Don’t lost sight of what is important…

June 9, 2021

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed today used this quote – “I started concentrating so hard on my vision that I lost sight.”  (Robin Green) 

Free reported that the Robin Green who is credited with this quote is at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, and helps the blind. Jack opined that the quote is about sight and insight, which I agree with. The quote also points to a problem often experienced by middle-aged men who have focused upon their careers.

It is all too easy to become so focused and intense on the pursuit of career goals that all else drops “out of sight”, including family. Some men become so focused and intense in their pursuit of career success that they develop a kind of tunnel-vision, seeing only what is directly ahead of them in their next career goal. They sacrifice family time by tell themselves that they are doing this for the family; when it is all about themselves and the intense focus that they have on success at work.

Most men do define themselves largely by their careers and the work that they do, more so than the things that they do with family. The answer to the question, “What do you do?” is seldom answered, “Well, I’m a husband and a father”, as the initial response.

It is certainly important to find a career or work that provides sufficient income to support the family; however, the work itself should always remain a means to an end and not the end in itself. Those who get too intensely focused upon work success lose sight of the importance of why they are working.

If you find yourself “working late” every night or working when you get home, instead of sharing time with family, you are probably too intensely focus upon work success. If you miss most of the games and plays and recitals of your children, you are probably too intensely focused upon work success. If you can’t remember that last time that you went somewhere with just your wife or perhaps with the whole family and had fun, you are probably too intensely focused upon work success. If you can’t remember how old your children are or the last time that you went to one of their birthday parties, you are probably too intensely focused upon work success.

Working harder and harder to try to earn more and more money is meaningless if you don’t spend time with family. Time spent with them is more important than the shiny new things that the money might buy. In the end, the kids will be grown and gone, and the luster will have faded from the shiny things and you will be left with stuff instead of memories. If you are lucky, your long-suffering wife may still be there; although, overly intense work focus is the root cause of many divorces.

So, pause every now and then and ask yourself if what you are doing, what you are so intensely focused upon at work, is really what you want out of life. Question the decision to work late rather than go to your son’s ball game. Recall when the last time you told your wife that you love her was and wonder why you don’t take time to do that more often. Challenge the thought that that next promotion at work will be the thing that makes you happier, rather than that next trip to the zoo or going on a picnic with family.

Try to imagine yourself in the end game of life, when you and your spouse are rattling around in your McMansion, surrounded by stuff that now longer matters, and ask that person if it was all worth it?  Imagine what happened to the wife and kids while you were so intensely focused. They when on in life. The kids grew up and moved away. Maybe the wife developed other interests to fill her time or made new friends to fill in for her missing spouse. You’ll find that you can’t imagine much about that, because have no memories of those things happening – you weren’t there to see them.

The good news is that you may still have time to change your focus back to what is important in life. Go to your daughter’s dance recital rather than staying late to work on the next deal. Hire a sitter if needed and take your wife out to dinner (and don’t spent the evening looking at your phone). Reset your definition of success to be measured in happy family time, rather than a raise or promotion. You may, in fact, not advance as quickly at work or make quite and much money; however, I know that you will feel more fulfilled and be happier because you have refocused upon what is important in life.

You need one…

March 27, 2021

A quote that I saved from the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago seemed worthy of comment this morning – “Call it a clan; call it a network; call it a tribe; call it a family.  Whatever you call it, you need one.”  (Jane Howard)

Very few people are true loners, independent of the need to be around others. I suppose that some whom we might call hermits fit into that small group. There are a few individuals, whom we call mountain men, who seem to relish being out in the wilderness alone, but if you ask them, they never feel alone because they commune with nature so closely that they feel “nature’s family” all around them.

For most of us, however, Howard’s quote rings true. We need to be with other people and not just be around them but interact with them – to give and to receive attention and love in return. It is important to acknowledge others and be acknowledged in return. If one goes for some time without seeing and interacting with others a panicky sense of loneliness can set in. Have you ever had that temporary feeling like you were the last person left on earth?

I have a hard time even imagining what it must be like for those in nursing homes who have endured a year of being cut off physically from anyone other than the staff – no visits from loved ones or friends. Things like Facetime calls can provide a little relief, but I’m sure they would tell you it’s not the same as an in person hug or smile and conversation.

Back in my college days I spent a few the summers living in the frat house as sort of a summer caretaker. It was a big, old house that usually has 30-40 people in it; l however, in those summer months I was alone in the house. I would, on occasion, experience that strong feeling of being alone in the house and the town (college towns can get quite empty during the summer months, too). At those times I would walk to the nearby drug store and just spend some time “shopping”, just so that I could see other people. Have you ever had similar experiences?

One of the negative side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for many has been the increased sense of isolation that they feel because their “work families” have been taken away. The relationships that we have and the roles that we play at work provide a big part of our identities and support our sense of not being alone. We need that and the pandemic has taken that away for most. We still get work done from home, but for most the “water cooler” social time is gone, replaced (if at all) by Zoom time.

