In the first few months of working-from-home, I used to miss the ability to take a walking 1:1 meeting. Our offices are in the suburbs and walking around a park nearby always lifted spirits and stimulated good conversation.
Zoom made that challenging. Attempts at walking on a video call just didn’t feel as comfortable.
So, over the past months, I’ve been taking most catch up calls via an old fashioned audio/phone call. The downside is that we don’t see each other on video. But, the upside is that I can take these calls while going out for a walk.
There’s no replacement to walking side-by-side. But, the call + walk combination combines good conversation with air and exercise to the day – a winner.
“The Crown” – a Netflix show – has a fascinating episode on the moon landing. It shows Prince Philip’s (Prince Philip = Queen Elizabeth’s husband) obsession with the astronauts’ feats as he confronts a mid-life crisis himself.
The story progressively shows him both at awe at the achievement of the astronauts and simultaneously disappointed at the progress he’s made in his own life. He wonders if looking at the earth from the moon gave them insight into life’s big questions and/or helped them better understand their purpose.
Eventually, he gets the opportunity to engineer a 15 minute meeting with the astronauts when they visit London.
When he asks them about their experience, their response is unanimous – they were obsessed with the safety procedures and protocols. Within minutes, he realizes that they wouldn’t have the answers he was seeking.
And, as his questions stop, they begin peppering him questions about the palace. After their time together, he watches them racing each other up and down the stairs of the palace.
Clearly, they were as awestruck by him and his life as he was by theirs.
Grass. Not always greener.
And, we all have our own paths enroute to our attempts to find and live our purpose.
A colleague working on product initiatives for Frontline workers recommended “On the Clock.” The full title of the book is “On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane.”
I experienced an unsavory incident recently. In retrospect, it was a good opportunity to test how much of stoic philosophy I had actually learnt after weeks of study.
I think I probably earned a “B.” I passed in a few key areas but have more work to do. Overall, the effects of the incident didn’t last long. And, after some time and space, I had resolved any remaining emotion and moved on.
Part of the process of gaining perspective was reminding myself that life at work in a “white collar” job are occasionally challenging, sometimes difficult, and never hard.
It is an idea that hit home again as I listened to the first 90 minutes of the book today.
It is an idea that I’m sure will hit home many times as I continue reading this book.
In an interview recently, the candidate did something I haven’t seen folks do. When faced with the hypothetical prompt, she asked for a minute to think, started sharing her screen, and began typing out her thoughts in the Notepad.
This did two things at once. She had me engaged as she thought about the problem. In the absence of a whiteboard, this would otherwise have led to an awkward pause in the conversation.
She also laid out her structure on the shared note. This allowed her to demonstrate how she thought about the problem without needing to talk about the structure and kept us on the same page throughout.
While I still miss the experience of working on a problem on a whiteboard, this was a great video alternative.
“It brings to mind an often-told story about the late Dick Bass, son of a Texas oil baron. He was known for going on ambitious mountain-climbing expeditions and talking about them, at length, to anyone within earshot, including a man who happened to be seated next to him on an airplane.
For the duration of the cross-country flight, Bass went on about the treacherous peaks of McKinley and Everest and about the time he almost died in the Himalayas and his plan to climb Everest again. As they were about to land, Bass realized he hadn’t properly introduced himself. “That’s okay,” the man said, extending his hand. “I’m Neil Armstrong. Nice to meet you.”
A friend shared this quote from among his favorites from a book he read called “You’re not listening.”
This one made me chuckle. The anecdote fit the title of the book beautifully. :-)
There are a few great quotes that serve as reminders about the importance of planning without getting too attached to our plans.
The one that has stuck with me over the years for when I find myself getting attached to some random plan too far out is – “When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to be different once you get there.”
Plans are helpful. But, the best thing we can do today to make our plans come true is to do the next right thing.
I’ve been listening to Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. The one word that I’ll remember the book by is “perspective.”
“Keep perspective” seems to be the one piece of advice Marcus reflects on the most. He does this by constantly reminding himself of death.
In doing so, he reflects on the futility of chasing fame and sensory pleasures. And, he doesn’t seem to tire of reminding himself of his place in the world – that of an evolutionary speck – in these reflections.
Marcus Aurelius was probably the most powerful person in the world at the time. So, the nature of these notes are all the more impressive given the immense power he held. He clearly passed his stoic examinations with flying colors.
As I listened to him and reflected on the week that went by, I realized how sorely I missed keeping perspective.