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Life Lessons with Lee Johnson: "You Never Know"


That often-used phrase comes about at various times throughout our lives. We’ve all said it under various circumstances. It throws out this aura of uncertainty in our existence. Our friend might say “we could have a blizzard this weekend according to the forecast” and we may respond “you never know”.  That aura of uncertainty. 

We live with uncertainty constantly. Will the interview lead to a job? Will my team win? Will my child pass his test tomorrow? Will my parents stay healthy? Will my first date lead to a second one? And on and on. 

In a talk given to the LifeLoop team some time ago, I threw out other examples. How long will we live? Premature death of a loved one is very, very difficult. A parent outliving a child goes against every scenario we can ever picture. That may be the harshest example of “you never know.”

In my talk, I also gave ‘you never know’ examples of how small acts of kindness can bring about wonderful results. In this time of various employment problems and hassles, I have a great appreciation for service workers willing to come to work and stay on the job. I try to express this appreciation to people in the foodservice industry by leaving a larger than normal tip. Maybe that gesture kept an undecided worker on the job. Or maybe he or she went home with a lighter heart which was reflected in their treatment of others. You never know. 

The ripple effect of an act of kindness is interesting to ponder. Part of the enjoyment, it seems to me, when one has no way of observing the end result, is imagining the outcome flourishing far beyond the initial act or effort. The result of an act of kindness… a smile, a helping hand, a kind word to someone having a tough day. You never know. 

There is a downside to being on the wrong side of the uncertainty of “you never know”. It is so easy to dwell in that uncertainty. We do it every day and sometimes at night, awake at 3 AM wondering about tomorrow: the project that has a deadline, the job interview, the meeting with the boss, did I say something wrong on that date? Etc. etc. etc. 

It is so easy to worry! Is that just the nature of the human condition? That old song… “Don’t worry, be happy!’ Were it that easy! We can’t be happy all the time… S…t happens! The better goal might be to try to be at peace as often as possible. 

Being at peace, relieving the uncertainty of you never know, can really only be accomplished by staying in the ‘now’ which brings me to the book and author I mentioned to the LifeLoop team in my recent talk. “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle, presents a workable understanding of how we let ourselves get taken down by fretting over the past and worrying about the future. I highly recommend this book with a caveat. Don’t expect to just read through it. Sometimes you will just need to stop and reflect on one sentence or a paragraph. It will be worth the effort. 

Another aspect of “you never know” is the interesting possibilities related to synchronicity, or however you care to express it. Kismet? It’s all related to those experiences we’ve all had. How often have we all had a situation, looked back, and remarked, ‘well, it was meant to be’. Why was it meant to be? Because the only explanation for that event was that several unrelated or theoretically disconnected movements all fell into place! How and why? 

The most compelling example in my life occurred after I had left my career in education and started selling life insurance. When I was a principal, I had purchased insurance from an agent, a likable fellow about my age. I had not seen this agent recently and he had no knowledge of my whereabouts. 

One day I was walking into a restaurant to meet a prospective client. As I crossed the parking lot, who should be coming out of the restaurant and toward me but the very agent I had purchased insurance from. It was fun to greet him, and we were both somewhat surprised to see each other. He asked what I was doing, and I told him I was also now selling life insurance but with a different company. He then said, “Listen, I’m just getting into something that might have potential, but I don’t want to do it by myself. We need to have lunch.” 

The upshot of that chance meeting was a partnership that lasted 35 years and built a well-respected, very successful third-party administration firm specializing in self-funded group health insurance plans. 

Many times, I have given thought to that parking lot encounter. I think of all the many factors that could’ve caused that meeting to have never occurred and put my life on a completely different path. What were the odds of us arriving in that place at the same time? Here are just a few of the “what if‘s” …

….I had hit two more red lights on my way? 

….I chose a different restaurant for my meeting? 

….he chose a different restaurant for his meeting? 

….he finished his meal three minutes sooner?

You can use your imagination and probably add twenty more factors to the list. Synchronicity? Kismet? How else do you explain it? You’ve had similar experiences. All we can do is shake our heads and smile because… you never know…maybe it was just meant to be.

When I spoke with the LifeLoop team earlier this month, I also addressed how this “you never know” idea came to fruition in the creation of the company. Some of you may know the origin story of LifeLoop but others may not. My mother, Lorena Johnson, and her experience in senior living was the catalyst for the creation of LifeLoop. But the ah-ha moment, and the ah-ha person that caused the birth of LifeLoop was my brother. 

My brother Doug lived in Texas. And years ago, my wife and I needed to put my mother into an assisted living community here in Nebraska. And for many reasons, Doug had a tough time coming up, so it had been several years since he had seen her. Well, they finally came up and one day Doug and I went to spend some time with our Mom. And on our way out at the end of the visit, Doug just broke down. He had no idea that our mom had degenerated to the point that she had. And that, was the ah-ha moment, and the ah-ha person, that caused me several weeks later to say to Kent & Amy, “you know, if you really want to help people, you ought to figure out a way to have a secure communication system between assisted living facilities and relatives that live far away. So that what happened to Doug, doesn’t happen to other people.”

I realize that the communication piece of LifeLoop is now a small part of what the platform does as a whole. But it did set the wheels in motion and lead to so many other ways that the platform can benefit senior living communities and the residents and families they care for. You really never know what one life experience can lead to or what it can create. 

I left the LifeLoop team letting them know that what the senior living communities look for in them is their hope, their solutions, and their optimism. We may never know the effect of our actions in work or in life, but you will know how you feel inside when you set kindness and caring in motion.

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