Archives for January 2010

Vowels and Consonants

Well, my loves, this has been a big week for learning!  In the last few days, you are now crawling for real, with deliberate control over your direction. You are about as fast as a garden slug, but right now, that’s just fine, as it means it’s easier to catch you and keep you out of trouble.

You also started playing with vowel-consonant-vowel combinations.  Lucas, you are big on DA and BA, and Anna you were on my lap yesterday and belted out a perfect MA MA!  It’s not yet clear that you gave it meaning yet, but mama and I both smiled and laughed and praised you for it.  You’ve also big on the BA, and just recently made a few PO noises.  Little do you know that your budding linguistic skills are as exciting for mama and I as they are for you.  I can hardly wait for you two to start talking and trying to make verbal sense of this world we live in.  I eagerly await the seemingly bizarre questions that will come out of the two of you without end.  And you may have to remind me of this when in fact the are without end.

We recently got a Johny-jumper toy for you. It’s a harness that you sit in and it holds you in an almost standing position. Lucas, you absolutely love that thing and will bounce and jump and dance and scream in there through the time it takes mama and I to eat a meal together, so that’s great!

Anna, you have not been as much of a stander-upper yet and have been a bit more wobbly when we hold you on your feet. However I put you in that thing too and you got the hang of it just fine after about 10 minutes. You bounce around too, but it almost looks like you want to use it for somersaults.

Hitler vs. Roomba

You two are crawling now, though just barely.   Mostly, it’s about lunging forward, falling on your face, and doing it again and again.  Regardless, you are both fully mobile now.  Over the last few days, you have also been fighting off another cold, probably picked up from a recent play-date.  Lastly, you already know about Sonya, the dog.  So it would appear that the confluence of all of those factors recently led to a rather odd occurrence.

Lucas, you had a runny nose and managed to rub your face against some dog-hair.  When you brought your head up, you had a little Hitler mustache that was equal parts amusing and disgusting at the same time.  On the bright side, it was enough to put us over the top towards getting a Roomba automated floor vacuum cleaner.

We’ve tried the thing out already, and it has both good and bad.  The good part is that it does a really good job vacuuming, and it gets all manner of things (hair, dirt, dust) off the floor.  The bad part is that the device does occasionally get stuck in a corner.  Maybe later, after we learn to trust the thing a bit more, it will be a greater convenience, but at this point I still find myself “supervising” the robot to see what it does, what it can do, and where it falls short.  That, and it keeps complaining that it’s dust-bin is full.

It’s About Time

In so many of the leadership and management books that I read (and there’s quite a few), there is an emphasis on how one uses time.  In particular, where one spends one’s time is a far greater indicator of what one values than what one says.  And it is with that in mind that I started looking at where my time really goes on an average day.  My loves, it looks like far too much of it still goes to “work.”  Yes, of course, that same work is what puts food on the table and keeps us warm through the winter, but mapping it out in a schedule just made visual what I already sensed internally: You two are growing up so fast, and it would be way too easy to miss these precious moments. 

On an average work-day, if you two manage to wake up early enough (since you now sleep through the night),  then I get some time with the two of you before I have to get ready to go to work.  And if I manage to leave work at a decent hour, then I get a little bit of time with you before you go to bed for the night.  My loves, to me, it’s simply not enough time with you.  What I see working out in practice is not in alignment with what I truly value.  And so something needs to change to restore balance.

And when Mama actually finds work and needs to be gone during part of the day as well, we may actually end up putting you two into day care.  It all just seems so very backwards.  What on earth is the purpose for which we would be making that kind of decision?  Finances?  Well, yes.  But is this really from financial need, or is it simply the want of greater security, or perhaps just financial worry? 

My dear children, you are both far too young to have even the faintest clue of what any of this is about.  For that matter, it will still be years before you start reading these letters anyway.  Dear ones, this is where I am struggling at this moment.  I am struggling to find a way that allows for more time with the two of you, to be with you, to support you in your daily growth and development as young human beings, and that also addresses the financial needs of the household in the midst of an economy that is still struggling from a significant financial crisis.

So what brought all of this on just now?  Not only is it the beginning of a new year, it was only a few days ago that you both turned 6-months of age.  Also, with the holidays upon us, I had the luxury of spending more time at home, working from home, and of long weekends.  It meant that I got to help Mama much more with your basic care, to play with you more, to watch you roll around, learn to crawl, and of course start you on solid foods as described earlier.  My children, this stuff is absolutely priceless in ways that I simply could never have known before, and despite the amount of time and effort that you two require, I want to give more of my time to you.

I remember from my own childhood that that my Dad was often “away.”  Some of that was at the office, some was business travel, and for the most part, I never really understood where he was or what he did when I was little.  All I knew then, or what I remember today, was that he was often gone.  I knew that he loved my brother and I, and ultimately we both turned out just fine.  However, it was Mom who did the lion’s share of the work, and that was probably true all the way up through when we left the house for college.

My children, I do not wish to live that way – spending so much time away from the house, at work, and missing the most precious gifts we can possibly share together — the gifts of our time.

There is a video of Steve Jobs 2005 commencement address to Stanford University, in which he discusses his bout with pancreatic cancer, where he was told to get his affairs in order — to say goodbye — because he was going to die.  But he didn’t die.  It turned out that he had a rare form that was operable, and he was OK.  But the event brought home to him how precious and brief that life really is, and the critical importance of following one’s dreams.

Steve Jobs 2005 Commencement Address  at Stanford University.  (Video, Transcript)

You’ve got to find what you love.
And that is as true for work, as it is for your lovers.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied, is to do what you believe is great work.
And the only way to do great work, is to love what you do.
If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle.
As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.
So keep looking.  Don’t settle.
. . .
“If you live your life as though every day were your last, eventually, you will be right.”
. . .
If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?
And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. 
Remembering that I will be dead soon is the most important tool I have ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

So why on earth would I be bringing any of this up in my letter to you children?  First, let me assure you, that I do not have some terminal disease, and I am not expecting to die any time soon.  But then, that is true for most of us.  I am telling this story here as much for my own benefit as for yours many years from now.  I’m telling it, as with this entire blog, because I want for you, my children, to know who I am when you are old enough to understand that it means something.  I’m telling it because TIME is the most valuable thing that we all possess, and because these past few weeks have brought into sharper focus that I am not happy with how I have been spending mine.

In my present work, I realize more and more that I “settled.”  I settled because of the need for income to pay bills, and all the more so because Mama and I wanted the two of you in our lives, and that a “steady” job was a very comforting thing to have at the time.  But in what I thought would be a job that lasted but three months, I now find myself having been there for more than a year. I have a growing recognition that not only did I settle, but also that it still ends up consuming precious time that I would so much rather be spending in other ways — with you, with Mama, or in the sky flying, and that if I am to live my life in a way that I become a model for you worthy of following, that something has to change.

That something is my work.  As you two grow older, you will begin to learn more and more from Mama and I, more by what we do than what we say to you.  So it is essential that what I do be in alignment with the lessons that we hope for you to learn.  And perhaps, as you grow older still, I will be able to thank you properly for being my teacher about the importance of choice points today.  In practical terms, that means that I can no longer be passive about shifting my time, efforts, and energy from working in technology to working in the helping professions as a life and leadership coach.  It means that you two are becoming the fire in my belly that both motivates and justifies the significant career change that I am presently undertaking, for both your benefit and mine.

It’s about time.