Tuesday, June 20, 2006 at 10:54 AM

Professional epiphany: I have returned my flower, a changed bee…

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Charlie Rose is my favorite TV interviewer. He appeared on Larry King Live last night to share details about the health crisis that kept him confined to a hospital bed for four weeks (and then to his home for an additional five). However, a week ago today, as I was confined to my own sick-bed, I watched Charlie mark his celebrated return to The Charlie Rose Show (PBS) by explaining to viewers the impact his illness has had on both his personal and professional life.

For those of you who did not see either program, the sixty-four-year-old Rose was on the road to Damascus in March when he was struck with acute shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Yet he continued on to conduct a coveted interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before being forced to get medical attention from a Syrian doctor. But he was fortunate to make it back to Paris when he did. Because his symptoms had become so critical that he was admitted to hospital immediately upon his arrival, where world-renowned pioneering heart surgeon, Alain Carpentier, operated on him for almost 15 hours to repair a diseased mitral valve.

At any rate, it was instructive to listen to Charlie talk about his commitment to work, which he invariably pursued at the expense of family and friends. And, just as I was beginning to infer that he considered this an acceptable trade-off, he conceded the following:

I’ve had to think about how do I change…everyone who knows me knows that I’m always in fifth gear and too involved in work…pushing too hard [to do too many things]….But I have to think now of what is the appropriate balance….I want to make sure I have dinner with friends….I’m asking have I lived a good life….

[And he continued on Larry King Live]…nobody on their death bed says I wish I spent more time at the office. And I never, (sic) I’ve spent too much time working, and the opportunity, or the commitment I have now is to read more and to spend more time with friends….

But enough about Charlie….It’s just that – as I was on sick leave for the first time in my 20-year career, his story led me to think about what impact my illness might have on my personal and professional life. But let me hasten to clarify that mine was hardly a “health crisis”. Indeed, compared to Charlie’s heart problems, my viral infection amounted to little more than a common cold.

Nonetheless, like Charlie’s, my A-type personality compels me to believe that I can do a million things at once and do them all well. However, unlike him, I’ve always considered nurturing my family ties and personal friendships amongst the most important things I do. And I’ve received sufficient feedback in this respect to feel assured that no change is necessary.

Instead, when I thought “about how do I change” my worker-bee personality, it occurred to me that I need to establish a more appropriate balance between my vocation (job that pays the bills) and avocations (hobbies like this weblog) to relieve the mental and physical stress that my doctor is absolutely convinced was the cause of my illness (and sustained cholesterol levels above 350). And there’s the rub: Because, when I reach Charlie’s age and begin reflecting on his question (i.e. have I lived the good life?), I doubt I’ll be able to answer “yes” if I continue to dedicate so much time and effort to my vocation at the expense of my avocations.

Charlie (himself a former practicing attorney) shared his intent to reduce his workload to have more time for the family and friends he has neglected over the years. I have resolved to do the same. And, in this regard, I intend to expand the pro-bono areas of my legal practice (e.g. Just last week, the Chairman of the National Cancer Foundation back home in the Turks and Caicos Islands asked me to serve as their legal counsel. And I shall.)

Close friends know that I find writing tremendously therapeutic. This is why they have been exhorting me for nearly a year now to make this weblog more a vocation than avocation. I have resolved to try.

Finally, I would like to thank those of you who sent me get-well eCards and emails. I was tremendously comforted by them. And, since I have no doubt that I shall derive far greater satisfaction from responding to email enquiries from the readers of this weblog than I ever have from responding to “bottom-line” questions from my clients, I look forward to establishing a more appropriate balance in this respect as well.

NOTE: When I mentioned this professional epiphany to a friend, she suggested that it seems I’m merely contemplating a change “from an overworked lawyer who at least gets paid, to one who just works for free.” Perhaps. But for me, it’s working for money (which obligates) – instead of for charity (which inspires) – that heightens the stress. And, truth be told, if I were to ever lessen the amount of work I do or, God forbid, retire, I fear I might end up like Arthur Wilson who – after missing only one day in 70 years on the job – retired earlier this year at the age of 100, only to die 2 weeks into his retirement.

So, here’s to good work, good health and a good life….

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Comments

  1. phil June 20, 2006 at 11:16 am

    I’m honored to be the first to welcome you back ALH. This post should serve as a blue print for all of us to live by.

  2. Anonymous June 20, 2006 at 11:52 am

    Hi Anthony

    Welcome back!!! We missed you. Try to take it easy now OK?

  3. jennifer June 20, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    Hi Anthony

    What a relief to have you back! Are you 100%? We don’t want you getting a relapse with that cholesterol at 350 and all….God you’re lucky to be alive.

    I agree with Phil that you have provided some valuable nuggets to help us organize our busy lives. I hope you follow your own advice.

  4. Anonymous June 20, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    Welcome back Sir. We will have to speak about that 350 cholesterol at a later date (smile).

    Rage….

  5. Karen (London) June 20, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    Glad to have you back! Despite the enforced confinement, it was obviously time very well spent. Take it easy.

  6. Julia June 20, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    You can’t ever know how truly inspiring you are Anthony. I like the way you put even your illness into perspective. And you are absolutely right, the minute we retire, we die.

  7. Michelle June 20, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    I’m shocked Anthony!!!

    How can a man who looks as healthy as you do have that level of cholesterol. They say stress is a silent and invisible killer. I think you need to take more time off to destress and get that under control. Maybe move back to the islands…and invite me, your most loyal fan, down for a visit sometime:)

  8. Anonymous June 20, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    serious food for thought. i think i’m due for a professional epiphany…

  9. Liz Coleman June 20, 2006 at 11:26 pm

    LOL!!!

    Hi Anthony

    I love the reference to the nasonex bee. That’s too funny. It’s great to have you back. Promise us you’ll do something about that cholesterol or you won’t reach retirement age…

  10. Sarah March 31, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Saw you tonite in San Rafael
    and had to watch Buckley footage. I respected him, too.
    Great to hear you tonite.

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