While running with my heavy ’77 P-Bass in its rickety guitar case down the slippery and dark side streets of Amsterdam, I knew I had made a mistake.
I was with my former band, the Two Dollar Pistols, on a short tour of Holland, and I was late to our second of only four shows in four cities. I was late because I had stayed too long in my hotel room, which I kept separately from the band so that I could work throughout the tour, speaking with a client in the U.S. about an email issue they were having.
I was touring with my band
and I was working.
What a bonehead.
I barely caught the last train from Amsterdam to Delft, but I made it to the show. The Oranjeboom flowed all night long, I played out of a Fargen amp for the first and only time, and we generally rocked the house–it was fantastic. But I almost wrecked the whole thing. And for what? To help a client with an email problem.
I’ve helped a lot of clients with a lot of problems since then, and I bet I have a whole lot of client-helping left in me. But I probably won’t be on an overseas tour with a band anytime soon, if ever again at all.
We kinda rocked.
So, when running to make the train (past all manner of odd distractions), I realized that I made a mistake. I was on tour in Holland and I decided to work through the whole thing. I really could have taken four days off. I really should have taken four days off–but I didn’t.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about perseverance. In a recent employee review, I told the employee that I was far more interested in having this particular person on staff for a long, long time than I was in squeezing every last drop out of them over the next two years. I realized during that review that my own primary limitation wasn’t time, but energy.
Energy is about give and take. I believe we do have enough energy to be professionally inspired and effective for decades, but only on the condition that it is diversified. As usual, David C. Baker says it best: “If you don’t have a wonderfully interesting life outside of work, you’re going to look to your job for that sort of satisfaction, and then work becomes skewed and strange–things fall apart.”
Some people can sleep four hours a night and work 16 hours a day plus weekends. That’s cool, but it’s not me, and it won’t be anyone at Newfangled either. That sort of personal culture begets one-upmanship and it is not welcome here. I love hearing about all the wonderful and interesting things our people do with their free time, which for Newfangled employees is pretty consistently about 128 hours a week. I enjoy hearing the things that keep people engaged outside of work because I genuinely care about their happiness, and because I know that it means they will have the energy and refreshed perspective necessary to put their hearts and minds into their work Monday through Friday. Great work and service doesn’t’ come from tired people–just ask the flight attendant who just refused to take my trash even though she was walking directly to the trash can eight feet away, empty-handed.
I used to diversify my energy by “kicking out the jams,” as they say. Now it’s cooking great dinners with my wife, splitting wood, going to the Dean Dome, and playing with sweet little Gus. What it is doesn’t matter, as long as that empty vessel gets filled back up. I love seeing the wiped out looks–earned through a week of very hard work–on our employees faces when I’m buying them pizza and beer around lunchtime on Friday. And I love seeing those fresh and smiling faces on Monday (after the requisite gallons of coffee), earned through time with wives and boyfriends, pastors and yoga teachers, bandmates and children–and a marked absence of work.
Work hard, and play hard. Live long, and prosper.