I recall a Zoom call that I was on not too ling ago where the question of what the impact has been of the need to stay home instead of going to work came up. My answer that was quickly agreed to by most on the call was that I had a sense of disconnect. Disconnect from the job and the people. That feeling of disconnect was and is disturbing. Certainly, I still had my home life and, in fact, the pandemic probably caused that part of my identity to take on even more meaning. What I didn’t have was “my place” in the work environment and the day-to-day relationships which that used to entail. Those things had been disconnected by the pandemic.

All of this is leading up to saying that it is very important for us as humans to be around and interact with other humans – to have the families, tribes, groups, whatever we call them. Even going to the grocery store can help us feel engaged with others – we are all part of the “mask wearers” tribe (or at least most are). Perhaps you joined the tribe in the early days who were the “seekers of toilet paper”. There has been for some time now the “survivors” group among those who had COVID, and among them the “long haulers” subgroup. Now we have the “vaccinated” and those still awaiting their shots as groups that we can identify with. And, as much as it “wastes” time on Zoom calls, the social interactions that are a part of every call are important opportunities for us to re-establish relationships with fellow “Zoomies”.

So, keep reaching out in any way that you can to others and establishing little networks, tribes and groups, because you need them. We keep hearing that “we will get through this together”. Yes, we will, in the many little tribes and groups that make up the “We” these days.

Have a great weekend and say “Hi” to the lady in aisle 8 at the grocery store – a fellow member of the mask wearers tribe.

Don’t wait…Do it now…

March 12, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed shared this bit of advice – “You’re only here for a short visit.  Don’t worry; don’t hurry.  And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”  (Walter Hagen) [ED. – Walter Hagen was the Jack Nicolas or Tiger Woods of golf in the early part of the Twentieth Century.]

It is really a shame that so many do not realize and heed the advice that Hagen was giving in that quote until they are in their senior years (me included). When we are younger we tend to get all wrapped up in our ideas that a “successful” life entails being focused upon success in our jobs and earning more and more money, so that we can buy more and more things. Eventually we realize that things are not really that important and that our relationships are what really matters. Unfortunately, many men tend to realize that after it is too late to enjoy some of life’s best moments – moments and memories of our children growing up that we miss because, “daddy had to work and couldn’t be here”.

It is hard to smell the flowers along the way when your attention is totally focused upon getting that next deal or promotion. The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” was probably coined as much for the belated realization of all that was sacrificed on the way there as anything. It’s lonely because they ignored those important relationships and let time with spouses, children and friends slip away.  

It is critically important to constantly evaluate why you are working, more so than to focus upon how hard you are working. You may think that you are working to give your family more and more things, when all they really want is more and more of your time and attention. There may be little that you can do to reduce the amount of time that you must focus upon your job; however, you can prioritize how you spend your time away from the job and that should be focused upon your family and friends.

So, take Hagen’s advice – slow down and stop to smell the flowers along the way. Accumulate good memories of time spent with family and friends with the same fervor as you try to accumulate money and possessions. “I’ll get to that tomorrow” is not a valid strategy. Tomorrow may never come and how sad it would be that you missed today, too.

Don’t wait. Do it now.

What made the dogs bark?

February 27, 2016

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”  (Churchill) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

The 2016 Presidential Campaign is one of the nastier that I’ve seen in my lifetime, but it is also consistent with the lack of civility that has become part and parcel of the partisan politics in America. On the Republican side every candidate (except Kasich) is busy calling the other candidates liars or worse – not conservative enough. On the Democratic side the two seem to be trying to out-liberal each other – trying to convince voters that they are the most “progressive.”

The Republican contest would be a hoot to watch if the thought of one on these contestants getting the nomination weren’t so scary. John Kasich seems at times to be almost amused to be sharing the stage with the sideshow that is going on around him. He is the calm voice of reason almost the maelstrom that is the Republican Party these days.

The point of Churchill’s quote seems to be that it is a waste of our time to stop and react, perhaps defensively or to go on the offense, every time someone throws a stone (an insult, a slight, a demand or a rejection) our way. To Churchill’s way of thinking those are just barking dogs and we have more important things to do – a destination (or destiny) to reach. His point is that you are taking your eye off your goals if you allow yourself to be distracted by the barking dogs in your life; and that is on you.

While it is important not to let the barking dogs distract you from your goals, it might also be important to understand what the barking is about and see if there is something that you are currently doing that needs to be changed, i.e. to learn from the barking. What you may learn that is most valuable to you is what it is about you that caused the dogs to bark. barking dogIs it the way that you’ve treated others; or the way that you comport yourself in public. Do you elicit envy or disdain because of a showy display of wealth? Do you cause a protective reflex from others because of past displays of anger or hostility? Do you secretly enjoy the fear that you cause in others due to your appearance? Do others mistakenly take your naturally shy behavior as an indication of lack of interest in them or their points of view? These are all things that can start the dogs barking in your life. There’s no need to stop and throw stones at those dogs, but you can be sensitive enough about them to make some personal changes that may keep the dogs quite in the future.

