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Leadership & Planning – Do you do it for you?

I often blog about the importance of planning for your organization.  Today, I’m reminded of the importance of leading and planning for your personal life.

Today, May 10 would have been my sister-in-law, Nel’s, birthday.

She passed away a little over one year ago from Alzheimer’s.  She was someone that I respected in so many ways … her leadership, her loyalty, her sense of humor, her creativity, her stick-with-it-ness,  her wisdom, her joy and I could go on and on.

Nel is why we moved our life to Richmond, VA.

It was second quarter two years ago when:

  • Nel’s early onset Alzheimer’s had reached a scary stage (which we soon learned could get worse very quickly) and my partner/husband was spending a lot of time in Richmond, VA.  We were lucky to meet up in an airport to connect on my way out and his way home.
  • The business was growing and we had a strong team in place. Our business numbers were good and we were busy ensuring that our clients and employees were happy.  But, we weren’t.  There were other forces at play that were stressing us out and we couldn’t shake the little voice of the flight attendant telling us “In the unlikely event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above. Place the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally. Please put on your own mask before attempting to assist others.”
  • And, so, we did what we knew how to do … we embarked on our own personal strategic planning process.  It involved our back porch, a bottle of wine and a cocktail napkin.  And, it went a little something like this:

The Challenge:  We felt incredibly reactive in all aspects of life and it was impacting us both personally and professionally

The Vision: Do the right thing and be one of the greatest couples ever

The What:

1:  Put family first

2: Invest in our relationship

The How:

1. We have to move to Richmond

2. We’re good at what we do, the work stuff will work itself out

The When:

Memorial Day Weekend 2010


We decided to move our life to Richmond, VA.   We knew it was a risky time to up and move a small business and we hoped that it would be a good, long term business decision.  We’d like to say we did good market analysis, but the truth is none of that really would have impacted our decision because we were needed in Richmond.  And, lucky for us, Richmond is a beautiful city and we get to go back to Tallahassee on a regular basis.

It’s been a difficult couple of years.  Our experience with Alzheimer’s changed us forever. Nel’s death had a greater impact than we could have ever imagined.  We assumed primary care giving responsibilities for Tom’s mom (he’s blogging about his journey - . We had to adjust to the distance and being away from my family and our friends, which has been most difficult when I lost my grandfather who I adored and who adored me and when my sister gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl.

We’ve been tested more than we could have ever imagined.  We’ve experienced some of the highest highs and the lowest lows.  But, we believe in what we’re doing and we’re committed to doing it together.

I think about that planning session on our porch and am proud that we had the courage to follow through.

I’m thankful that Tom and I had the time that we had with Nel and that he has this time now with his mom.

I’m thankful that we have a constant aspirational reminder to “catch our limit” in our company name and a constant reminder of how we want to approach this thing called life in our last name  …. to live on, love on and laugh on.

And, writing this blog has reminded me that it’s been two years.

It’s time to find a good environment (perhaps a campfire in the mountains this weekend), open another bottle and spend some time talking about where we’re at today, our hopes and dreams, our priorities, where we want to be and how we can get there.  We’ll know that the plan will change and have to adapt based on life.  But at least we’ll have done for our relationship what we invest so much time in doing for our business and for others.

And, Happy Birthday, Nel.  We love you.

Learn more about Nel

Learn more about Alzheimer’s – unbelievably powerful video

><(("> Melissa Laughon

Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Leadership, Miscellaneous, Strategic Planning.

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  1. Deborah Usry says

    Dear Melissa Laugh on, oh, yeah. Laughon. Like I have said before. You are brave. Nice post. Miss seeing you guys. Deborah

  2. Melissa Laughon says

    Thank you. Miss you as well. Let’s get together this summer!

  3. Mary Foley says

    Really powerful, Melissa. Thank you so being so open and so real. My grandmother Spunky Ethel died from Alzheimers and it was just so sad. But what I remember most is her love and her spirit of her best days! Even created a video about it:

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