I’m traveling in London. When we got here over the weekend one of the first things we did was to hop into a cab (which are way cooler than in the US) and head to the hotel. The cabbie was a British white guy, with a heavy accent and a seemingly unending supply of opinions that he assumed we shared. It turns out you can find racist people in the UK too, who knew. Of the many things that he said that we found both disturbing and amusing, one of them was a derogatory comment toward Chinese people. Since both Jeff and I have adopted children from China, we were definitely not on his team with that.
I guess the moral of the story is to be careful. Just because you are a white dude driving some white dudes around a big city doesn’t mean that you share something, or really anything at all in common. In fact, I hope I don’t share much in common with that cabbie, other than perhaps an admiration for the insane cost of an Astin Martin.
We all understand scarcity and priorities. Money can be scarce, so we make groceries a priority over going to the movies. Time can be scarce on a trip, so we prioritize one attraction over another. It seems to me that humans do this really well is many areas of life, but not so well in relationships.
I think we grow up with this idea that relationships are always there, largely because that’s how the relationships within families often work. You can beat them up, ignore them, even forget about them and then circle back to them and bam, the relationship is there, practically unchanged. We think this true for all relationships, but I’m not sure it is. I think instead relationships have a component of scarcity that we don’t realize because relationships take a long time to fizzle out and we tend not to notice until they are dead. Relationships need attention and our attention is a scarce resource that requires prioritization.
Let’s do this for a thought experiment. Consider your top 10 or 15 relationships, make a list. You will likely start with your family, then likely your closest friends, then probably people from your work. Of the people on that list, who have you talked to in the last week? How about the last two weeks or month? Scary right?
Or, how about this? Of the people at the very top of your list, can you name something significant that has happened to each of them in the last two weeks that you didn’t read on Facebook? To be honest, I’m sure I cannot.
These questions have helped me realize how precious some relationships are to me, and how I need to give those relationships more attention. I realize that I must change my thinking and my actions and make real plans to keep in touch with the people I care most deeply about. I can’t let the busyness of life, work, or anything interfere with the most important people in my life. I won’t let busyness interfere with the people most important to me.
Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash
“Good eye Adam!” That is what my dad would shout to me when I was shaking in the batters box. It’s the best compliment you can give a kid that is too scared to swing the bat as the ball zips past his face. I was scared every time I got up to bat. That fear turned into timidity. And, that timidity created a lack of opportunity. After all, to get a hit you have to swing the bat.
Now, as an adult, I don’t want to have a good eye, I want to take the swing. I now understand the risk of the swing, and I’m ok with it. If I get beaned, I’ll live. But, if I never take the big swing, I’ll never get that big hit, and I want that big hit!
I recognize that always taking the big swing is a bad idea in baseball and in life. You have to be smart about it. But “good eye” is the phrase reserved for the kids that don’t swing, even at the good pitches. That is the phrase to help the timid be less timid. Maybe it builds courage or just self esteem. Either way, I want to be smart, not timid. I don’t need my self esteem built up, I need the opportunity to make an impact. And, in my experience, making an impact starts with taking a smart, big, swing!
Side note, comedian Brian Regan has a great bit about having a “good eye,” check it out below:
I first heard this quote on “The Go-Giver Podcast” and am taken with it.
How you do anything is how you do everything.
It’s a simple idea, but profound. If I do basic tasks, like sweeping the floor, half way, I will be more prone to do everything that way. The same is true if I do my best work. I want to do all things to the very best of my ability, making sure that flows from menial tasks all the way to the important ones.
There is a church with a large parking lot across the street from my kids’ school. To make drop off easier, each morning many parents will opt to park there and walk their kids to the door rather than going through the long carpool line. The parking lot is directly across the street from the sidewalk to the school, and when standing at the entrance to the parking lot looking at the school, there is a crosswalk less than 50 yards to the right. The crosswalk is complete with yellow flashing lights and the stripy (yes I’m making that a word) crossing lines that indicate a walkway. What is fascinating to me is how few people use the crosswalk (did I mention it’s less than 50 yards away)!
Instead of using the safety of the crosswalk every morning I see parents (usually dads) dart across a busy street with a ton of traffic (and buses) going back and forth, holding tightly to their child’s hand and coming closer to getting hit than I would like. Every time I am amazed. I often yell at them (as if they can hear me with my windows rolled up) and genuinely wish that would value their child’s safety and the lessons that they are teaching their children more than they do in that moment.
But, here’s the thing, I think these are good parents. They are good parents making a bad decision because it’s the easy thing to do. No parent would put their kid in danger on purpose, but because of the allure of getting across the street more easily, they do. No parent would be a bad example of their kid on purpose, but because of the ease of just running across in between cars they do.
I don’t do this; I cross at the crosswalk. However, with that said, I am self-aware enough to recognize that I do this in a hundred other ways. I may drive too fast with my kids in the car. Or I may be tempted to glance at a vibrating cell phone at moments when my attention should be fully engaged elsewhere.
A great example of this was on our recent trip to Universal Studios. We parked in the bottom lot and with all five kids and a loaded down stroller in tow proceeded to head to the park. We had to go up an escalator, and even though there was a sign that showed no strollers were allowed on the escalator, for convenience I took the empty stroller on it anyway. That little breaking of the rules didn’t go unnoticed. Weeks later, my six-year-old drew a picture of my rule breaking and wrote a comment about it in her homework. I set a bad example when I took the easy way out. Fail.
Often the easy way seems better but isn’t worth it in the end.
I often think about “the last time.” As in, the last time I rocked my now 11-year-old as a baby, or the last time I can pick up my 9-year-old and flip him over before he is too heavy to lift like that anymore. Sometimes I look back at my kids and regret that I didn’t recognize the last time that I fed them a bottle or sat them in a highchair. I feel like if I had recognized that last time I would have cherished it, intentionally made it into a memory I could re-live as they got older.
So now I try to look forward. I wonder, is this the last time I’ll be able to give her a piggyback ride? Or, is this the last time he will be willing to hold my hand in public without being embarrassed? I want to be on the look out for that last time, and I want to remember it, cherish it.
I want to be more present, more cognisant of my reality and more aware that every day I may be doing something with my children for the last time. I believe if I’m watchful, I’m less likely to miss the precious moments that make up a wonderful lifetime.