Keep in mind also that many times a dog barks because it wants your attention and happy dogaffection. It wants you to play. There may be important people in your life who are barking at you because they too want your attention. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our pursuit of our goals in life that we forget to pay attention to those for whom we believe we are pursuing those goals. We miss the opportunities to play with our children or to show affection for our loved ones. All we hear are barking dogs clamoring for our time and attention; but we are too busy to do anything but stop and throw a few stones – “Not now, can’t you see that daddy’s busy” or maybe “We’ll take a vacation next year, I’m too overloaded at the office right now.”

If those are all too familiar stones that you’ve been tossing in your life, perhaps it’s time to stop and reexamine the destination that you’ve been so consumed in the pursuit of.happy family Those aren’t just barking dogs in your life; they are the reason for your life. Your real goal (destination) should not just be to work hard so that you can get things for them; but rather, to provide a loving, safe and happy environment for them and yourself. Those aren’t barking dogs in your life, they are your family pack that is inviting you to become a member. Don’t throw stone at them, join them and go have some fun. That’s what the barking at home is all about.

Three little words that can change your life… Get a life!

April 15, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Adrianna Huffington is currently making the rounds of talk shows pitching her new book Thrive. In it she apparently discovers that there is more to life and to what we should be calling success in life than the things that we’ve been obsessing over as a nation for quite some time. What she and many other suddenly enlightened authors and motivational speakers have recently “discovered” is that; rather than getting more money or getting a bigger house or getting a new car, most of all people need to Get a life.
chasing brass ring

The little phrase “get a life” started our it’s life as a derogatory statement to people who didn’t seem to be doing anything, at least not anything of interest to the hip people who were judging them. Of late it is more and more often used to admonish the overworked and stressed out over-achiever generation to stop burning themselves out and get real about what is really important – their family, their friends and their health. The message now is that it is time to reassess why you are working 80 hours a week and always fell tired. It is time to stop and assess what this is really doing to you and the ones that you love and for whom you believe that you are doing it. It is time to Get a life.

It turns out that there were probably some pretty neat things going on with your son or daughter at ballplayerschool or in sports during those overtime hours that you worked. There were things that your wife really wished you had the time to do with her instead of spending that extra time at the office. There were little league coaching opportunities that you were too busy for and games that were played while you were on the road. There were buddies that wished that you had time for a round of golf with them on the weekend, instead of going into the office. You missed all of that in the past, but you don’t have to miss the things to come, if you just Get a life.

Now you may say, Norm you don’t understand; but I do, because I now have to look back on my life with a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda regrets. I didn’t get a life when my children were young. I was out shuckin’ and jivin’ and chasing those big bucks. I eventually got them. I had the big six-figure income and got the things that I thought were so important back then. What I lost were the precious moments that will never be repeated – the birthday parties, the ball games and recitals that I missed are all gone, never to be repeated.  I was working and I thought that was what I was supposed to do. There were smiles that I missed seeing, laughs that I didn’t hear, joys that were shared with those who were there, but not with me. I was not there to congratulate my son on a win or to console my daughter in a loss.  So, don’t say that I don’t understand – I do.  I was not there as a husband and a parent; but, fortunately I’m not too late to get a second chance as a husband and now as a grandparent. I’m having a ball with both now, because I eventually I figured out that what I really needed was to Get a life.

fansSo, whether you are inspired by this little blog or Adrianna’s nice new book  – Thrive; take the time to assess what it is you really want and what the best way to get that really is. If you can get past the “need” for that new car or bigger house and focus instead on the family that will ride or live in them you may be able to see that a little more money at work is less valuable than a little more time at home. Your kids won’t care if they have to ride in a three year old car, if they can ride with you to go to an amusement park or a ball game. Your wife won’t mind staying in your cozy little house if the man she fell in love with (and still wants to be with) is there more often, doing things with her. And you may find that, instead of pumping up that guy in the mirror every morning and putting on your game face, so that you can go out and work even harder for material things; now, you can relax and smile at him instead because he’s figured out what’s really important – he finally decided to Get a life.

Sure, I know that you’ve got to make the mortgage payment and put food on the table. Maybe you’re already starting to worry about putting the kids through college or have given some thought to your familyown retirement. Those are all important and worthy things to plan for and work for, but not to obsess over.  You can be successful enough to provide for your family without being gone so much that you’re almost a stranger to your family. You can have what you want in life if you focus upon what you need in life and not so much on what you don’t have. Socrates said it best hundreds of years ago –

 “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”  I’m sure that, had it been in the vernacular in Socrates day; he would have gone on to say – Get a life.

 When the time comes for others to look back over what you accomplished in life very few funeral speakers spend much time discussing your business accomplishments. They try to focus instead on the impact that your life had on those around you – your family and your friends. They relate stories about things you did with those important people in your life, the fun you had the events that you shared and how important to them it was that you were there. Let’s hope that in describing your life they won’t have to observe a moment of silence instead.  That won’t happen if you Get a life.