This short video provides a great visual reference point for how you might end up using the minutes, hours, days that make up your lifetime. What you do professionally eats up a lot of jelly beans, choose wisely!
You will spend more of your adult life at the office than anywhere else. This fact popped into my mind as I was cleaning out some old files and came across a 2008 WSJ article on David Foster Wallace.
David Foster Wallace on Life and Work
Adapted from a commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College. Mr. Wallace, 46, died last Friday.
In this too long for my taste article, Wallace makes a great observation and then a great point. His observation:
“At some point work involves boredom, routine and petty frustration”
Yes, no matter your job or the company you work for some of your days will be blah. (Not when you should call a recruiter BTW) The challenge is in keeping in touch with the things in your life that balance it out so that these “blah” days don’t cramp your ability to perform at a high level.
I think this is what attracts so many to social media during the work day. Facebook, Google + , Twitter, etcetera are filled with the stories of what matters. Babies, weddings, funerals, pets, vacations, new…cars, boats, rings, girl/boy friends, if it is fun and makes someone happy you are sure to find it posted!
Top performers surround themselves with little reminders of what motivates, excites, inspires them outside of work. It is these little reminders that keep us sane. It may be a photo, a trinket from a trip, framed tickets from the big game, or a trophy or award, but the reminder of who you are past your job needs to be with you at all times.
Wallace last point was a great one.
“It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out”
Is there room on your desk for what makes you happy? Yes? Good job! No? Clean out that in box and make some room, it will be good for you!
Have you ever realized that when you reach your birthday, lets say 50, that you have actually started your 51st year. Yep, I can thank my dad for that sobering realization. When you hit your birthday you are celebrating the anniversary of that year.
Don’t you think this would make a great T-Shirt? So why if we all share in this human experience are we not better at the aging process? So many are so sad over the fact that life is changing and will never be what it once was. Is a melancholy tone the tone we want to create for our children, our children’s children. I think not. With the aging Baby Boomers population we are running this risk.
A little skill development would come in handy here. What skill you ask? Let’s start with the ability to learn new things. Many people have lost this ability. When this happens the world starts to close in around them. If this is you, stop now and pick something new to learn. It could be anything just needs to be new. If your life “practice” is continually learning new things there is always something to look forward toward. And if what you have falls apart you will be well equipped emotionally to move on to the next great thing, albeit a new job, house, dog, area, or relationship.
About a year ago I was invited to help out with an Eagle Project. The task at hand, clothing distribution at a lot in Downtown Detroit, would begin my first year of service at PBJ Outreach.
Every Saturday for 11 years this group of volunteers deliver food, clothing and human dignity to anyone that shows up at barren lot in the Case Corridor of Detroit. To participate is to experience the best and worst of the human experience. This is true of the people on both sides of the “table”. The table and the “take line” require a bit of explanation. As the group arrives there are 2-300 people waiting in line. Like a well choreographed play, a half-dozen pick up trucks arrive at the lot. Tables are unloaded and set in neat and tidy rows, posts are pounded into the ground and a line similar to what you find at Disney is set up. Organization is created.
For an hour the world stops and the lot becomes a welcoming, warm place. The affluent from the suburbs mix and mingle with those that call the streets of the city their home. Food, clothing, smiles, hugs, conversation, and eye contact is exchanged.
To share in this experience once is moving. Returning for most Saturdays over a year the experience has enriched my life in ways I would never of imagined. The lessons have come in so many forms.
My role with PBJ would not be behind the comfort of a table, but instead out on the lot interacting. Handing out cough drops would be my conversation starter. As I walked the line, week after week, handing out cough drops and Kleenex, my lessons began.
The first came in the form of the cough drop pocket. It is hard to take a cough drop when you have several bags in your hand. But where do you really want your cough drops? The front pocket of your coat ,right? So it started, each chance I got I asked “can I slide a few cough drops and Kleenex in your pocket for later? ” I can not put words to the reaction this simple gesture received, many could not believe I would be willing to reach over open the flap to their pocket to drop in a cough drop or two. First lesson received. The willingness to do something as small as sliding a cough drop in someone’s pocket can make their day, never underestimate the power of small acts of kindness.
The next lesson… kindness like water will flow into all cracks. Building trust and rapport takes time and effort on the “lot”. I knew I had become a regular when the guys in line started to call me the “cough drop lady”, a title I am quite proud of. Many in the line started to ask for more than their share of cough drops. My first reaction was to resist, but instead I reached back into my stash and gave them a second handful along with a request. I asked that they take the extra andthat find someone I had not met and share one. What I never expected is that I would actually start to hear the stories of where the cough drops would end up. Week after week I would be brought the stories. A cough drop given to a buddy at the Veterans hospital that was not doing so well. On another occasion, a cough drop taken home to a sick wife that had been in bed for week. With no prompting the stories came back of where those cough drops had gone. BTW, I learned that a cough drop in a cup of hot tea is nice. A group of the guys use them this way when they hit a food kitchen at night for a hot meal. No matter how bad our situation gets, most of us have the desire to help each other out and share what we have.
The most important lesson has been how strong faith is on the lot. The demographic of the group are depressing, a third are addicted to something, a third suffering from mental illness, and the last third have slipped into a series of negative circumstances. In spite of any or all of this, there is a great eagerness to share in prayer, extend well wishes, and connect on a personally uplifting level.
I read the paper, listen to the news, ect. I know there are many reasons to not get up and go on a Saturday morning.
Blessed am I for pushing through the fear and reservation and sharing in the PBJ experience.
Want to join me on Saturday morning? Find out more at www.facebook.com/PBJOutreach
Enter these enchanted woods,
You who dare,
Nothing harms beneath the leaves
More than waves a swimmer cleaves.
Toss your heart up with the lark,
Foot at peace with mouse and worm,
Fair you fare.
Only at a dread of dark
Quaver, and they quit their form:
Thousand eyeballs under hoods
Have you by the hair.
Enter these enchanted woods,
You who dare.
The Woods of Wistermain
This poem discovered in a book discarded along with a couple hundred books I am prepping for delivery to a homeless shelter. It was the found “treasure” amongst the pile of discarded items.