Oswald Letter

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you SHOULD do today

Woman silhouette watching sun in a sunsetby Dan Oswald

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” It’s good advice for all of us.

Last month, I lost my brother-in-law in a tragic accident. He was just 47. Last week, I lost a friend, also in a tragic accident. He was only 55. Ironically, both were doing something they loved when they lost their lives.

My brother-in-law had spent the day fishing with a friend. There were few things Mark loved to do more than fish. And Alan was working on his farm on a tractor. His farm was his passion. He had replaced himself as CEO in the business he had owned and ran for 30 years so he could spend more time working on the farm that he and his wife owned together.

There are lessons for all of us when someone loses his life so suddenly and with so much life yet to live. It’s why we should heed Franklin’s advice not to put off the things we can do today. I’d actually change one word in his quote—the “can” would become a “should” in my version. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you SHOULD do today.

It’s a subtle change, but I believe it’s an important one. There are many things we can do today, but how many of them are really important? What are the things we SHOULD do today? Which things are so important that we should not delay in getting them done?

Luckily, both Mark and Alan died doing something they loved. They didn’t put off until tomorrow making time for activities that were important to them. Alan, if he were still here with us today, would tell you that he should have hired someone to run his company years earlier so he could spend more time with family and friends doing the things he loved most with the people he loved most.

Not long ago, I wrote about this old adage: “No one on their deathbed ever said they wished they had worked more.” Well, there’s nothing like two people close to you losing their lives suddenly and tragically to get your attention. And my lesson from this has been that I need to make sure I have my priorities straight.

Sure, I love what I do for a living. I have a great job working with people I really enjoy, respect, and admire. I like the challenge of the work and the sense of accomplishment it can provide. But I don’t work just because I like it. I work to provide for my family. I work so we can do things together as a family that we enjoy.

It’s ironic, then, that the one thing that allows me to provide those opportunities for family togetherness is also the one thing that takes me away from my family the most. Whether it’s the travel or the time and attention my job requires, both take away from spending time with them.

So ask yourself right now, what is it that you SHOULD do today that could be put off until tomorrow. What’s really important to you? What should be a priority in your life? Maybe you’ve been putting something off you know you should make time for. Maybe there’s someone you have lost touch with whom you should reconnect with.

Attend a couple of funerals of people who left us too soon, and it becomes pretty clear—it’s the people in our lives who are most important. Spend some time with the family members and friends who have been left behind, and you’ll see that they wish they had just one more opportunity to . . .

So don’t put off until tomorrow what you SHOULD do today. Make a list right now of five things that really shouldn’t wait, things you may have been putting off either intentionally or unintentionally. Maybe it’s calling a long-lost friend or going to visit someone you haven’t seen in some time. Maybe it’s patching up an old wound that has festered way too long or making sure the people you care most about know exactly how you feel about them. I’m sure coming up with just five things that truly deserve your attention won’t be difficult.

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you SHOULD do today.