Career Highlights Won't Be On Your Tombstone

By  Dave Kerpen

Last Sunday morning at 8:25 AM, I stood at Gate B5 in Memphis, Tennessee, tears streaming down my face as I watched my flight home to New York take off. I had been delayed by weather on a connecting flight from Nashville, and had arrived to the gate just two minutes after the doors had closed. So I watched the plane leave, standing there, knowing that I would be re-routed through Atlanta now, and instead of getting home before Noon, I wouldn't be home until 5:00 PM. Realizing I would miss the entire weekend with my family, I was devastated.

I had begrudging accepted a business trip to Nashville despite the fact that it would take me out of town from a Wednesday through a Saturday. The trip was an opportunity to meet with an important business partner that I couldn't pass up. So although weekends are typically sacred with my family, I decided to sacrifice Daddy-daughter Saturday morning dance class this time, rationalizing that I'd be home by Sunday morning.

But when I missed that flight, it meant I would be missing camp orientation too, and the entire weekend with my kids. I fell apart emotionally. I felt so disappointed in myself, so out of control. I felt like I had made a really bad decision to not be home for a weekend--felt like I was the worst dad in the world.

During the next seven hours of travel, I had a lot of time to reflect. I thought about my incredible day with the late, great Senator Frank Lautenberg, who taught me that my greatest legacy would be my children. I thought about the famous quotation from John Crudele: "How do children spell LOVE? T-I-M-E."

I thought about my priorities.

It's easy to get caught up in our hectic careers. It's easy to become "busy" trying to advance up the ladder at work or build a successful company. It's easy to check email, take that meeting, or attend that networking event. It's all too easy to skip the family dinner in the name of helping to put dinner on the table.

Somehow, it's more difficult at times to say "no" to our client or boss than it is to say "no" to our children. But as Senator Lautenberg taught me, your career highlights won't be on your tombstone. Your kids' names will be.

You'll never regret time with your kids. You'll never say on your deathbed, "I wish I had worked more."

I have a lot of career goals and dreams. I want to build meaningful companies that change the world. I want to one day run for public office. I want to teach, to speak, to invest, and to inspire. But I'm not willing to sacrifice weekends with my kids.

That's my choice, and of course it's your choice to pursue your career and your goals and dreams as vigorously as you'd like. But my hope is that you'll find it a little bit easier to say no to that next weekend conference, evening networking event, or breakfast meeting. My hope is that you'll find it easier to say yes to the kids. Just think about that eventual deathbed or tombstone, and how you'll feel one day looking back.

By the way, while I was devastated to miss the whole weekend with my family, I'm proud to report that I canceled three evening work activities that week in order to spend that time with my daughters. The week culminated in an excellent game of RISK, pictured above. And the only world I needed to take over was two little girls' world.










A version of this post originally appeared on LinkedIn. For more of Dave's influencer posts, check out his LinkedIn Influencer page.