On a hot July day back in 2005, I in a sweaty hall, garbed in a cloak with mortar board, crammed in with another 250 soon to be graduates and around 1,000 family and well-wishers. In all truth, this was an anti-climax for my university career. We sat like sardines packed into neat rows and listened with boredom as the speeches were read out. Some Dame got an honourary doctorate for something that she did – good for her. Some vice-chancellor said something or other but the main speech was from someone who was described as being a well known figure in the engineering school – someone we all knew (and supposedly liked).
Up stepped some guy I’d never seen before and he started talking at us about how university changed his life and how he was proud of us or some other nonsense. I couldn’t take the guy seriously – maybe because I didn’t know who he was, or because he was slightly camp, or maybe because those who can do and those who can’t teach, who can tell? He had the air of an uncool youth pastor at a suspend your faculties and praise the lord church. Plain, dim and boring.
The next 20 minutes, sat in a humidity induced stupor, dragged on and on. He told a story about how when he was a kid he used to meet with his Granddad every Friday evening to play a game of chess and chat. When he went to university he started to get distracted by dancehalls and line-dancing (or whatever was popular in the 80s) and didn’t get to his Granddad’s for a few weeks his Granddad asked him where he’d been. “I’ve just been busy with…” was the answer and what his Granddad said has stuck with me to this day “well son, you make time for what’s important”.
Cheesy at the time but it’s that phrase “you make time for what’s important” that I’ve tried to keep in my mind when it comes to choices and decisions. All too often I’ve done something which for whatever reason made sense in my head but was time misspent. Like when I worked in sales, I thought that spending a lot of time on the road visiting clients would show my boss that I was fully committed 110% (don’t think it did really) when my wife is left at home, stuck with kids and struggling.
What’s important to you?
Shoot the messenger at your peril. I left the ceremony laughing at that speech but its stuck with me ever since. In that time, 15 years have passed almost to the day. 15 years is a long time and in that I’ve wasted years doing things that were useless. I’ve blackholes of some years where I can’t really remember what I did at work. But we all get the chance in every moment to stop and think. What’s important?
So what’s important to me? I am not sure that I’m building something great in my career and the sum total of my life’s work to this date may have not actually either had that much impact or hasn’t made the world a better place. Is that important to me?
So now, I’m feeling like I’m at a crossroads in my life and it’s time to start spending time on what’s important and for me that’s my wife and kids. I’m going to try to cut out what’s negative, toxic, wasteful and unproductive and focus instead on the family.