I like to think I was born with a certain appreciation for the fleeting nature of life. Growing up on a large family farm, I remember the feeling that my life was closely tied to nature. Days on a farm are not marked by the ticking of a clock, but by work. Nature was always there, telling us when it was time to work and time to rest.
My father said, “We start when the dew lifts and we stop when dew falls.” This was the rhythm of my life.
When you grow up so closely tied to nature, you notice things many people do not. My animal friends had an even better perspective on our temporary existence. Squirrels gather and hide nuts; bears constantly forage for food as winter approaches; thousands of ducks, almost in unison, take flight on their journey to a warmer place. Observing this had a profound impact on me. It reinforced that life was happening all around me and that I shouldn’t take time for granted.
Most people come to the conclusion at some point in their lives that time wasted is time never to be regained, a concept solidified early in my life. One day after college graduation, sound asleep, the ring of the phone startled me awake. Early morning phone calls are never good news. The voice on the other end of the phone cracked as if holding back tears, almost paralyzed and unable to speak. This call would change the course of my life, as the closest person in the world to me had been suddenly been taken away in a car accident.
After dealing with all the stages of grief and allowing time to pass, I decided to use this tragedy to better my life. From that day forward, when life would throw its challenges, I would think about my friend and remember how precious our time is on this planet.
Understanding what means the most to you and acting on that knowledge is one of the most important aspects of being happy. After college and graduate school, I started the corporate climb with a passion and drive to be the best. My dad’s words resonated in my ears: Son, I don’t care if you chose to be a doctor, lawyer or ditch digger: just be the best.
These words carried weight, but with the constant reminder that time is precious, it became harder and harder to be the best at something I wasn’t truly passionate about.
Even during my corporate career, I was always an athlete, supported part-time by companies to compete in running events. This outlet helped me maintain balance, and at the same time, provided a glimpse of what life could and should be. As I began to transition to a more passion-driven life, my new path felt right and more meaningful. The decision to walk away from a promising corporate career was scary but not hard.
Never far away, just under the surface, was that young farm boy who knew time was precious and who only had to look to nature to know what to do.
Today, I try to live by one simple thought: This is my life and it’s happening now!
James Russell Gill III (Gill) is a professional ultra-endurance runner and owner and CEO of Bad to the Bone Sports. Together, Gill and Francesca have turned passion into a lifestyle and can always be found on top of a mountain searching for the next challenge.