June 13, 2011
Most people need a good kick in the pants to find enlightenment. This can come in a variety of packages — from a death in the family to facing your own mortality. For Jim Higley, it was a diagnosis of prostate cancer that made him stop and savor his life. But he didn't take to savoring very easily.
"I'd had a 23-year career in commercial real estate," says Higley, author of "Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew" (Greenleaf Book Group Press, $14.95). "I thrived on staying busy."
Prior to his illness, Higley would leave the house before his three children got up in the morning, and returned when it was time to wind down for the day. He'd "bobble" his way through being a parent, working hard for a paycheck that gave him money in the bank, but little connection with his kids. That is, until his cancer showed up.
"After my surgery, I spent months at home recovering," Higley said. "I was healing, but it was slow and painful. I had to let go of being in control. I wasn't planning ahead or multitasking. I would sit and listen to my kids. I connected with friends. I let people do things for me."
A year after going back to work post-surgery, Higley left his job to be a full-time dad. He tapped into his retirement savings to make ends meet.
"I had worked for so long to build up a retirement that I decided to look at this in an investment in a business — I mean who knows if I'm going to make it to age 70? So I took the money that I'd set aside and said, 'I am going to invest it in the moment — invest it in my children.'"
As for his health, Higley's cancer is in remission.
Now an author and winner of the title "World's Greatest Dad" from the online magazine Man of the House (manofthehouse.com), Higley says he's glad he took the leap of faith to follow his heart.
"The person you feel you are inside — that's who you are," he says. "I'd always wanted to be a writer. … It takes practice, though. I still feel like someone's going to come and pull my pants down and say, 'Ha! You're not really a writer. Just kidding!' "
Here are the Bobblehead Dad's top five life lessons:
Celebrate something every day.
"I celebrated my son's last day of school by surprising him with his favorite banana muffin from a restaurant down the street," he says. "My total investment in time: 10 minutes."
When you can't be brilliant with words, be brilliant with your arms.
"We've all stumbled through saying the wrong thing — or trying to be kind and loving and it comes out wrong. Don't say anything. Just give a hug."
Expect the unexpected.
"I might think I'm about to do an act of kindness—maybe offer something to a street vendor—and I can't tell you how many times that situation turns on me and I walk away the one receiving something. There is so much in life that's out there if you put yourself out there."
There's only one person stopping you from being who you were meant to be.
"We have to get those negative thoughts out of our heads," he says. "Listen to your calling and find a way to implement it into your life."
Lessons happen every day — that's why we need to live in the moment.
"The lessons that I've collected have come to me in the simplest of moments — and if you are not awake in those moments you will miss them completely."
Copyright © 2015 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC