A Perspective on Priorities


by Stephanie Koehler

There is nothing quite like a “near miss” to set your priorities straight.  You know the feeling… the rush of adrenalin that flashes through your body when you narrowly avoid an accident or witness something frightening.  For me – it’s always followed by an instant mental laundry list of all the things I “promise to do better.”

The last few months have been filled with a series of such “near misses”.  A sudden almost debilitating problem for a beloved friend; the positive outcome of a deadly condition for another; and a potentially life-altering health scare for me. This prolonged adrenalin rush has left me both exhausted and pensive.  But most of all, it has left me grateful for the opportunity – and clarity — to carefully evaluate my life and its priorities.

How do I spend the precious 168 hours in my week?  Am I wise with the expenditure of energy or wasteful with my chances? Do I breathe life in or allow it to pass by?  Am I purposeful and intentional or haphazard and unaware?

This isn’t the first time life has handed me this opportunity to evaluate life and what we value. My brother died 11 years ago in January at the age of 32. We knew it was coming – so the last weeks of his life seemed to be the perfect execution of well-balanced priorities. The entire family paid attention to each other as if it was the last chance we might all have to be together… because it was.  I learned a great lesson in those days – to take the time to appreciate the people in our lives.

I think I just needed a refresher course.

So, last weekend as the weight of uncertainty was still heavy on my mind – and the television was a good distraction from medical tests and fear – I stumbled across a wonderful documentary about how Pixar Animation Studios came to life.  There were fascinating tales of the creative spirit and sheer determination.  There were unlikely business partners and lifelong friends.  There were animated cowboys and cartoon fish.  There were fortunes risked and fortunes found – but there was one single quote by founder Ed Catmull that left an indelible mark on my mind.

“The important thing is not the idea.  The important thing is the people. It’s how they work together, who they are that matters more than anything else.”

And so it is.