Oh Al I swear, you’re a genius! Even before ‘multi-tasking’ became part of the social lexicon, you were decrying its effectiveness. Good on you big guy, and lucky for the woman you were kissing in the car. Better to pull over and focus. A taboo idea I know – doing one thing at a time and getting it right.
When I was at the firm, he who juggled the most balls in the air without dropping any, won. Yes, there were migraines, emotional short-circuits, missed anniversaries and birthdays – but man, could people juggle conference calls, client meetings, intra-office drama, toggling between dual monitors in their offices while checking Blackberries and texting on their iPhones. Conversations – if that is what one chooses to call them – were stolen in the Starbucks line, or in fifteen minute intervals, or checked in a box.
You’re right – balls got dropped. Perhaps not the ones that determine the size of a year-end bonus, and most assuredly not those that would compromise the zealous representation of one’s clients.
I spent a lot of time with people who had dropped the other stuff along the way – without thinking that the ramifications would be so profound. The parent who routinely watched her daughter play in a sports tournament while emailing on her iPad and chairing a conference call and genuinely fretting because she and her child weren’t close; the husband who couldn’t reconcile the wonderful woman he had married with the raging, angry alcoholic she had become – for she had never shown any signs. The affair that grew over time because neither person was ever home long enough for intimacy and friendship to grow roots there – though they insisted they tried. They didn’t intend for this to happen. The thrown blood clot that resulted from excessive time on planes and trains. The pseudo-friendships that ended up defining one’s inner circle because there was no time to cultivate genuine loving relationships, and the resulting isolation and loneliness that prompted yet another script for antidepressants. The young associate who wept in my office upon discovering that this brass ring for which she had sacrificed much was not what she thought it would be and didn’t want to ride the carousel anymore – but for the enormous debt, mortgage and car payments.
No signs? Really?
I didn’t judge it then, I’m not judging it now. I do find the sincere disbelief…well, surprising. We all struggle to do the right thing in the face of competing demands and increasing competition. But what do you want to win? And who are you kidding if you think that everything you are juggling has equal weight and heft, allowing you to balance it all equally? The reality is that those weights change and morph according to time and circumstance. Sacrifices will be made and balls will drop – that’s the reality. There is also this inalienable truth – you have to decide what to focus on, what values you will only compromise so much and how to give the people you love the best of who you are. Maybe you should focus on that kiss.