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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A Working Life: New Q&A Series

Work Life Balance Michelle Chahine Sinno Mornings With Minjay

 

I started this blog last summer as I was contemplating the challenge of work-life balance. I wanted to push myself not to get lost in “the haze,” the feeling that days and weeks go by as you go to and from work, rushing everywhere, and you just don’t know how all the time slipped away. I know a lot of people experience this phenomenon. I also knew back then that that the only way to fight it was to make the “life” part as mandatory as the “work” part. We have to show up to our jobs and meet commitments. So, I wanted to make commitments to myself: take time to eat well, cook, enjoy my home, enjoy walks with my dog, stay connected to family and friends, travel, read, and do other things that made my life fulfilling and complete.

That’s what balance means to me. It’s not about lofty, ethereal (usually unattainable) goals. It’s not about doing or having it all. It’s about making sure there’s more to life than work and career goals. It’s about making sure I start my day with a slow dog walk, end it with slow food, or a fun project like organizing my photographs, or a good book or movie, or a nice night out with my husband… It’s about taking the time to plan ahead: plan fun things for the weekends, plan trips to see friends.

And I found that by taking time to make time, I really did have more time.

It also allowed me to hone in on my own passion and purpose in my daily work, and act accordingly. The “work” part of “work-life balance” is just as important to me. It’s about using my days in a meaningful way, working towards bigger goals, doing cool and creative things that make a difference.

As I began to be conscious about experimenting with work-life balance, I also began to notice that we’re all going through similar small daily struggles to figure out the same things: how to live a passionate, creative life doing great work, while also being about more than that. How to be there for family, our communities and ourselves. There are so many people in the Los Angeles area, where I live, that have careers I admire from a distance–usually from across a screen (Twitter, Instagram, etc.). I wanted to get to know them, learn what “work-life balance” means to them, and make this blog about more than my own experiments. I want to make this a place to learn from others too.

For some reason, success is often associated with fame and wealth, but I find there are so many “real” people, who aren’t on covers of magazines, that are doing cool things that inspire me, and I’m on a mission to find them in my city, and other cities, and have a cup of coffee with them as often as possible (some of the Q&A’s will be done via email if geography, or LA highways, get in the way).

 

I hope this Q&A series resonates with lots of people. Stay tuned for the first post next Wednesday, and every Wednesday after that.

I also hope you’ll share your own thoughts in the comments section below. Now tell me, what does “work-life balance” mean to you?