At 4:45 a.m. Dec. 15, my world, as I knew it, stopped.

My husband woke me up and told me that I had to take him to the hospital. He had chest pains that wouldn’t go away.
A few days later -the Wednesday before Christmas - he had quadruple heart bypass surgery. He was lucky. He never had a heart attack. I was also lucky. Two of my advisory board members stepped in to run the company while I was gone. One is continuing as the vice president of operations and the other is working part time, which he prefers.

The event gave me a lot of time to think about what was important. Coming to grips with your own mortality is a very sobering experience. How did my husband want to spend the rest of his life? How did I?

The surgery forced physical changes such as diet and exercise, which is good not only for him but also for my 17-year-old daughter. I don’t expect that either of them will run marathons with me. However, they are exercising now.

The most important change was how we spend, and plan to spend, our time. We both agreed that we want to play more and do things together. We both run businesses, so we have the ability - if we do it - to plan and schedule time off. In the past, both of us have been running “at Mach 2 with our hair on fire” dealing with our companies. That will change this year.

Not perfect

Will we be perfect at it? No. However, that strong wake-up call forced us to look at what was most important to both of us and spend time where we wanted. Business still is very important to both of us. We like doing what we do and seeing others succeed because of our efforts. I now have a person in place to deal with most of the everyday operations issues so I can concentrate on doing what I need and want to do.

What is important to you? How do you really want to spend your time? Do it, even if it is only an hour per week. I’ll bet that your business won’t suffer and probably will be better as a result.

On a different subject, I mentioned marathons earlier. Many of you know that I am a runner. Most of you don’t know that I took the summer off to let my knee heal after stepping in a hole and twisting it.
I recently ran my first half-marathon in my long climb back into shape. I figured “it’s only 13 miles.”
Well, for the first 8 miles, I was doing great.

Then I hit “the wall.” I ran out of energy. This surprised me, since normally I wouldn’t tire that early in a marathon. I realized I wasn’t in as good a shape as I thought. However, I slogged through it and finished.
It reminded me of what happens in business when we “hit the wall.”

Everything we try to do isn’t working. One disaster after another happens. We get tired of the fight. We have to maintain a great disposition and attitude for our employees, even when we feel distracted, frustrated and stressed out.

Breaking through

What gets you through? Mental energy.

How do you develop it? Here are some things I use: Write in a journal. I use one of those marble-covered composition books that we used as kids. Every day, I write down three good things that happened to me. I admit that when I’ve “hit the wall,” sometimes it’s tough to come up with them.

Remember why you are in the HVAC or sheet metal business. There had to be something that got you into it. What was it? Why do you enjoy it? And, if you really don’t want to do it, get out.
Like my recent experience with my husband showed me, life is too short not to do something that you enjoy.

And remember that “the wall” is temporary. You can get through it; you can go around it. You can accomplish your goals. It’s all about your frame of mind.

Copyright 2007, Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093. Call (800) 511-6844; e-mail