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2006: Issue 7

In the First Place

“I have no idea where I’m going but here’s the real question:
What am I doing here in the first place?”

– Art Buchwald

Art Buchwald is showing up everywhere these days as he becomes “a model of dying” for making the decision in February to refuse life saving dialysis, and entered a hospice program as he anticipated his death occurring within three weeks.  Not to be.  And it appears he is enjoying this unanticipated process, as he has time to say goodbye, share one more story, and continue to exhibit his wit and wisdom as he causes us to ponder. 

And ponder I have been since reading this in the USA today article on March 29, 2006.   I have realized this quote captures the essence of many of my coaching conversations, and yet, as Art Buchwald so poignantly points out, more conversations center around “where are we going post death”  than “what are we doing here in the first place.”

Staying with my mantra of keeping it simple, recognize that this is as much about the “here” in this very moment or day, as it is the “here” in our overall life on earth.  While I certainly find merit in the concept of a “purpose driven life” or “living a life on purpose”, as much so, I find merit in identifying my purpose for the moment.  Is it to listen? Speak?  Advise? Participate? Enjoy? Teach? Grieve? Be? Play? Learn? Buy? Anticipate? Heal?  Lead? Follow?  The answers are endless, and they are ours to make.  It is about carrying out our days with more intention, even if it is to be unintentional. 

My guess would be that Art’s answer to his own question is different today or yesterday than one year ago, twenty years ago, and will be different from his answer a month from now.  Yet by merely posing the question to himself (and us), he is actively creating his life, and thus, living a life on purpose.   One moment at a time. 

Observation: A lot of our focus is often on doing for the sake of doing, and when pondering the answer to Art’s question, reflect and contemplate on our overall life purpose.  The magnitude of that application of the question, let alone the answer, can in and of itself keep us in the doing loop. 

Assessment: Even if we aren’t sure of the answer, if we all followed Art’s lead and routinely asked ourselves the question, “What are we doing here in the first place?” the odds are that when all is said and done, others will be able to answer the question for us.   And we will be pleased with their answer.


  1. Ask yourself, “what am I doing here in the first place”, once a day, several times a day.
  2. Track your answers.  Are you seeing any patterns?
  3. When you encounter a frustrating situation, let this question guide you. You might be amazed at what direction you take. 

David Scheiderer, MD, MBA
Executive Coach

Janet Crawford, MHA, MBA
Executive Coach

Tiberius Rx ... written for physicians and those who love them, work with them, or befriend them, and want to explore, experience and excel in all aspects of their life.

"Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got."

– Art Buchwald

"You don't want to leave this world without anybody knowing you've been here."

– Art Buchwald


On March 30 and 31, Janet will be leading a 2 day retreat for nursing directors, Coming Together to Build the Future