Everybody’s Busy

timewheel

I often vent here, but I try NOT to make it overt and directed, more veiled in my own challenges and weaknesses. Today, however, I’ve reached a bit of a frustration point with people who are “too busy” to slow down, or have fun, or be thoughtful about a project, or enjoy their life – even the work part of their life.

Everybody’s busy. I get it. What I don’t get is why that has to get in the way of enjoying life. There are VERY FEW jobs that are truly life and death. ER doctor, surgeon, airline pilot, maybe a firefighter or police officer on occasion. The rest of us are working at jobs that generate value for society or our company or ourselves, but we don’t have actual life and death hanging in the balance of our day to day. I’m not trying to minimize the importance of ANY job. I want my kids’ teachers to take their jobs seriously, and I appreciate the Duke Energy employees that keep the juice flowing to my house. My colleagues and I provide an important service to our clients by helping them advertise their businesses so they can be successful and support themselves and their employees. We’re all a part of a big economic machine and have to do our jobs to keep the machine running.

Yesterday, however, I was on the brink of confronting two different people about chilling out, so I thought it would be a lot more productive to share some thoughts on the topic here that might actually be a reminder to people who care instead of arguing with people who clearly don’t care. The first guy was sitting next to me on the plane on the way home. I saw him first in the terminal in Madison, WI, talking loudly on the phone about work while he also pecked away on his laptop. I have no idea what sort of business he was in – some sort of insurance. Of course, he ended up next to me in first class (I got upgraded, he’s very important so I’m sure he paid). He was on a call as he boarded the plane, leading him to act like a jerk to the gate agents, flight attendants, and all of his fellow passengers as we all boarded. As he talked, he looked at email and texted so I’m fairly certain he wasn’t exactly engaged with the client on the phone. This continued the ENTIRE FLIGHT. He never took his headphones off. When he couldn’t talk on the phone anymore, he switched over to music loud enough that I could hear it and continued to peck away. Even as we landed, having a beautiful view of Uptown Charlotte, he never rested his mind – played Candy Crush on his phone instead and didn’t even look up. I pitied this guy really. I pitied his clients and colleagues. Most importantly for me, it was a reminder to JUST SIT AND BE QUIET a few minutes every hour.

The second near confrontation came on the bus ride to our cars. As we were driving to the parking lot, one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in awhile was washing over Charlotte. It was every shade of red you can imagine. I just sat there and enjoyed it, then looked around the bus to see if anyone was sharing this with me. None of my 6 fellow passengers had a clue – every one of them had their eyes glued on their phones. I looked over to the woman next to me and she was very engaged with her Facebook feed. I leaned over and said quietly, “quite a sunset” and pointed out the window…she looked up for a second, said “uh huh,” and went right back to her phone. All I could do was smile; and I decided just to enjoy the sunset.

Life’s fast, I get it. But we don’t all have to be running at that same speed. We all have things that seem urgent and important in our lives and work. Nearly all of us are “busy.” Let’s just all remember to stop and enjoy the world going on around us and enjoy one another. Be engaged with whatever you are working on, whether personal or professional. We’ll all be happier and more productive in the process.

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You’ve Got NO MAIL

no-mail

I woke up this morning to this. What?!?!

It’s been a long time since I had a clear inbox, so why the sudden purge? There’s a logical answer…today’s my last day at Downstream.

After 3 1/2 years of satisfying and fantastic work for the Portland, OR based experiential design firm that hired me to take over their sports group and gave me the opportunity lead a fantastic team of designers, developers, and project managers through some of the most fun projects of my career, I’m moving on. It was a blast and I have had fantastic clients and wonderful colleagues. So why leave?

I’m leaving to pursue an entrepreneurial project with what I believe is huge upside with another group of people that I have worked with before, enjoy, and respect. My new career will put me at the lead of Campus Initiatives for Adams Outdoor here in Charlotte, NC. I’ll be working with college and university campuses around the country to design, develop, implement, and sell out of home advertising networks and assets to help generate new revenue to support their university projects and missions. I am very excited about this venture and proud to be working for a company that is willing to innovate when they see opportunity.

So, that’s an announcement. But it isn’t really what was on my mind this morning when I saw that I had NO MAIL. The first thing that occurred to me is how have we as a business culture become so addicted to email? I work REALLY hard to be mindful of having meaningful personal interactions and engaging with real people, so why do I feel anxious when I see an empty inbox? For that matter, why am I looking at my email within 2 minutes of opening my eyes? And what is going to happen to me over the next week while I have NO EMAIL until I start at Adams on November 28?

I’m not sure I have answer to all of these questions. I feel like this new position gives me the opportunity to reset my own personal behaviors and expectations, so I want to spend some of this next week being THANKFUL for the respite and thinking about how to move forward in a healthy manner.

