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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 4, 202105:10 AM EST

The best advice I’ve ever received brings me to tears

Is something holding you back from doing what matters most?

By John Guy, Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge

The best advice I have received came in only four words.

Although I didn’t believe the wisdom was meant for me when I heard it, upon reflection it brought me to tears. How correct the advice was, and how remarkably I had failed to heed it. 

John Guy

Now many years later, I think about that advice daily; not to prepare myself for tomorrow, or to justify yesterday, but instead, for today.

The words that have stuck with me for so long? “Don’t miss your life.”

Perhaps the reason it took so long for me to internalize those words was that I needed time to consider what really mattered in my life. Inevitably, the answer was not what, but who.

I started to think about all the things I was doing daily that prevented me from living my life to the fullest. All the things I wasn’t doing that I should have been. The answers were humbling and depressing.

I have made changes since that time, but to be sure, there is no going back. Too many yesterdays have become opportunities lost.

In reviewing my life in this context, it occurred to me a related piece of advice also is true: The biggest obstacle in one’s life is oneself.

I have reached for excuses, in every sense and manifestation. I have created excuses. None were the correct answer. My failures, my shortcomings and my regrets were squarely on my shoulders. The cause of most of my life’s disappointments are covered by the shaving cream in my bathroom mirror.

It also occurred to me that an equally important corollary to “don’t miss your life” is this: Don’t cause anyone else to miss their life.

That realization was even more disturbing. Too many times I caused others to miss out. My words, my actions and my deeds were causing others pain and holding them back - not strangers, but the people who were closest to me. 

The advice I received so long ago led me to contemplate and appreciate another adage that is as important as it is true – tomorrow is not promised. The only certainty in our lives is today.

As I write these words, I am thinking of a close friend who is spending time with a parent who is in the final stages of a terminal illness. A lifetime of making memories is days from ending.

How much time and energy do we spend planning for events that will never come to pass? Or worse, how much anxiety have we experienced worrying about things that never happened? How much life have we lost in worry?

I submit that wisdom has withstood the centuries not by accident.

Like everyone, I often look back with so much joy on experiences I have had. But as the years have passed, I have realized the key is to feel that joy, not in reflection, but in the moment.

Now, I often find myself thinking about how enjoyable a particular experience is as I am living it, in real time, and how grateful I am for that experience. Sugar is sweetest when it is on your tongue.

Now the hard part. Is there anything you are doing routinely that is holding you back? If so, stop. Is there anything you are not doing that is preventing you from moving forward? If so, start.

Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge John Guy was appointed to the bench in 2015 after 22 years in the State Attorney’s Office.

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