On Any Given Day

“This is the day the Lord has made:  Get up!
Go to the ballpark, and do your best!”

His name is Joe Martin and he is now free and at peace.  His daily mantra (above) was fashioned from scripture (Psalm 118:24) and the words of Cal Ripken.  It was written on a card next to his bed and it was the first thing he saw every morning.  It set the tone for his day.

Martin was born in Winnsboro, S.C., and educated at Davidson College, The University of Minnesota, and Duke University, where he received his Ph.D. in Medieval English. He joined what would become Bank of America in 1973 and became widely known as the “conscience” of the bank.  Long before it was fashionable, Martin advocated for racial and gender equality, and for diversity within the company.  In October, 1994 he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) for which there is no cure and no significant treatment; he was given twenty months to live.   He defied the “death notice” for the next twelve years; living an active, satisfying life and making a true difference in his community, and in the lives of those lucky enough to meet him.

In his powerful autobiography, On Any Given Day, Martin shares his journey, not as a man suffering from an incurable disease, but as one who celebrates the joy to be found in each day.  His approach to life was an inspiration to all who knew and worked with him.  He writes, “I am certain that life is a gift and that life is to be cherished—in the face of disappointment, in the face of disability, in the face of pain, even in the face of death.”  Drawing on the work of Norman Cousins (Head First:  The Biology of Hope), Martin expands upon his mantra and identifies “ten commandments” of living, healing, and recovering that are applicable to all of us.
  1. LOVE life and the people important to your life; without condition, without expectation.

  2. HOPE in each moment of every day, because more things are possible than you can imagine.

  3. Have FAITH that God will let you know about the next life when this one is finished.

  4. Build JOY out of the materials you have within the day, with the help of those who are to be on your team.

  5. Let LAUGHTER embarrass fear and stupidity, let it heal the hurt in others.

  6. Insist upon FESTIVITY and never miss a good cause for celebration.

  7. Keep your SENSE OF PURPOSE intact, in sight, and in focus.

  8. Let your DETERMINATION be contagious. Expanding geometrically as you add to it the determination of others

  9. Make WILL TO LIVE your will to love, creating a regenerating cycle of power.

  10.  Until this life truly ends, understand that on any given day – on this day – ITS POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS

In a letter to his son written shortly after his diagnosis Martin wrote, “ “The truly life-threatening aspect of this disease is not that it can end my life, even though it can, but rather that it might ruin it in the meantime. So the challenge to me is not to avoid eventual death, but to avoid letting its prospect ruin my life or the lives of people around me, now or then.”  For Martin, hope, love, and a sense of purpose extended his 20 month “death sentence” to 12 years filled with a family-focused celebration of life, a dedication to fostering relationships, a resolve to improve his community and a commitment of striving for greater accommodation to the needs of people with disabilities.

In the face of death Joe Martin found joy in each day. His legacy continues through the work of The Joe Martin ALS Foundation.  Joe set the bar pretty high, the question becomes, how will you use hope, love and a sense of purpose to make your life and the lives of those around you better?

Embrace the Challenge