It isn’t realistic to say I’m just going to quit email in the new job. Email has become a vital form of communication in all manners of business today. Ignoring it would lead to missed opportunities and a failure to communicate with the very people I want to do business with in my new role. However, I do think it is realistic to reset my own standards and therefore create a set of new standards for my new clients and colleagues.

On this, my final day at Downstream, I am reflecting about my time in this role. As I do this, I look back on this blog, which began in my early days in this job as a way to reflect on my travels and express the ideas and emotions that flowed out of me. As I look through them with the lens of learning from the past, one jumps out – SMALL THINGS – which I wrote after I’d been on the job a little over a year and had been pushing hard to make my mark. You should go read it. As I re-read it, what stood out to me was that I had consciously decided to put things like exercise, reflection, meditation, and focus at the forefront of my mornings and emphasize staying in the moment with people and eliminating distractions. So what happened? That post was in September of 2014 and when I look at my business in Q4 of 2014 it is astonishing how much work got done! During that season when I was intentionally preventing email from controlling my life, we closed 3 of the 4 biggest deals I completed during my time at Downstream. Reducing the importance of email in my life, led to getting things done.

At this point, you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking…”then do it again.” Ok, time to re-commit. As I walk away from the addiction of work email for a week, I commit to start the new job with a renewed focus on the things that centered me in a way that made me a great leader and salesman – start the day in quiet meditation, make health and exercise a priority for each day, stay in the moment in each conversation and eliminate distractions (a buzzing phone) that might reduce that, and choose to talk on the phone over email and face to face over on the phone when possible. As I start this new adventure with old friends, it seems like a good time to return to habits that led to success! I hope you’ll choose to start fresh today too.

Distracted by ME

ME

There are all sorts of distractions in this world. I can only imagine the new distractions that will be around by the time my children become working adults. Regardless of what new technology or work expectations they may have in 10-15 years, however, I’m certain that the “Distraction of ME” will still be there.

The Distraction of ME is a selfishness and self-centeredness that I struggle with a lot. It isn’t just being selfish with things or even with time. It is easy to want to spend time with my friends and family. No, it is worse than that because it is an obsession in my mind with my own story, my own problems, my own desires, my own fears, my own thoughts.

Here’s an example…you get to the gate at the airport for your flight (which I do regularly); as soon as they even mention your flight you’re up and jockeying for position so that you can get on the plane and get a spot for your carry-on in the overhead. Once you’ve finally sat down, the phone comes out and you get annoyed and bothered every time someone brushes you with their bag as they go down the aisle or a seat mate asks you to get up and turn your attention away from your precious phone for a few seconds (don’t they understand how important it is for you to respond to this email RIGHT NOW!?!). Now the flight is up and away and you can’t get any work done because there is a baby screaming right behind you and the flight attendants keep smashing your shoulder with the drink cart. You finally land and push and shove your way a few rows forward because YOUR connection is the most important and you can’t be late. The whole experience is all about ME. Despite the fact that the airport is packed with people and the plane is completely full, our own problems, needs, and concerns trump everything and the fact that no one else recognizes this becomes infuriating.

Here’s another way I get Distracted by ME…I’ve been working with a client for over a year, we’ve done the first few phases of work, but the real ‘good stuff’ of the project (read: part where I make the most money) hasn’t been completed. Every time we talk they’ve got some excuse as to why it is delayed and as soon as I start to hear them, I shut off and stop listening. I can’t understand how they don’t see that the finished product that will come from completing this project will totally change their organization for the better. How am I going to continue to explain to my boss that I’m still confident we’re going to do the project even though they keep putting it off – don’t they understand it hurts my credibility internally when I delay like this? Don’t they understand that I’m serious about not being able to meet their timelines if they don’t contract it this month? What is going to happen if this doesn’t close this quarter and we don’t hit our number? It doesn’t take long for the focus to shift from the client to ME. Who cares about why they are delaying, I need to get this deal done!

What I have found as I have practiced mindfulness is that I catch myself having these thoughts that are totally focused on ME. Observing that I’m having these thoughts allows me to push them away, thus shortening the Distraction of ME. It doesn’t necessarily stop them from creeping in, but instead of spending the entire plane ride consumed by my own needs, I can step back and realize that there are other people around me who have needs greater than mine.

What I want to do on a regular basis is spend more time thinking about others. Starting with my wife and kids, I want to dwell on the feelings and needs of those around me. It is my hope that if I can focus on thinking of others, my own junk will fade into the background and not become a distraction. This is hard. Today, I’m going to start by turning my thoughts to others FIRST and continue to recognize when the “ME” gets in the way. Recognition that the thoughts of ME are creeping in will help me eliminate it as a distraction much like you would turn off a ringing phone. I’m convinced that the less I’m distracted by ME, and focused on others, the better husband, dad, friend, co-worker, and servant I’ll be to those around me.