WHEN LIFE, LEADERSHIP, AND BUSYNESS COLLIDE
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
~ F. Chan
Every time one of my sons has reached his next birthday, it is a reminder that I’ve been given another year and another extraordinary opportunity to lead and contribute to shaping my sons’ lives. They are adventurous boys, with big hearts, who have a bright future and a world awaiting them…filled with unending possibilities.
As a dad, I’m definitely learning in the wobble. I’ve found that in the midst of my mistakes there are principles and (hidden) truths that yield nuggets of wisdom. A few years ago, before another son’s first birthday, I found that I was succumbing to busyness and a hurried life.
Do you ever feel like life has been put in high gear, moving faster and faster? Do you feel like you have no time for things that are important to you? Do you have a hard time being present and enjoying the moment, instead focusing on what happened in the past or what could happen in the future?
Each of us can be intoxicated by busyness. We have mechanisms and systems in our society that help us move faster. Hurrying and busyness can even become a workaholics “badge of honor.”
As mentioned in chapter 2, an American cardiologist, Meyer Friedman, says, in our society, we suffer from what he calls hurry sickness. The disease called hurry sickness suppresses our effectiveness and ability to be present in the moment. His antidote is that we have to give up on certain opportunities in order to take advantage of other ones. You can’t answer every request. You can’t please every voice. You are finite. You have limits.
Every day, every moment, every second transmits with it its own finality. Time is our one undeniably nonrenewable resource. “Where did the time go?” we ask when we sense we have spent the years wrongly or have taken some great gift, life, or family for granted. And the answer, of course, is that it went to the same place it always has. At the end of every day, one more box in the calendar has been moved from the future column to the past column, from possibility to history.
The reality is if we don’t properly align our priorities and treasure our time, someone else will. We must be ruthless in setting up the appropriate boundaries to ensure others aren’t dictating our priorities. Those you care about the most deserve your best.
As leaders, one of the practices I recommend is intentionally pausing for a moment to consider the current landscape of your life. What initiatives, projects, and other activities are you involved in? What commitments have you made? What is your “yes-to-no” ratio?
One author suggests the following remedy for living a hurried, fast-paced life…change of pace + change of place = change of perspective.
While I’m an advocate of such practices of evaluation, I find myself being an offender of not taking my own advice. A few years ago, I was incredibly overextended. I felt internally (don’t ignore your instincts) that it was time to slow down for a season, in order to focus on what was important in life.
I ended up relinquishing several leadership responsibilities, one with a nonprofit organization I had been leading for years. I also put a hold on teaching at a local university, and I bowed out of board responsibilities. Additionally, I stopped side collaborative projects for a season.
Because it was a season where I was overextending myself. I found myself “hurrying” more, and being “present” less for those who were most important to me. I knew it was time to create margin and put boundaries in place.
Much of my decision to relinquish commitments and set clear priorities in my life was a result of reading the story of Eugene O’Kelly, a former CEO of KPMG, one of the largest accounting firms in the world. As CEO, his calendar was booked 18 months in advance. Working 12 to 15 hours a day, he had an insanely busy life. He embodied the essence of what some would call an unhealthy balance of busyness.
All of it came to a screeching halt after he was diagnosed at the age of 53 with advanced stages of brain cancer. He was given three months to live.
For the next 90 days, he tried to create what O’Kelly called perfect moments: an experience with others when time stands still for a moment. A moment where you are fully present, where you leave the past behind and set aside the future, and fully engage in the present.
You might be thinking right now, “Ted, what does this have to do with leadership?” Frankly, it has a lot to do with leadership. It is choosing to align your life in such a way that you balance your life and create margin for those people/things that are important. Choosing to be present in the moment. Hitting the pause button to enjoy those perfect moments.
“Why do they not teach you that life is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck current?”
~ Pat Conroy
This weekend I’m hitting the pause button, soaking in the gift I have been given with my four sons (aka cowboys). They are reminders to me that living a hurried life is for amateurs. That leadership is found in ruthlessly and continuously eliminating hurry from one’s life.