Why do you do what you do?
We have a zillion choices every day of our lives. Many of them we don’t even recognize. You can choose to get out of bed, or you can choose to hit snooze. You can choose to go work at your job, or you can choose to go into the office and quit. Now clearly each choice has a consequence, and often the consequences or fear of a consequence drives our choice.
My business involves a lot of psychology. Nudging or persuading people to see things differently – their life, what’s possible, their daily choices. We encourage people to find their “why”. Why are you doing this? Not just “what are your goals”, although that is part of the equation, but a deeper at-the-core why. Your why may change over time … I know I have a bunch of why’s but only a couple prominent ones at the moment. And here it is …
To get myself healthy and to avoid Corporate America.
Corporate America was unhealthy for me. But it was also downright rude to me. One of the defining moments of my glamorous career occurred a couple years ago out in Arizona. A little background first …
When I moved back to Ohio, I bought a house big enough for my sister and her kids to join me. Which they did a few months later. It has worked out well for us. Everyone has space. My house has been looked after whenever I’ve needed to be a road warrior. There’s always been a teenager around to mow the grass so that allergy girl here doesn’t have to be sick for three days afterward.
So I’m “other mom” to Doug and Emily (and I guarantee they are rolling their eyes while reading this … they have been raised properly on sarcasm and Weird Al …).
One Sunday night in December of Doug’s junior year of high school, we all ended up back at church, just like usual. I was sitting in with the youth group to catch a movie I hadn’t seen yet. Doug had been at practice for the Christmas musical and wandered in a few minutes after the movie started. He was talking to a couple adults near the door, but I was out of earshot. Someone leaned over and asked me, “What is Doug talking about, I thought he said something about someone dying.”
I made a beeline to the door, where Doug told me one of his classmates and football team members had died in a car wreck. It’s one of those statements that doesn’t really sink in right away. What?
“He was in a car wreck with Bombo.”
“What about Bombo, how is he?”
“I don’t know. Nick is texting me, and he’s not answering me back very quick.”
And then it hit me … the reason for all the cars gathering on my street when Em and I left for church. “I think I know where your teammates are. I had assumed the neighbors were having a party. Do you want to go there now?” He didn’t, but it took less than five minutes of watching the movie for him to change his mind.
For many years the saddest place I have ever walked into was the James Cancer Hospital. I visited my grandmother there at a time when we did not expect her ever to leave that place alive. And there was room after room of patients with dismal outlooks. I don’t have an issue with hospitals like some people do, but it was depressing. With a capital D.
My neighbor’s house that night trumped the James. There were kids everywhere. Sitting on couches. Sitting on the floor. Some crying. Most of them just staring into space, not moving, not speaking. Bombo was there … he was fine, well physically anyway he was just a little banged up. Coaches, a few parents, and a couple youth pastors were mostly in the kitchen. Words still barely do justice to how horrible it felt.
Fast forward to the next August. I was on a startup in a plant in Arizona, and I was expecting to be stuck there for the weekend and miss the first football game of the season. Politics is the only way I can explain why two heavy hitters needed to be there in the first place. The woman in charge of the whole project … well let’s just say we didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things … and she made an art out of being non-communicative.
I was talking to the production manager about how the plant was running that week, and whether we’d have a window in the production schedule to get in and do our project work. It became clear we wouldn’t have free reign on the equipment until Monday. There were maybe a couple small things we might maybe possibly maybe be able to do over the weekend, but that was about it. This guy is also one of my favorite people at the plant, a dad, and he played college football so he “gets it”. He encouraged me to hop on a plane Friday so I could make it to the game.
At some point Thursday morning I approached Ms. Project Manager with my plan to fly out Friday and be back in the plant Monday morning. I’d catch a plane back to Arizona Saturday if needed. She told me not to make any travel plans until she could make a decision later in the day. She kept me waiting all day, searching in vain for things we “could do” over the weekend. It was much later in the day, after all the office staff had left, almost too late to ensure a seat on the morning flight when she finally told me I was allowed to go. And she actually said these words to me … “He’s just your nephew.”
Wow. Who is she and what gives her the right?
So I made it to the game and to every other game that season. The entire season was about mourning the loss of Clayton. His jersey was there at every coin toss. His picture was there with all the seniors at the banquet. The whole mourning process was rough but so necessary for the team, the football family that surrounded them, and the community as a whole.
And that “he’s just your nephew” comment? Hmmmm. It’s people like that, with their priorities askew, that drive me to work at something that really matters, to avoid going back to situations that really don’t.