My Defining Moment - Kuala Lumpur
At the end of the Summer of 1992, while in Kuala Lumpur for a conference, I received an urgent phone call from the Netherlands. I left the meeting to take the call. It was RenÃ©e. She sounded very upset and was clearly in tears. She explained that she had been to see a neurologist who recognized some of our son Bart's symptoms. He had suggested that she take Bart to see his colleague, who specialized in a form of muscular dystrophy called FSHD. The expert confirmed that Bart had all the symptoms of FSHD. I had no idea what FSHD was. I couldn't imagine what it meant. When I heard that FSHD was a muscular dystrophy, my first reaction was that it could be treated with physiotherapy and a muscle pain relief gel. But RenÃ©e went on to tell me everything she knew about this rare disease. FSHD is a progressive disease, meaning that the physical condition of the patient would deteriorate over time. There was no cure or therapy. There was very little known about what caused the symptoms. When I put down the phone, I was lost. I did not know what to do.
The Montana Retreat
Reaching a level of total balance requires more than just dividing your time among the many roles you play in your professional and personal lives - business leader, father, husband, friend - and your role in society. You must also stay fit - physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is only when your spirit, mind and body are perfectly aligned that you can claim that you have reached a level of "total balance".
During my last two years at Unilever, I was introduced to self-reflection. I was privileged to attend a 10-day vision quest in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. I became much more aware of myself - my motives, my drivers and my deeper purpose. This helped me to make a few very important decisions, not the least of which was the decision to take early retirement from Unilever.