Lessons Learned From Dusty

I’ve been thinking a lot about my good friend Dusty this week. Grieving and mostly still in shock. I keep catching myself looking up at the stairs that lead down to our office; half expecting him to strut down them and head straight for his computer as he did so many times over the last 10 months. It’s difficult to adjust to Dusty being gone because I had never really allowed myself to see him as someone who was sick. We had an agreement from the beginning – I would treat him just like any other co-worker, and he would let me know if it ever became too much. I ended up with the much easier end of the bargain. Even though he was fighting for his life, Dusty didn’t end up being just like any other co-worker. He was better than that. 

There are a lot of things I could write about Dusty’s battle with cancer and the ways that he inspired me (we’ve started a Pelontonia team in his honor, pelotonia.org/ForDusty). But what I would rather do is keep my end of the bargain one more time and write about the things I learned while working with him. 

Do your best today

There were some days when Dusty didn’t feel well enough to come to work. On those days I would get a simple text, “Had a rough night. Going to rest up, see you tomorrow.”  He would always beat me to the office the next morning if he had missed the previous day; determined to make up for it. There were so many things that were out of Dusty’s control that he became hyper focused on doing his best in every moment that he was able to. “It’s a good day” he would say to me after looking up from crossing a couple of things off his list. 

This was always calming to me. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with to-do lists and plans and uncertainties. When I started to feel this way, Dusty taught me to do the best that I could on the next thing. And then, if you still feel alright, do that again.

Flourish where you are

If life were fair, Dusty and I may have never become friends. Before he found out he was sick, he was living in Brazil with his wife and had no plans to move back to Columbus. It would have been easy to be bitter about this or to long for the life that was taken from him.

Dusty never talked about what he would be doing if he hadn’t gotten sick. He never talked about getting better so he could move back to Brazil. He was solely focused on being a better accountant at Upsourced Accounting. Because that’s where he was, that’s what he was doing, and he was going to make sure to do it better tomorrow than he did it today. 

Put others first

Dusty was always worried about everyone else. In spite of everything that was going on, the only thing that I ever saw really get him down was that he wished he could do more for others.  He continued to volunteer, he covered for me when we had a baby in the middle of busy season, and he always made sure he was there for his friends and family. That’s what allowed him to feel normal, that’s what made him happy. 

Our company is better for having worked with Dusty. It’s difficult to move forward without him, but I know we have a responsibility to press on and continue acting on the things that he taught us. 

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with that responsibility, but I will take a deep breath and do my best. With Dusty in our hearts, today can still be a good day.