My Mission in 2016: Being Present
January 7, 2016
Is 2015 really over? It all seems like a blur. Things seemed to move at light speed. Here we are in 2016.
At s|k, we had our best year ever. So much growth. We brought some fantastic new clients on board. And we grew our relationships with some existing clients who have supported us since we were a tiny shop. We nearly doubled in size over the past year too. We even moved to a brand new office right next to Krog Street Market and smack dab on the Beltline in Inman Park here in Atlanta.
Things are really looking up for the s|k business and 2016 should be even better. We will keep growing, but at a sustainable, manageable clip. I feel very fortunate to work with such an incredibly talented group of folks. Our success to date is due to the hard work we’ve all put in and the individual sacrifices each team member has made to get us here. But, this piece isn’t about our success.
I want to talk about a really important, timely question in people’s minds these days: Are we present?
I don’t know if I am present all the time. Honestly, I know I’m not. I love staying busy, but sometimes you just have to know when enough is enough. I work a lot. I have a wife, two-year old twin girls and two dogs. Sometimes I’m just worn out. It’s not easy to unplug and recharge. I feel like I am always “putting out fires” or “completely slammed.”
Thank goodness for my supremely organized wife. She helps me keep my hectic world somewhat grounded. And mostly sane. Our twin girls haven’t experienced television or Smart phones yet. An amazing feat considering how pervasive they are in today’s world. I point this out because while my kids don’t rely on devices, I absolutely do. There are times when the kids are doing something cute or interesting and I’m just lost on my phone. Scrolling, swiping, tapping. Looking at emails. Or checking Facebook. I am not present or mindful.
There are times when my wife asks me to stop looking at my phone and watch the girls doing something interesting. Or maybe they’re not. But maybe it’s the first time they’ve done something. Or the only time. And I realize I’m missing some of these moments because I’m not present. They’re moments I can’t get back – memories made that I just don’t want to miss…but do miss.
“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
We have an original painting in the girls’ playroom that we got on a trip to Stockholm when we went to see one of my best friends get married. The painting depicts a man’s head (abstractly), wondrously staring at a Mayfly. One day as I sat in the playroom with my girls, I looked at the painting and I had an epiphany. The artist named the painting “Carpe Diem” because of the short lifespan of the Mayfly. Apparently Mayflies only live 24 hours. In essence, they have to take full advantage of their time on earth because it is so short. My epiphany? Every moment counts, especially those with my girls. I need to focus on “being present” when I’m with them.
I am reminded of a guy who did some great talks about this very subject. We were fortunate to do some work with Google in the past. And each time I ran into someone who also worked with them, I would invariably get the same question, “Have you heard that guy Meng speak?”
“Who is Meng?” I would ask. Unbeknownst to me, there was a guy at Google named Chade-Meng Tan who did workshops for Google employees on mindfulness. The talk went gangbusters and people were clamoring to get into his workshop. It became so popular he even turned it into a TED talk.
In the beginning of his talk Meng describes a famous Zen parable about a guy on a horse. The guy on a horse passes another guy on the street. The guy on the street asks, “Where are you going?” to which, the rider says, “I don’t know, why are you asking me? You should ask the horse.”
The horse signifies our lives. Meng asserts that most of us think we have no control over where the horse takes us. The horse drags us along for the ride. Meng argues that we DO indeed have control. And that’s my mission for 2016: Take control of not only my life, but also control of my mindfulness in the most important or most meaningful moments in my life.
I don’t think I’m the anomaly. I feel like this is a growing trend. And a bad one at that. I see it all the time. Look around you when you’re out at dinner some time. Watch the couples that aren’t talking but, instead, are focused on their phones. How many parents use their phones as babysitters? Families don’t even talk anymore. I remember being forced to actually talk at the dinner table when I was a kid. Does that even happen anymore?
I think the beginning of the New Year is a great time to reflect on being present and thinking about your hopes for the year to come. At the end of 2016, I want to look back and say I was mindful in each moment, that I was truly present when it counted. And I hope you will too.
Unfortunately I have never had the chance to see Meng speak live. But through the power of the World Wide Webs (as my grandmother called it), you can see one of his workshops here.)