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An editorial. Consideration of the self, the importance of achievement, and enjoying achievement.

Today was not a momentous day. It was just another day. But it was different and significant. Interesting how a major train collision with reality can affect how things are viewed.

Today was different in one way. The cornflakes ran out and there was nothing around for breakfast. So a short walk to the donut store was the excuse for going out this morning.

A neighbor was walking her Yorkshire terrier. A cute little blond guy. I admired him. She shared that he had just challenged a Rotweiller. Silly little dog. The neighbor and I exchanged stories about pets' not realizing their size and their daring relative giants. Then we parted company. The neighbor made some comment about pets should be like humans and have some self-concept of their size relative to other things.

I have that same problem, was my thought. I remembered the day I argued with a secretary, insisting that we were the same height. It took quite some time and her finally standing side by side against me before the fact that she really is 5'10" and I am 5'2" sunk in. She was right. She was, indeed, taller than me.

My next recollection was of the P.E. instructor who threatened to fail me for a class I was auditing. I had sprained my back and participation was excruciating to impossible.

He was resolute and tried to escape discussing the matter. I was resolute and kept apace with him and he nearly ran to the men's dressing room. I talked as we walked. I suddenly looked up and saw the men's dressing room door ahead of us. My pace did not falter. A split-second decision needed to be made. We were not through talking. We had not come to an agreement or understanding. I had been married and borne a child. That dressing room held no surprises for me and I would not be intimidated by the idea of entering that door. This matter needed to be settled.

We came within two feet of entering the dressing room doors when the instructor realized I intended to enter with him. He stopped. We discussed. We reached not only an understanding but an agreement. I did not fail the audited class.

Back to the trip to the donut shop. The main thoroughfare was crowded with morning traffic. That was to be expected, especially since there is a bus strike here and auto traffic has increased. But the traffic was also congested for another reason and the yellow restraint tape evidenced it.

There had been an accident. Entry to the donut shop from that direction was barred until the scene was cleared. "So I get a little extra exercise," I observed to the police officer. "It's good you have a positive attitude about it," was his reply.

But the day changed from ordinary to profound when I entered the parking area leading to the donut shop from the other direction. The entire parking area was yellow taped. A small clear plastic bag holding a few pieces of clothing sat at the edge of the sidewalk and a lone, stray shoe lay in the middle of the cordoned area. Someone -- by the appearance of the shoe, a woman -- had been hit and killed by a car.

Two security guards slowly began their entry to the donut shop with me. We talked and my observation was confirmed. The woman was a regular they greeted every morning -- except today. She had been hit by a speeding car. Her head was injured. She lay in the parking lot in grave pain for 20 minutes before an ambulance arrived. She died.

I felt numb. The only thing left of that once viable life was a small, clear plastic shopping bag with a few pieces of clothing and a lost, worn slipper-type shoe. Nothing more.

So that is the sum total of what a life is worth when it's all said and done. Nothing more. No achievements. No golden parachute. No family to grieve. No grand house. No flashing jewelry. No plaques or flowery speeches. The deadlines were now moot. The reports mere clutter in some other place collecting dust.

And the tides of the stream of life closed over the scene and continued in their usual pattern except for the annoyance of the traffic jam caused by the bus strike and narrowed lanes.

I started the walk back.

Today I took notice that I've lived in this neighborhood for six months. When I took this place, the last of the crisp, brown sycamore leaves lay plastered on the rainwet sidewalks. Now the sidewalks are blanketed with crisp, brown sycamore leaves, harbingers of the beginning of autumn. When, pray tell, did all of the seasons pass? Where was I and what had I been doing that I missed all of it?

So if I had thousands of dollars and luxurious everything, would those material things really provide the important things in life? Perhaps the really important thing is not the striving and working 20 hours a day to get to the pinnacle of the tallest building but to enjoy the getting there so that you can savor the entire process both as you go and once you arrive.

When it's all over, I will be another small, clear plastic bag of a few pieces of clothing and a lost shoe. No one will know that I did not understand not being equal to anyone else. No one will care that I didn't surrender to intimidation. Life will go on. No monuments will be built. No earthquakes or momentous disasters will mark my passing. And if I didn't enjoy the treasures life has to offer, there will be no second chances. They will be lost.

There is beauty and meaning in life. The executive career is merely a means of empowering one to enjoy those things without extraordinary strain. It's important to keep things in perspective and have the right perception of what is important and what is not; what is enduring and what is transient.

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Negotiating Salary and Perks: The Wetfeet.COM Insider Guide

Re-Entering by Eleanor Berman ( 1980)
Read by Wanda McCaddon (Brit.)

Leadership is a function of knowing yourself and having a vision that is well communicated. Negotiating includes powerful methods, concepts and techniques that promote confident negotiations and successful outcomes. Tips and techniques from gurus such as Chester Karras and detailed verbatim examples of actual negotiations.

Originally published September 20, 2000
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