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.


Happy Earth Day & National Park Week!

Yosemite Valley National Parks Michelle Chahine Sinno

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Yosemite Valley. Nadim and I drove from San Francisco, through a winding, uphill forest road, passed the park entrance, through a tunnel, and there it was. When we parked the car and stood out at the viewing point, I felt like I had left the planet earth I had known all my life (for twenty-three years) and arrived to a completely different planet. It was incredible to me that this all existed alongside our busy cities and house-filled suburbs, highways and urban parks. This wild land, protected for generations, is one of the greatest things about America.

Today is Earth Day, and it’s also the tail end of National Park week. I thought it would be the perfect time to write a post about visiting the national parks as a key contributor to work-life balance.

Michelle Chahine Sinno National Parks Yosemite Mariposa Grove

Beyond how important our connection with nature is, it’s an issue of perspective. We need to remember our size (& age) relative to places like Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, and things like the Big Trees in California, Oregon and Washington.

Michelle Chahine Sinno Big Trees California National Parks Yosemite

This goes back to the importance of planning weekend getaways, but it’s beyond that. It’s planning wild nature getaways. (Keyword = wild). Most of us can’t always make it out to a national park on a weekly basis, but there are so many of them across all the states, that we can challenge ourselves to go to one once a season, or at least twice a year.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” ~John Muir 

My bucket list is to go to all of the national parks in the United States of America. However, in 2015 I failed to plan a single trip. And I live in California! (California ties with Alaska for being the states with the most national parks, 8) All it would have taken is a little bit of forethought, planning and a two-hour drive. The same rings true for when I was a student in Boston and was so caught up in my life there that I didn’t take the time to plan trips to Acadia National Park. Or when I lived in Manhattan and missed out on all the beauty in upstate New York. Looking back, it wasn’t an issue of time– because we always seem to find time for what’s important. It was an issue of making it a priority.

On this website, you can find all the national parks in your area based on state. Here’s a list of all the parks in the U.S. And I’ve always thought National Geographic does an excellent job with writing, photography, travel itineraries, history and more.

With so many wonders driving-distance to where most of us live, be it national parks here in the U.S., or other places around the world, we are missing out on a key component of life if we don’t explore them.

And preserve them. That is today’s theme after all.

So on that note, Happy Earth Day!

What’s your favorite national park?


Photos taken November 2011.