Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Two Most Important Lists

I read an interesting piece the other day by Alan M. Webber, blogging on Harvard Business Publishing. He poses a challenge to create arguably the only two lists you'll ever need at work to keep you balanced and your priorities straight:

Things That Keep Me Up At Night.
Reasons I Get Up In The Morning.

Here's what I came up with:

First, the TTKMUAN:
As my son says, "Dad, we eat what you kill. Get out there and kill something!" Hard to find enough "meat" in this economy. How will the bills get paid?

On average, a person can expect to live 75 years. Reflecting on how much of my life has past without distinction, or accomplishment, I wonder if this last third will have any significance. Am I becoming obsolete? Are my most useful years behind me? Do I now merely take my place among those people whose voices diminish with age, and gracefully abandon any thought of having an impact in the world?

As my daughter leaves home, goes out into the world to find her place, will she be safe? Have her mother and I prepared her properly for what awaits? How will the dynamics of the family be altered with her gone?

As my son enters manhood, have I been enough of a role model for him? Will he keep the loving, thoughtful and inquisitive nature I love in him so much, or will he begin to resemble the grumpy, worrisome old man I have become?

How was I behaving today so as to diminish the twinkle in the eyes of my children? I've defined myself through fatherhood for so many years, and taken such daily joy from it that I find myself denying there can be anything beyond this pinnacle.

Finally, I question how I can reinvent myself constantly.

Seriously, I think this stuff.

Unquestionably, the admiration I have for my wife of 20 years who has weathered everything life throws at us and remains the unswerving force in both our marriage and our family. Her job sometimes has her rising in the wee hours of the morning, driving to a bus stop ten miles from home to then take an hour and a half bus ride to the airport where she will hop on a flight to the west coast. She turns right around and is back in the house about 16 hours after she left, only to repeat the schedule later that second day. This pattern repeats four times a month. Never once have I heard her say "I think I'll just call in sick and stay in bed this morning." When her schedule calls for her to leave in the late afternoon and spend the night away from home, I can sense the hardship it is for to leave the family at a time when we are all gathering from our daily pursuits.

Regardless of the time I went to bed, and the fact that both my high school age children are capable of getting themselves up and out in the morning, I feel compelled to kiss them goodbye, wish them a good day, see them out the door and watch them board the school bus that stops in front of our house. Some mornings their mom is home and she gets them going, and I oversleep, only to carry that disappointment with me all day.

With a "yappy," hyperactive dog, and a noisy overhead garage door to announce my arrival, I know that whatever time of day I enter the house, whoever is there will drop what they are doing to welcome me as I come through the door. It's a habit instilled in the children by their mother, and one I find extremely gratifying. Regardless of what has happened to any of us during the day, the reception is always the same warm hug and kiss. Even the dogs have learned to race to the door and await their turn in line for pat on the head.

It's an oddly short and narrow list isn't it? I don't lose sleep over business matters. As much as I enjoy my work, and passionately try to bring real value to my clients, it is not how I define myself. As many nonprofit roles as I've had, I don't lose sleep worrying about how to better the world through the various causes, nor do I view my work or avocations as reasons to get up in the morning.

I found this to be a fun exercise. Try it for yourself.