A poignant movie distills an important lesson for one IT service and support industry road warrior, and causes him to redefine what is important in life. After all, he said, nobody on their deathbed ever said, "I wish I spent more time at work.”

by Peter McGarahan
Date Published June 29, 2021 - Last Updated July 26, 2021

It began with a movie on a plane to New York in 2001. It was another business trip to consult with my clients and another week away from my young family. I decided I would watch the in-flight movie since I didn’t have any work to do.

The feature movie was My Life as a House. The story was about George (Kevin Kline), an architect who had just been fired from his job of 30 years. Living alone in a dilapidated house in a posh Californian neighborhood, George is forced to reassess his life when he is informed that cancer would soon take it.

Ready to tear down his house to rebuild it with a new one, George visits his ex-wife with a request to have his estranged son Sam join him for the summer to help with the construction. The problem is that the rebellious, drug-addicted son wants nothing to do with his father.

So begins the movie that grabs you from the beginning and doesn’t let you go – even after the credits roll. It’s easy to hide a moist eye; but it’s difficult to hide a pair of red, tear-stained eyes from your fellow passengers.

The defining moment in the movie was when George shares the most joyous moment in his life with his ex-wife. He described his memory of hugging his young son in the cold, rushing waves of the Pacific Ocean, feeling his young son’s heartbeat against his chest, and listening to his infectious laughter. At the end of the movie, his ex-wife brings this video to his deathbed for him to enjoy this cherished memory for the last time.

Being a proud father of two children and a frequent traveling all the time, this moment had a huge impact on me. It was like a shot of adrenaline – a wake-up call. My whole self was awakened as I realized the importance of this moment. I couldn’t wait until my family woke up so I could share it with them. I couldn’t wait until the week was over to return home and enjoy every moment with them.

For George, he learned (better late than never) what made him happy, what made him successful – it was his family. He finally had that moment of happiness and appreciation for all that had been bestowed upon him. Something he had all along, he just didn’t realize that it was always right in front of him.

The Definition of Success

For me, a frequent road warrior who had two young children at home, the life lesson of this movie was simple - to enjoy more moments of happiness with my family. I needed to reassess and reevaluate my measurement of success in terms of what makes me happy. It became obvious to me that happiness for me was enjoying every moment possible with my family - enjoying every hug, every bath, every book reading, every vacation, every meal, and every hug and kiss. It meant to always be present and enjoy the little things that life has to offer.

I am so grateful I learned this lesson when I did. People would often tell me, “Enjoy your children while they’re young; they grow up fast.” My children are young adults now, and my wife and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. I thank God for having two healthy, wonderful children and a loving wife and best friend.

I am also a lucky and blessed man to have experienced many wonderful opportunities. Service industry professionals find satisfaction in being of service to others and helping them be successful in their endeavors. Our industry is special and rewards us for being engaged, involved, and supportive of our community.

I cherish all the wonderful friends, colleagues, and business associates that I have had the pleasure of befriending in my travels throughout the years. I am grateful to my service and support industry network that I have continued to benefit from through participation in conferences, events, and social networking. Trust me, I take none of this for granted, and believe that my family, friends, and colleagues are my most wonderful gift.

Sharing a real connection with family, friends, colleagues, and customers, and maintaining that relationship over many years is priceless. What can be more successful than that? Nobody on their deathbed ever said, "I wish I spent more time at work.”


  • Success is how YOU define it – not everyone else’s definition.
  • Success is what YOU want to get out of it – what is important to YOU – what makes YOU happy.
  • Success should be measured in your own terms – not someone else’s.

Peter McGarahan is the Senior Director of Workplace & Collaboration Services for First American Financial. The First American IT Service Desk was recently honored with 2 Industry Awards; one for Best Use of Technology and another for the Best Service and Support Organization. Pete was also honored at HDI SupportWorld 2020 with the HDI 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. He is an industry expert and thought leader in the global IT Service Management and Customer Experience industries. He was the founder of McGarahan & Associates and offers 37 years of business, IT, and customer service leadership experience. His thought leadership has influenced the maturity and growth of the service and support industry. His passion for customer service led the Taco Bell support organization to achieve the Help Desk Institute Team Excellence Award in 1995. IT Support News named him one of the "Top 25 Professionals in the Service and Support Industry" in 1999. Support professionals voted McGarahan "The Legend of the Year" in 2002 and again in 2004 at the Help Desk Professionals conference for his endless energy, mentoring and leadership coaching.

Tag(s): supportworld, best practice, community, culture


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