The first fifty-four years of Lee Kravitz’s life were unremarkable in the sense that he spent them doing what most Americans do: He completed his education and traveled a bit before settling down to focus on his career. He married, had children, and achieved professional success as the editor of Parade magazine. He was admittedly a workaholic.
Unfortunately, print media has, for at least several years, been struggling to survive. Additionally, Lee’s relationship with his boss became contentious and he accurately predicted that he would be fired. Of course, he couldn’t have foreseen that he would learn of his ouster via a casual conversation in the hallway. So much for the acknowledgement or repayment of employee loyalty and hard work by corporate America.
Lee knew that finding a comparable job was going to be next-to-impossible. After all, he was “a fifty-four-year-old magazine editor in an industry that was hemorrhaging jobs and going through a period of fundamental change.” Still, he was luckier than most Americans who have lost jobs during the most recent Recession: Lee calculated that with his severance package and his wife’s income, he would not be pressed to find work for about a year. Spending time at home with his wife and children, he realized how much he had missed over the years, so he was determined to spend the next year becoming a “happier and more appreciate person, with richer friendships and far better sense of who I was and what genuinely mattered to me.”
Sorting through thirteen cardboard boxes of mementos and keepsakes that had been stored in a closet in his country house for many years, Lee reviewed snippets of his life. And he found himself confronted with the reality that, over the years, there had been many things he should have done, things he meant to do, but never did. He compiled a list of his unfinished business and then set out on a year-long series of ten journeys during which he resolved to finally do the right thing with respect to each.
What exactly is “unfinished business” and why should we concern ourselves with it? It is the thing that remains undone — the words unspoken or spoken harshly, in haste, and without thought; the thought or emotion not conveyed; the act not completed, such as the hug or handshake not given, the borrowed item not returned, the gift not given.
In Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things, author Lee Kravitz describes the ten separate journeys upon which he embarked in an effort to, at long last, do the right thing with regard to a specific event, situation or person. He chronicles what item(s) he found in one of those boxes that triggered his memory about a particular time in his life and why, at that time, he was unable or unwilling to do what he knew to be right and true. He explores the reasons why, so many years later, he felt compelled to take action to rectify a particular situation, the results of his efforts, and what he learned in the process.
The items on my list of unfinished business were linked to my deepest feelings of helplessness, disappointment, and fear. It’s ironic: We consign our most essential business to the bottom of our to-do list because we lack the time and energy to do the things that matter most in our lives well. . . . [i]f one can attend to these things, great rewards will follow.~ Author Lee Kravitz
Among the overlooked tasks Kravitz planned to complete were finding his long-lost Aunt Fern, sending a condolence message to a childhood friend who lost his daughter, repaying a $600 loan from a friend that had remained outstanding since 1976, reconnecting with and seeking spiritual guidance from one of his mentors, reconnecting with the best friend of a high school classmate against whom he had harbored a grudge and upon whom he had wished harm, eulogizing a grandmother whose funeral he did not attend.
Of course, each of Kravitz’s ten journeys also took him on side trips, serendipitous wanderings during which he was reunited with other folks from his past. In some instances, seeing them brought to mind unfinished business he had forgotten about and provided him an opportunity to find closure in those situations, as well.
Few of us have the luxury of taking an entire year off from our life and daily responsibilities to devote to our own unfinished business, but Kravitz stresses that we should not let that fact be an impediment. Rather, the first step in resolving old issues or righting old wrongs is usually the deceptively simple act of writing a letter or email.
The main point to be gleaned from Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things is that attending to unfinished business is about making ourselves more compassionate, loving, and accepting of others. One psychologist says it is about “moving forward. It’s about optimizing our potetial as human beings.” Thus, it is not about the benefit(s) we narcissistically think our reappearance in another person’s life will provide to him/her. Rather, living our lives on a day-to-day basis without unfinished business keeps us energizes by lightening our burdens. Stated differently, we don’t carry that excess emotional baggage with us each day.
At the end of his transformative year, Kravitz planned to return to his normal life by finding a job and reentering normal, day-to-day corporate life. But he vowed to return a different man. He is now one who will “just do it” when it comes to reaching out to someone else, making a call, offering help, etc., making an affirmative effort not to leave important aspects of life unfinished. Kravitz learned that far too often, “life takes over and pushes the experiences that might enrich, enlarge or even complete us to the bottom o or to-do list.” His determination to live his own life different can be an inspiration to us all.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things free of charge from the author in conjunction with the TLC Book Tours review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Enter to Win a Copy of Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things
One lucky reader, selected at random, will receive a copy of Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things, graciously provided by the author.
To enter, simply post a comment describing, in general terms, one piece of unfinished business you would like to attend to and why you think reading Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things will help you accomplish that goal. Be sure to include your email address (for notification and delivery purposes). The book can only be shipped to a United States or Canadian address (no P.O. box).
The comment posted by Krystal Larson was selected at random and a copy of Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things was sent to Krystal!