Takeaways from Reading Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelly

After reading Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelley, the idea of controlling time versus controlling energy was something that allowed me to reevaluate the concept of commitment. Here is the quote that resonated the most for me:

I had come to wonder about the true nature of commitment. In fact, it’s not about time. It’s not about reliability and predictability. Commitment is about depth. It’s about effort. It’s about passion. It’s about wanting to be in a certain place, and not wanting to be somewhere else. Of course time is involved; it would be naïve and illogical to suggest otherwise. But commitment is best measured not by the time one is willing to give up, but more accurately, by the energy one wants to put in, by how present one is.

The book was written by O’Kelley in his last one hundred days of life as he gets blindsided by a terminal cancer diagnosis at the relatively young age of fifty-three. Eugene O’Kelley was a successful executive at an accounting firm, but in his own reflection he starts to realize that he was not always present as he should have been. It was not until he faced certain death that he stopped worrying about time and instead of focused on living perfect moments.

In the day to day, there are so many self-imposed little tasks that I feel like my energy gets wasted by trying to keep pace on the hamster wheel. The process of just leaving home to go to school is a twelve-step process. Then I become a teacher and fill out forms, pass out forms, write an agenda, make photocopies, scan homework, write emails, mark papers with red X’s, clean desks, put papers in absent folders. Even though exercise, sleeping and eating well are essentials to success for me I push them down the priority list. As a result of trying to check off the boxes, I give seventy percent to something before moving onto the next thing because seventy percent is “enough.” Students will get the red X’s back, but they will have no clue why their answer was wrong.

During the basketball season it’s the same way. I think about the style of team we’ll face next and just go to the old rolodex of drills. Transition? Let’s run BYU. Great post player? Let’s go 3 v 3 around 1 shell. I’m meeting the commitment of giving the team an activity for a ten minute block of practice, but there’s no emotion to it. There’s rarely a resolve from the players or the coaches to make this better than the last time we ran this drill. How much do we believe in it? How focused am I on that drill as opposed to the one that will be used immediately thereafter? And if the ten minute block isn’t sufficient, do we just move to the next thing because that’s the agenda or do we go at this one skill or one point of emphasis with higher effort and higher focus? I almost always move to the next more comfortable part of practice rather than confronting the hill that we should be climbing.

At the end of our second last practice this year, we did a drill that we have done for four years with regularity called “Rocket Drill.” The players all knew where to run and when to pass. Without telling anyone, one of our assistants filmed it. The energy was so bad that I almost did not show the players the next day because I thought it would demoralize them before our tournament game. It was precisely what Eugene O’Kelley meant about the danger of being reliable and putting in time. We laughed about it and in our last practice of the season found the energy that we desperately sought.

In order to truly reach our potential, everyone in the organization must embrace that energy is the most important part of a commitment.

This is the second of what I hope will be thirty-seven books that I have read this year. If you have any suggestions on what to read next please send me a tweet or comment. 


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