The Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The past few days, I’ve been wondering what Lazarus said to all of his friends after he was raised from the dead. I mean, he had to say something, right? He couldn’t just show up in the old neighborhood one day in his tattered burial clothes and act like nothing happened - even though he probably wanted to avoid all those inevitable questions, like  “Hey Lazarus, how come you aren’t dead anymore?”

I wish I knew what he said because I might be able to steal a line or two to explain my own disappearance these past few months. Especially to everyone who may have wondered what happened. To everyone who sent emails that I never answered or left voice messages that I never returned. To those of you who are reading this right now and thinking, “Hey Lazarus, how come you aren’t dead anymore?”

This has been a pretty rough summer for me, especially physically. I haven’t been writing and cancelled all but one speaking event because I was busy learning about the US health care system - from the patient’s perspective. My days were spent in doctor’s office and hospital rooms getting poked and prodded and undressed in front of so many strangers that I felt like I was pledging a college fraternity, and now have more pictures of my pancreas and liver than most people have of their own children. The good news is that, like Lazarus, the things that were wrong with me are now gone and I’m no longer dead. (The better news for those who have seen/heard me speak is that I now have a whole lot of new material for the self-introduction I do at the beginning of my speeches. You thought I revealed some personal things before...!)

I did learn something important from my self-imposed exile that I think is worth sharing. It’s about our own relevance and how fragile it really is.

Before getting sick, when I would write something to this blog, I would get about two thousand visits to that page over the course of a few days. When I gave a speech, the number of visitors to my website would go even higher. I was relevant. At least to some people. I had followers and subscribers (and one or two stalkers) who, for reasons I still don’t always understand, found what I had to say interesting.

What I discovered when I stopped writing and stopped speaking was how quickly I could become irrelevant. When I would check the stats on my website and the visits to this blog, I didn’t see the gradual losses that I expected. The drop offs were exponential as each week passed and I was nowhere to be found. It didn’t surprise me that people stopped visiting - after all, there was nothing new to see and nothing new to read. What caught me off guard was just how quickly my “followers” moved on. Woody Allen was right when he said “80% of life is just showing up.” Google Analytics confirmed that for me.

My point to all of this is not whether I will find readers again or people who want to hear me speak. It is about the dangers of disappearing. We all have days when we want to be left alone. When we go into hiding to avoid those customers who want to complain, the members who want more attention, the patients who want more answers, our employers who want more results, and our employees who want more direction. Some people stay silent because they are shy or introverted or afraid of being wrong. Some  make themselves anonymous to avoid doing more work. While still others go missing through no fault of their own. The reasons don’t really matter. Breaking off contact may offer you some temporary peace and quiet. Just be aware that it may turn into a permanent condition when you return to find everyone you need is gone.

James Kane