The question Ruben gifted me…

It was September 2012 when I declared that I would write Upside-Down Mommy and launch it as an Amazon Bestseller in six months, and it took me three long weeks to create the content strategy—the arc of the campaign and then all of the details of marketing the campaign and the events.

I was so excited the day I pushed SEND on that first email.

Just a few minutes later, I saw the reminder pop up for my meeting with Ruben.

Ruben! I can’t wait to see him!

He’d contacted me a few months earlier to tell me he had beaten the cancer and was planning to finish the book within a few weeks. We had calendared the time, and I walked into the meeting having no idea that it was the first of a few interactions that would change my life forever.

Immediately, I was taken aback by how frail he looked compared to the last time I’d seen him. The cancer and his fight with it had aged him a few decades.

He invited me in to sit at the kitchen table with his wife, where we all talked about the manuscript, the possible titles, and his desire for a bestseller campaign. And everything was moving along as expected until his wife left to pick up their son.

When she had closed the door behind her, he leaned close and almost whispered, “Amanda, I know you are really busy working on your own book, and Ursula’s, and probably others, but…” I took a deep breath, somehow intuiting where this was going. “Well, this morning, the doctors said that I only have thirty days of lucidity left, so I’m hoping you can review the content and get everything you need from me… soon… just in case they’re right this time.”

My heart stopped. “Of course we will.” I looked down at the table to gather my thoughts. When I finally looked up, I blurted, “Ruben, I can’t even imagine that conversation… thirty days…?”

My voice trailed off, and he picked up, “Yeah, I’m going to try to prove them wrong again, but just in case, I’m working on this list of things that have to happen before I go. I’m going to marry my wife again in a church, tie up a few things with the business, and complete this book…” He paused and inhaled deeply. “It’s my legacy, Amanda…” Now he looked down at the table and pressed his fingers together in front of him. “I have learned and lived so much. Wouldn’t it be irresponsible for me to go without leaving it here for others?”

All I could do was smile and nod, and let the tears fall.

Thirty days… I let the tears roll down my face all the way home, as I made decisions about my life.

What if I only had 30 days?

What if I lived like that?

What would I do differently?

How would I spend my time?

By the time I got home from Ruben’s, I’d identified and already mentally eliminated the stuff that didn’t really matter in my business plan and my schedule. And over the next week, I let go of those items and the team members and clients who were creating more crazy than anything else. And… I moved with more velocity toward my goals.

What if YOU only had 30 days?

My experience with Ruben for those thirty days completely altered the way I look at time and priorities – you know, EXCEPT WHEN I FORGET!

Like the week after I finished the Upside-Down Messenger manuscript…

I sat at my desk, with all of my postbookdom feelings.

Besides the expected anxiety of putting my story out in such a raw form, there was the literal physical letdown of all of those neurotransmitters that had activated and driven me toward my goal of completing the manuscript.

And then there was this emotional… nothingness… that happens on the other side of completing a meaningful creative project.

Now what?

I reminded myself that I needed to take my own advice and rest. I’d done some massive integrative work with the writing – especially in that conclusion, thanks to that unrelenting sista friend! – and I needed to just let myself be.

But after a few weeks of rest, I started to feel restless.

Shouldn’t I be…?

I tossed around some ideas for projects and steps, but nothing sparked that creative fire in my belly.

Until I remembered the question Ruben gifted me.

Besides the obvious answers of what I would say to/do with loved ones, I immediately identified five projects that it would be, in Ruben’s words, “IRRESPONSIBLE for me to go without leaving them for others.”

Instead of telling you all of my answers and projects – which I promise to begin sharing with you later this week – I want to encourage you to sit with this question that continues to keep me clear on the next best use of these precious moments that I’ve been given:

What would YOU do if you only had 30 days?

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