I was talking with Glenden, our awesome Minneapolis administrator, yesterday about how great my clients are. He was saying how much he enjoys working with them and with their administrators. At one point he said, “They’re just so nice.”
And as I reflected on it afterward, I realized that I actually sort for that quality. I enjoy working with clients who are good, kind, smart, well-intentioned human beings. One of the best things about having my own company is that I can choose the people with whom I want to work – both as team mates and as clients. And I choose to work with people, it seems, whose values are pretty well lined up with mine: people who are competitive and ambitious, yet operate with integrity; people who believe that getting great results and creating great relationships can support and complement each other; people who know that you can be both very successful and a positive force in the world.
And I also enjoy giving the lie to the idea that nice guys finish last…
I’m on my way upstate for the weekend. I’m even more excited than usual, because Patrick and I are getting to babysit for our granddaughter Hannah for the first time tonight. Some friends are having a birthday party for my daughter, Hannah is no longer a needing-mommy-all-the-time newborn (she’s four months old), and so – yay! – we get her all to ourselves for a couple of hours.
And I’ve just been sitting here thinking about how she’s grown and changed since she was born in November. An amazing physical transformation: she weighs more than twice as much as she did at birth, she can hold her head up, she’s figured out how to suck on her thumb. But even more astonishing to me is her mental and social evolution. In just a few months she’s gone from an adorable but largely passive nursing/pooping/sleeping creature, to a recognizable human being. She’s happy, sad, scared, curious, angry, tired, hungry or frustrated and it’s quite easy to see which one. She looks right into your eyes and recognizes that there’s a another being there looking back at her. She’s intrigued by odd noises and funny faces. She has preferences.
Another four months and she’ll be crawling and trying to communicate. Four months after that she’ll probably be walking, and will have tried out (and gotten joyful feedback on) her first words.
Given all this; given the extraordinary job we’ve done – every single one of us – at becoming operational human beings, I have to wonder why so many people largely stop evolving and changing when they become adults. And – even sadder – why we often believe that those around us (spouses, employees, colleagues, grown children) aren’t capable of growth and change.
I suspect that we stop ourselves. To the extent that we believe we’re done growing, or that we can’t learn new skills or new ways of thinking — that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I propose this: when you think you’re not capable of learning or doing something new, or behaving differently, remind yourself of all you learned in your first few years, and remember that you’re still that person. I think Michelangelo had this right; supposedly his favorite saying was “Ancora imparo” — “I’m still learning.“
As I noted a few weeks ago, these days I seem to be getting a good deal of inspiration and insight from reading signs in the subway. Not sure if that’s a bad thing (too much riding on the subway and too little input from other sources) or a good thing (able to turn even subway riding into a learning opportunity)…
In any case, I saw a piece of a quote from St. Augustine on the subway the other day that really resonated for me, so I looked up the whole thing:
Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
- St. Augustine
It struck me as true on so many levels. We tend to look for so much outside ourselves – beauty, wonder, happiness, awe, freshness, challenge – and bypass the opportunities for experiencing all those things within our own hearts and minds.
Sometimes our failure to look within ourselves is avoidance: we don’t want to see our own limitations or flaws, and so we distract ourselves with people, objects and scenes outside ourselves.
But I think we sometimes simply underestimate the grandeur of what lies inside us.
I loved being reminded, from a distance of 700 years, of the wonder within: the power of attending to my own present moment.
For those of you who never watched westerns as a kid, or who aren’t as old as I am, the title of this post refers to an old Gene Autry song. In it, a contented cowboy sings happily about the joys of being back on the range, with the cows, his faithful horse, and his gun – doing what he loves, out where “a friend is a friend.”
If you take away the horse, the gun and the cows, I’m feeling a lot like old Gene this morning. I’ve just returned from a wonderfully relaxing and rejuvenating week in the sun, and I’m actually quite happy to be ‘back in the saddle.’ As we were leaving our resort in Jamaica on Saturday, there were a lot of long faces around us – people talking about being depressed to leave, one woman saying she was ‘living for the day’ when she could come back. I felt grateful that I was ready to return to my 21st-century horse/gun/cows/fellow cowpoke equivalents.
I’ve decided that one of the key elements of a great life is enjoying being on vacation – and enjoying coming back.