Urgency, Accomplishment and Alzheimer's Disease

I was struck by two things last week, both having to do with urgency.

The first was a Larry King interview of Neil DeGrasse Tyson from 2015 that has been circulating on Facebook recently. In it, King asked Tyson for his thoughts on death. Specifically, after Tyson stated that he would not want to live forever, Larry asked him why not? Here was Tyson’s reply:

“It is the knowledge that I am going to die that creates the focus that I bring to being alive. The urgency of accomplishment, the need to express love— now, not later. If we live forever, why ever even get out of bed, because we always have tomorrow?”

That second sentence, “the urgency of accomplishment,” struck a chord. We feel urgency to make a difference, to leave a legacy, because we know that we have a finite amount of time to do it. Death is the only guarantee in our lives, and that knowledge pushes us to try to lead lives of significance. In a way, that need to create, to do, to achieve— that urgency in our lives— is the great gift of our mortality.

That gift cuts both ways, however. That recognition that our time is running out, can also be terrifying. My family has a deep connection to Alzheimer’s Disease; to put it bluntly, the disease runs through my family tree like a freight train. We lost my grandmother and great uncle to the disease years ago. My mother developed symptoms in 2011 and passed away from the disease, at age 65, in 2015. It is fairly obvious that there are genetic ties in our family, and it pushes my brother and sisters and me to fight, to advocate, to participate in studies, and to fundraise. This past weekend, we attended the Minneapolis Purple Gala, The Alzheimer’s Association of MN/ND’s annual fundraiser. At the event, we heard testimony from a woman who had lost numerous family members to the disease, and who was just recently diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment— a precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease…. at age 42.

And that sense of urgency slapped me in the face again. 42!!! I’m 41. Might I face the same future as that woman, and soon? It reminded me again of one of the reasons I chose to leave a good job and open my FocalPoint practice. After my mom passed away, it forced me to think of my own mortality, that I may only have 20 good years left. It filled me with a sense of urgency to do more, to go into business for myself, to stop working for someone else’s dream and start building my own. That scary revelation was a gift, and it led to one of the best decisions of my life.

We develop a sense of urgency for different reasons, and out of different circumstances, but regardless of the cause, the results can be amazing. Urgency leads people to start businesses, write powerful novels, stories and songs, create remarkable inventions, discern the wonders of the universe, raise children who grow up to be wonderful adults, love and care for those around them or fight to find cures for insidious diseases. Whatever sense of urgency you feel, use it for good; harness that feeling, allow it to drive you to bigger and better things. Find a way, through your own urgency, to leave your mark.

If you want to support my family’s fight against Alzheimer’s Disease, please visit my Walk Page, where you can donate to the cause, or join our team. Thank you for your support!

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