The greatest wealth is health. ~Virgil
This is a difficult topic for me to write about. I’ve been dogged by health problems since my second daughter was born four and a half years ago. But for a number of reasons I’ve said little about my struggles to the LatPro team.
- Leading is not complaining. First and foremost, leading a team is about helping others. It’s about removing obstacles and creating a positive and efficient environment. Leading is not complaining, it’s listening. So, if you are a leader, you don’t dwell on your own speedbumps, whether your roof has a leak or you are physically ill. Complaining sucks energy from others. So you keep your problems at home and do your best to energize your team.
- Sympathy is depressing. When you stub your toe, a little sympathy is nice. If you have a chronic illness, you want to forget about it. It feels good when others understand your limitations and offer assistance but conduct business as usual.
- Staying focused. Building a company is like climbing a mountain. The pinnacle of the mountain exerts a strong pull on you like a powerful magnet. You can’t see the pinnacle when you start climbing or even when you are halfway to the top, but you know it’s there and you feel the pull. The higher up you get, the more exotic the scenery and the more exciting the climb. Your mind and body become tuned entirely to reaching the top. That’s how I feel about our team and the company. We’re climbing a mountain and we’re going to the top detours and all.
I love the company. We’ve given it top priority for ten full years and will continue climbing in spite of a detour or two. I love the mountain.
My actual health problems are not the acute kind that hospitals treat. I grew up with a lot of what I considered peculiarities or quirks. But over the years my quirks started to intrude more and more into my life and started to become actual limitations. I made diet and lifestyle changes which have been helpful. I stopped eating wheat gluten, high glycemic index foods and all processed foods. Then I quit eating fruit. I avoid caffeine and alcohol entirely and go to bed early.
But in spite of perfectly clean living and a very expensive whole foods diet, I’m still plagued with gastrointestinal, respiratory, immune system, bone density, sleep, and metabolic problems to name a few. I’ve been to many doctors and am currently seeing one of the most highly regarded in the country, someone who specializes in solving chronic illness mysteries.
For the past couple years I hoped my problems could be explained by some type of infection I could have picked up in childhood travels to Mexico, Africa or Eastern Europe. Or even annual camping trips to Northern Canada where we drank from the lakes and bathed in them.
But having nearly exhausted those possibilities, I’m drawing closer to considering the possibility that my problems are similar to those of my father. He suffered with a chronic illness for 15 years but was suddenly cured when he moved to Colorado. He is allergic to mold which is always in the air everywhere. But in Colorado the mold count is very low, around 500 parts per million as compared to Florida’s average 5,000 ppm.
When he spends time anywhere on the East Coast, he’s fine for the first 3 or 4 days, and then lies down bedridden with fatigue. When he gets home to Colorado, he recovers completely in a couple days. He attributes the onset of his mold allergy to a long term exposure to hazardous chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) to which I was also exposed for at least six or seven years.
Whether caused by chemical exposure or not, I’ve long known that I’m allergic to high concentrations of certain types of mold. The first time I discovered this was in Guatemala where I was staying with a local family as part of my language study program. I was put in room that was so moldy, the walls and ceilings were gray or black with it. Within minutes of entering the room, my ears began to itch and feel clogged. My eyes watered and itched and my sinuses ran. My throat itched and I generally felt like I had suddenly contracted the flu. I took a jug of bleach and scrubbed every inch of the walls and it became tolerable long enough to get transferred to a dryer house.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know whether the lower grade mold exposure everyone experiences daily in Florida is responsible for the kind of chronic problems I have. The only way to figure it out is to go somewhere dry and see what happens. So after four months of severe respiratory problems this spring, I traveled to Boulder, Colorado and spent five weeks at my parents home. There my respiratory problems cleared and my energy level improved. I also noticed a marked improvement in my thought clarity.
So what do we intend to do now? First, we’ll go back to Boulder sometime in July for a couple of weeks and see if I’m consistently better in Colorado and worse in Florida. If I am, we’ll probably move to Colorado and I’ll travel to Weston as often as I can.
I wouldn’t have imagined this possibility a year ago before we implemented the Rockefeller program at LatPro. But I’m so pleased with the results of our daily, weekly and quarterly planning processes, that I’m sure we can keep the company humming and growing at a strong clip, even under such unusual circumstances.
Of course, I know it’s not just the Rockefeller program. Without the good chemistry we have in our team, our management tools would amount to nothing. I believe in the capabilities of our team, and if I have to move, I know we can keep the company healthy in spite of the geographic challenge. Come to think of it, we already have a far flung footprint with people in Delaware, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Brazil, Guatemala, Argentina, and Colombia. I think we can handle Colorado too.