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What Jason Leffler Taught Me About Life…and how he changed mine.


I have a terrible confession to make … I was late for Jason Leffler’s memorial service on the afternoon of June 19. After already working an 8 hour day by 1 p.m., I worked up until the very last second my poor time management skills allotted for the commute from Uptown Charlotte to Grace Covenant Church in Lake Norman, and of course I then met with traffic on 77 North. After arriving 15 minutes late, I sat in the car for another 10 minutes feeling too ashamed to go inside. Because I knew Jason would’ve been mad at me, not for being late per se, but for being late because of work.


Rewind to a Friday night in Birkdale in 2009. I’d taken my laptop to Starbucks to do some writing when I heard Jason Leffler’s voice from the neighboring patio at Red Rocks Café (of course, that was his spot).

“What are you doing?” he shouted to me.


“That’s all you do, you’re no fun!”

“I know. I’m a dork. Don’t judge me.” But he did judge — that I needed to stop working so he started peer pressuring me to start living.

After resisting and looking back down at my computer screen, he proceeded to walk over and pick me up and carry me over to the Red Rocks patio (yes, he was actually able to pick me up). Though he did need help getting me over the patio fence, and thankfully a waiter ran over to come to his (and my) aid , which is when he asked him to go grab my computer to complete his friend-napping mission. Next thing I knew, I was taking Patron shots with him at the bar and toasting to life. Or as he put it, me “getting a life” and taking a break from work to enjoy it.

Clearly I didn’t listen very well…

Because not only was I late for Jason’s memorial service, but at the following celebration of his life at Red Rocks, upon seeing people I hadn’t seen in a while, my general response to the generic, “What have you been up to?” was one word: “Working” (I didn’t really have much else to say).

And while standing there on the Red Rocks patio, this time mourning Jason rather than toasting with him, I looked over at the Starbucks and pictured myself sitting there back in 2009 looking and feeling tired, when someone who really knew how to live life tried to intervene to help me live mine. And here I am, still alive…but still not really living.

To sum it up (my life that is), most days I wake up at 4:30 am and do some form of work until I go back to bed around 11 p.m., or later if I have a nightlife event, where a client even asked me once while I was hosting, “do you have a social life outside of work?” … speechless.

Cason-Point: My name is Brittney, and I am a workaholic.

And truth is, I am no different than an alcoholic or any other form of addict … work is just my particular mask. I’m not even working smarter or better, I’m just busy running around like an ADD person cracked out on amphetamine salts.

Meanwhile Jason died doing what he lived for — his passion, not just his job.

He had it right. He knew his real role was a father, and he made that his #1 priority, and made a living, just living. Reflecting on Jason’s life has inspired me to live more like he did.

Though I love what I do and am blessed to be able to call it work, it’s a sad reality when you wake up and realize that while all your bosses and coworkers know they can count on you for anything, your friends and family don’t … to them I’m iffy, at best. But above all I’ve been neglecting myself, learning now it’s not even so much about how you manage your time, but how you balance your whole life.

So in honor of Jason, I’m going to start really living and not just make a living, but rather make a life.

I started by taking a few days off work this month to take a staycation in my own home where the most productive thing I did was actually sleep for more than 3 hour increments. And I woke up with a sense of clarity, realizing that my best work was that for which I wasn’t getting paid to do, but the time I spend volunteering and helping others. And the biggest perk of my job is having the ability to make someone’s day. I now find success in my day not based on how I performed, but if I’ve used my work to render some sort of useful service for others.You see, when I selected a major in college I told my advisor I just wanted to change the world. Truth is, I needed to change a lot about myself first.

So I picked up a hobby and started a non-profit I shall call Give TIME, and of course that is a cliché acronym that stands for Teaching Independence, Mentoring, and Education. And this Friday I’m utilizing my paid to party experience to throw a party, for homeless kids. Thanks to generous donations from Fuel Pizza and My Aloha Paddle and Surf, Inc., I’m transforming my backyard into a day camp and hosting a back-to-school bash for kids at the Boys & Girls Club at the Center of Hope Shelter.

It’s a start at my new job called living.

But I sure do miss Jason…