Lessons From Minjay, No. 1: Stay Out and Walk. Who Cares If You’re 7 Minutes Late?

American Sweetgum Trees Santa Monica

This blog was inspired by my mornings with Minjay, my yellow lab who turns six years old this month. I first came up with the idea before he was even one year old. As is often the case, time passed, years passed, before I did anything with it.

Last summer, I dove in and decided to start the blog, getting rid of all excuses. I decided to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I am so glad I started it then and started to share the world Minjay opened up to me.

But I want to do more.

A couple of weeks ago, I launched a new Q&A series on this blog that I’ll be sharing often. I’ll also be sharing experiments with work-life balance that I’m trying, or a book I’m reading that is useful in this quest.

And, most importantly, I’ll share one of the many lessons I’ve learned from Minjay over the past few years. I hope to turn these lessons into a book, one day soon, and I feel this blog will be a great way to start to form my ideas and get feedback. It’s also a great way to continue to fight against “letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Saying I want to write essays for a book has been intimidating, but a short blog post is way more manageable. And that’s the first step.

So, even though this whole blog has been lessons from Minjay, I’ll call this my first official post in the series on “Lessons From Minjay:

Stay Out and Walk, Just a Little Bit More. Who Cares if You Aren’t at Work at 9am Sharp? What’s 9am? What’s sharp?

Revelation: Most of the time, the world doesn’t care if I’m 7 minutes late.

Yes, sometimes there are specific meetings I must be on time for, be it work or a dentist appointment. It would be disrespectful not to. If you need to catch a train or plane, 7 minutes do matter. I’m not talking about situations where there is a very specific start time. I’m talking about situations where we create or invent a time we need to be somewhere. When I think back to the majority of times when I was stressed and rushing to get somewhere at a specific time that I had in mind, it was really absolutely unnecessary.

American Sweetgum TreesI learned this on a sidewalk two blocks from my house early last summer. It was a beautiful morning. The American Sweetgum trees that line the streets near my building were a luscious green. We were at the corner, and Minjay was pulling me backward as I tried to lead him forward across the street toward the house.

“Minjay, pleeeease,” I pleaded out loud, “We have to get back home now. I’ll be late.” He refused to move. After being frustrated for a couple of minutes, I realized: He was absolutely right.

I looked at my watch. We weren’t talking about being an hour late. Did 3 minutes really matter? Or 7?  I had done my best to organize my morning, but would it really be so catastrophic if I didn’t arrive to work at 9:30 sharp as I was “supposed” to. Wouldn’t I actually work better, perform better, produce more, if I took in a deep breath, enjoyed the grass and the trees and the fresh morning smells and sounds, and walked home slowly.

I relaxed my grip on his leash, and he walked backward to continue to smell a particularly interesting patch of grass. Then I followed his own pace, which really only took us a few minutes longer than mine would have.

That was when I learned an important lesson about my own hubris: You don’t matter THAT much.

Most of the time (there are certainly exceptions where you really do need to be “on time,” don’t get me wrong–and some jobs do have severe policies, but that is a different blog post altogether regarding how we need to change our workplaces in general), but most of the time, the world simply does NOT care about you rushing from here to there, being stressed, driving aggressively, often even being rude to other people that get in your way.

I think the world and people you work with care a lot more that you are calm, that you appreciate a spring morning, and get to wherever you need to be refreshed, with perspective and without the unnecessary, self-constructed anxiety that helps no one.

That morning, I was exactly 7 minutes “late.” I was at my desk at 9:37 instead of 9:30. Did it ruin my day? Did I not do my job? Quite the contrary. I powered my way through my to-do list and had the best morning in a long time.

This goes to another point, which is how we measure productivity with the minutes and hours spent in front of a computer. We’ve got to figure out, as a society, how to measure it in a different, and more accurate, way.

Yellow labs can help us do that.

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‘Look Up at the Sky…”

Yesterday, I took Minjay downstairs one last time for the night at around 10:30pm. It was a perfectly clear night, and the stars shone brightly against the black sky. They were probably even more visible because last night was a brand new crescent moon.

I thought back to one of our evening walks from a couple of weeks ago, and my post about taking the time to be outside at night.

See, it’s not just about mornings walks with minjay, but nighttime strolls too. Typically, before I had to care for Minjay, I’d finish up with work, errands, working out or going out to dinner with Nadim or friends, and just go inside. Then there’d be the usual unwinding, often including the TV.

Thanks to Minjay, though, I am now forced to go outside every night around 9 or 10, and stand around while he sniffs his way up and down the block. While waiting, my eyes usual wander around, and up. I don’t know why it still surprises me, nearly every night when I take him downstairs and take a breath–often for the first time since the afternoon and evening rush to get things done–that the stars are there. Every night. It’s too easy to forget the wonder and the universe around us in our daily bustle.

Calvin And Hobbes Night Sky

That seems to be a key part of figuring out this work-life balance thing: remembering to look up at the stars every night. It is an important reminder of just how insignificant most of our daily worries are, just how unimportant much of our often self-inflicted stress is. When you’re looking at light that’s billions of light years old, and a reminder of the vastness of the universe… how can you really worry about a phone call you have to make, or an arbitrary deadline you have to meet? This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care about or daily work; quite the opposite, it should inspire us in all we do, and give us a bit of perspective. OK, a lot of perspective.

Which all brought to mind another favorite Dave Matthews Band song that I’ve been humming to myself since last night:

“Look up at the sky
My mouth is open wide, lick and taste
What’s the use in worrying, what’s the use in hurrying
Turn, turn we almost become dizzy”

Dave Matthews Band – Dancing Nancies Lyrics

This morning, fittingly, the first news I heard, or rather read on NYTimes.com, was about scientists discovering a ‘cosmic chirp’ that vindicated Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity 100 years after he came up with it. This was yet another reminder of the mysteries out there, and just how little it matters if we’re stuck in traffic and are a few minute late to a meeting or appointment…

Every word in this sentence from The New York Times is mind-blowing:

Scientists say they heard a ‘cosmic chirp’ of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago.

Great video explaining the discoveries:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004200661

So tonight, and every night, let’s remember to look up at the sky!