Regular followers of this blog will know that I’m extremely active in a national business networking organisation called 4Networking.
Like plenty of similar organisations, it has an incentive scheme to encourage members to bring along new faces - in this case, the incentive is free days added to your paid-for membership. It’s worked for me and I reckon that I’ve accrued about nine free months in the seven years I’ve been a member - sounds pretty good to me.
Earlier this year, I had an email from 4Networking telling me that I had been given free days for introducing someone who had just joined. It didn’t say who the new member was, or when I had introduced them. But enquiries on social media uncovered the fact that it was Mike Gardner, a time-management expert who I had met when I was just another freelance journalist, rather than a stroke-awareness activist,
Mike had been to a meeting with me, decided not to join 4N, then changed his mind and joined three years later, earning me my free days. Every time we met after that, Mike and I had a laugh about it.
I first met Mike several years ago in my pre-stroke life at a series of networking meetings around the Midlands but it was only after he joined 4N that I really got to know him; got to know his history, got to know what a great person he was and got to know how much we had in common. A former RAF man (OK, we didn’t have that in common), Mike had survived heart attacks and strokes to become a determined and talented long-distance runner.
And his was the only presentation at a 4N meeting that I’ve ever seen (apart from mine) that made me cry. Entitled
‘S@@@, I never got my to-do list done’, it was about how nobody ever says that on their deathbed and how important it is to concentrate on the things that matter, like friends, family and making memories, rather than worrying about work.
It was, of course, frighteningly close to what I bang on about and I remember sitting at a 4N breakfast a few months ago in tears as Mike told his story.
Mike Gardner passed away last Sunday after suffering a heart-attack while out running. The news came as a terrible shock to his vast number of friends and is yet another example of the importance of living life to the full while you still have the opportunity - a mantra that Mike definitely held dear.
My social-media feeds this week have been packed with hundreds of generous tributes to a lovely man taken from us far too quickly. Mike’s life-experiences made him appreciate, as I do, that life is a very delicate flower that can be stolen away in a second. It’s something I talk about a lot, of course. Every time I say it from now on (including when I give the keynote presentation at the Coffee and Natter business networking event in Burton-on-Trent next Thursday, an afternoon which I suspect Mike would have attended), I’ll think of him.
Rest in Peace, Mike Gardner.