There was an article yesterday on CBS’s website about being busy.
We used to show how well off we were by telling others about the time we took off from work and the places we went on vacation. Now, the article said, we tell others how busy we are to show how important we are.
Even though it’s not healthy, we seem to compete to out-busy each other.
It’s a very American trait.
A few years back a friend of mine went out of his way to drive me back to my hotel and saved me an hour or so on trains. He told me that a friend of his had taken time out to visit him when he was in town and it had meant a great deal to him.
It made me pause.
It made me reach out to friends more and suggest we meet for a cup of coffee or a beer.
At first I felt a bit itchy. Shouldn’t I be clearing my inbox or doing that very important work I had to do?
What was more important than this.
The work would still be there. I would get it done.
I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. There’s a saying that no-one lies in their death bed thinking I should have worked more.
I don’t think that that’s quite right.
I think it’s more that no one looks at a friend or a loved one in their death bed or at their funeral and thinks I should have worked instead of taking the time to sit down and be with them when they were alive.
I visited my friend Chuck before he died. I’m glad I did but I should have visited him more. I don’t know why I didn’t.
I try to spend more time with friends and I’m lucky that I have so many friends that are willing to take the time with me.
I’m beginning to shed those that don’t. Not because I don’t like them. Not because I don’t value them. But it weighs me down and encourages me to compete in an unhealthy way.
After two months of trying to get together with one friend, I finally said enough.
She got mad and told me how busy she was.
My first impulse was to out-busy her.
The next day I was to fly to Amsterdam. I would get back from Amsterdam at eleven at night on a Saturday and Maggie and I would leave for Yosemite at five the next morning. In the six hours I was home I would have to do laundry, re-pack, and catch a few hours sleep.
The following Friday Maggie and I would get back to our house at noon. I would leave for London at four the same afternoon. Again, quick laundry, re-pack, a nap, and a shower.
When I landed in Amsterdam, someone picked me up at the airport. They could have let me take the train to the hotel but they were kind enough to go out of their way to pick me up. Someone else picked my up at my hotel that night to take me to a Cocoa user group. He said it was on the way between his office and his wife’s but it was an inconvenience. He dropped me at the hotel after the meeting.
At the meeting I talked to so many people I’d met over the years in the Netherlands. I was so glad that I’d taken time to go to this meeting and grateful for the people who made it possible. The people who took time for me even though they were busy.
There’s a woman who owns the company I do training at in London. The first time I taught for her, one of her employees asked if I would speak at a meet up at their location the night before the training.
Sure. I have a talk prepared I could give. They’re flying me over and putting me up in addition to paying me. I could have said “I’m busy” but sure.
“Come down to the pub afterwards,” Wendy said.
I almost didn’t. I was tired. I was busy. But I did and made a friend.
She told me that Americans often didn’t come down to the pub and the British find that an essential part of making connections. Americans are too busy, she said. She told me of many speakers who rush back to the hotel to work.
I saw myself in that. I’d almost done the same.
She talked of another American speaker who liked to go back to the hotel but saw the value in the pub so he’d come out for one drink and then head back. In a way it was mechanical – doing what he knew to be right. But he did it.
The next visit, I again agreed to speak at their meet up. Kim was with me and came to the meet up. Wendy met her and whisked her off to the pub while I spoke to the group. By the time I caught up with them, they were fast friends.
After teaching all day recently, I just wanted to go back to the hotel and rest but Wendy popped by and said “beers after work?”
So she and her husband Nick and I sat and had beers in their wonderful bar at their office and caught up for hours. No rush.
I thought of my almost friend who was too busy. I hope she’s too busy because she has friends like this that she’s hanging with. I hope she’s not too busy to spend this kind of time with friends and family.
I have to shed people like this because it’s easy for me to become like the people around me. If someone describes an illness to me I begin to think “hey, that hurts in me too. Maybe I have that.”
If someone is too busy, it takes everything in me not to say “I’m busier.” Instead I now think, “ooh, I don’t want to be that busy.”
I need to be less busy.
i make the time.
Kim and I were once on a long car ride through beautiful countryside on our way to somewhere. We looked at the gorgeous green rolling hills, the palm trees, the ocean, and tons of other sites on the long ride. In the back seat, a friend read a week-old magazine not noticing anything.
“Isn’t that beautiful?” Kim said.
Kim looked around to the backseat. The friend glanced up from the magazine and told us that she’d look once we got there.
“There” is good, but there are so many wonderful things along the way.
Be there. Wherever there is at the moment.
So many of us are so busy getting there that we don’t look up and see the friends and opportunities on our path to getting there that we’re missing.
Don’t rush through here to get there.
Be where you are.