Monthly Archives: October 2014

In the Moment

Orange, green, and brown leaves. A perfect seventy degrees. There’s a beautiful family walking down the mountain trail as my own family walk up it. The trail is steep and there are a lot of roots and large stones so we move to one side to let the family pass. The Dad, head of his family, marching proud down the trail. He leads his wife and three kids down.

His wife has brown-blonde hair. She also looks happy to be on the trail. Their children following closely behind like young ducklings. A proud momma of a son and two daughters.

But something is different about their children. Their heads are down. They aren’t looking at the beautiful leaves, they do not have the same proud look their parents have, and they are missing it. There is a lack of life in their movement. A lack of interest. Missing the golden leaves, the breeze, nature. Missing all of it. They are out of touch – eyes glazed. The youngest’s nose almost touching the screen of a phone.

That night my wife and I return home and begin to make dinner together. We turn on music, chat about the day, watch our daughter play with her toys and scoot across the floor. I pick her up and throw her up and her head almost touches the ceiling. She laughs and I put her down. She craws across and I am impressed with her speed. We are in the moment and enjoy each other’s company.

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Choices and Liberation

My routine starts the night before. I choose an outfit and iron my clothes. I neatly hang my outfit in my closet. I shower and shave. This saves me time when I have to get to the client early. I have status reports to get out before lunch.

That morning the alarm buzzes. It takes me exactly 29 minutes each morning from alarm buzz until I leave the house. I know this because I’ve timed it. I arrive on site at the client at least one hour before anyone else shows up. This is when I’m most productive.

Status reports. Client meetings. Happy hours. Recruiting events. Networking. Between 6pm-8pm most nights I arrive home. I answer a few emails. I eat dinner. When I’m really busy I work until bed. Certain deviations in schedule were allowed for out-of-town travel or long commutes.

Three weeks ago I left consulting for a new job. The rules outlined in the three paragraphs above are no longer applicable. I’m still adjusting.

I guess the strangest thing about this new job isn’t having less work, but rather the permanence of my new situation. There were slow times when I worked in professional services too, but I knew that that was only temporary. It prevented me from taking on new hobbies or doing anything that required commitment. How can you commit to something for the next few months when the next project is staring you in the face? Always present in your mind like a burdensome task that you keep putting off, but know you have to complete.

This new allotment of time and consistency is peculiar to me. I have the time to dedicate to new (and some old) passions that have long evaded me. I find myself reading more often, I have time to write again, to goof off with friends, to get back into old fitness routines, and all without sacrificing time with my family.

I loved consulting. I loved the pressure to perform, the constant bombardment of knowledge, the travel, and the people I had the opportunity to work with. On the other hand – as I ease back into a slower-paced life I am surprised by the options I have available today that I didn’t a few weeks ago. In a sense it is liberation.

I am not advocating any particular career or life choice. What is right for each of us is unique.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we have to be mindful of how certain self imposed structures in our life can limit our choices. Maybe it’s our career, debt, or a relationship –  It could be anything. The trick is to pay close attention to the ways these self-made structures have the ability to make us their slaves – and to avoid it.

The strange thing about building a cage around yourself is that you are proud of it – even happy with what you have built – but no less trapped inside. That was consulting for me – I had build this structure around myself that ultimately trapped me inside.

Thoughts on Maturing Relationships

Holden has written several posts about marriage problems (here and here for example). We have had a number conversations and email exchanges on the topic too. Unfortunately, most of the time I can’t offer much in the way of advice, but I’d like to point out a few things that have served me well during the decade-long relationship with my own wife.

1. The Couple and the Self

My wife and I started our relationship very young. We were immature and as result of that immaturity I do not think I had the ability or experience to distinguish between the two entities that exist in a serious relationship: The Couple and the Self.

My wife and I are both a couple, but still our individual selves. We have our own ambitions, goals, desires, interests, insecurities – but those feature sets simultaneously overlap and bleed over into our couple-self. Sometimes those elements of self and couple are at odds and sometimes they align perfectly.

The key is coming into a relationship with respect and love for the other person as an individual.

When I think of my wife I see a women who dreams of selling her artwork at craft shows, having the courage and self-confidence to make friends, traveling the world, sitting at the dinner table with family, and being the world’s best wife and mother. I see a playful and feisty women with insecurities and dreams – some of those the same as mine – others different.

Sometimes I have to muster the courage , trust, and patience to let her be herself – even if that means sacrificing a little of my own time to do so. She does the same for me in return.

2. Self-Examination and Leadership

I have always tried to be a leader and my philosophy has typically been that leaders do two things:

1. Lead by example, and
2. Lead with integrity.

Leading by example and with integrity requires that one examines their own behavior – not the behavior of their partner. It is an exercise in self control, self discipline, and honesty.

In my own relationship I’ve tried (and often failed) to lead with these qualities. And I’ve learned that my own actions and responses are independent of the actions of anyone else.

If someone screams at me I can respond calmly. If I am insulted I can respond with a level head. When it is someone you love doing these things an appropriate response is even more difficult. Leadership responses take a lot of self control, but are the job of any good leader. If you expect a certain behavior you must first exhibit that behavior yourself.

These lessons are fluid – not just one way. My wife, for example, demonstrates unconditional love. She is caring, devoted, and faithful. She has taught me those traits by example and I have learned a lot from her. She is an emotional leader in our household.

I like to think she’s picked up a few of my better qualities as well.

3. Speak-Easy

I learned a long time ago that I know my wife well enough that I can use words as deadly daggers. Words that can tear into her self-confidence, break her down, and make her fill like nothing.

I used to use those words with more frequency than I’d like to admit, but as I’ve matured and as my love has matured so has my use of words.

Sometimes I try to step outside of myself. When my temper is about to explode I take a moment to self-evaluate and to reassess my actions. I’ve learned (and sometimes failed) to speak-easy.

Over the long haul I have watched my wife’s self confidence return and our arguments fizzle out faster. Try to remember you love this other human being – even when you are at your most upset.