his life.
How about you?
What will be said at your funeral?
Begin anew with what you want said and waste no time buying more carpets ;-)
This week, welcome experience and insight to blow your mind to new heights and no doubt you’ll make it a great week!