This article has little to do with business or marketing. It’s WAY more important than those things.
It’s a 100% true story that happened 10 years ago this month. It’s touching. It’s funny. And it’s about one of the most important life lessons I’ve learned (yet something I still struggle with constantly).
Hope you enjoy it and it’s something you take to heart as we head into the holiday season…
It was Thanksgiving Eve 2003.
At an age when most infants were sleeping soundly through the night, our 9 month old daughter wasn’t.
She’d been suffering from recurring ear infections for 3 long months. She was fine during the day. But at night the pressure would build up in her little ears and every few hours she’d wake up screaming in pain.
My wife and I took shifts going into our daughter’s room each night. The usual drill was: pick her up, calm her down, put her back in her crib and then go back to sleep for a few hours until she’d wake up screaming again.
This went on night after lonnngg night.
It was torture.
On this night, our daughter went to sleep around 8PM. And, after doing some chores, having a snack and watching some TV, I turned in around 11PM.
Not an hour later I was awoken… not by the baby, but by our neighbor’s damn dogs.
They were yappy little things and our neighbors had a bad habit of leaving them outside early in the morning and late at night.
But this night was even worse than normal.
Over the next 2 hours the following pattern repeated itself…
The dogs would bark. There’d be silence for about 5 – 10 minutes. I’d settle down thinking the dogs had finally gone inside, and then, just as I was about to drift off to sleep, the damn dogs would start barking again.
By about 2AM I’d had it. I finally was about to drag myself out of bed, find our neighbor’s phone number and give them a piece of my mind. But just as I was about to move, I heard the unmistakable sound of their back door slamming shut and I knew the dogs were finally inside where they belonged.
Being quite worked by this point, it took me a good 20 or 30 minutes to calm down. And then, just as I felt myself mere seconds away from that elusive slumber, my daughter, who’d been sleeping longer than she had in months, woke up crying.
Now, admittedly, I was not exactly what you would call a happy camper when I had to go in to get my daughter at night. Not that I was upset with her, or anyone else for that matter… I was just generally a bit pissed off at the fact that I wasn’t asleep at 2:30 in the morning, night after sleepless night.
And while my initial reaction on this night was to be generally ticked off, it quickly turned into a sense of humor about the situation. The night was already shot so there was no point getting even more worked up. So I figured I might as well make the best of it.
As I lumbered into my daughter’s room, my thoughts turned to an email I’d received a few days earlier. It was from a friend whose son was about the same age as my daughter. The email included an essay by the author Anna Quindlen entitled, “On Being Mom.”
Even though it was written from a mother’s point of view, its message applies to anyone involved with raising a child. Here’s an excerpt that gets to the heart of the essay and is the part that was running through my mind that night:
“But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”
So a little after 2:30 in the morning I figured, what the hell, let’s take a stab at this living in the moment thing!
I picked my daughter up out of her crib and dropped down into the rocking chair with her in my arms. Almost immediately she stopped crying and fell back to sleep.
Normally I would’ve waited a few minutes, put her back in her crib and gone back to bed. But not this night. On this night I decided to live in the moment.
The room was dark except for a tiny sliver of light escaping from the crack in her closet door where we kept the light on.
In the dim light I studied her tiny little fingers. I studied her precious little face and the funny facial contortions she made in her sleep. I studied the little fuzzy white onesie she was wearing with the three yellow ducks and the words “Quack, Quack, Quack.”
And I took in the nearly complete silence of the early morning. No cars, no planes, no birds, no one walking by outside. Just the low hum of the fan in the other room.
It was just my baby girl and me.
After what seemed like a good 45 minutes, I looked up at the clock on the dresser and it was only 2:45. Barely 15 minutes had passed!
I couldn’t believe it. It seemed living in the moment actually could slow down time.
I can’t tell you how excited I was about this!
I started thinking about how powerful living in the moment is. I thought about how fortunate I was to have discovered this little trick so early on in her life. And I thought maybe, just maybe, by living in the moment more her childhood wouldn’t blow by as quickly as the parents of older children always said it would.
I was so excited and was enjoying my newfound power so much that, despite being dead tired, I decided to stay there with her a little longer.
After what felt like another 20 minutes or so I looked at the clock again.
Still 2:45. WOW!! I thought I must be getting even better with practice.
I actually made time stand still!
But then my overtired brain started to grind a little. Time can’t stand still. Surely at least a few minutes had passed since I last looked at the clock. There’s no way it could still be 2:45.
Thinking my eyes were playing tricks on me, I peered harder through the darkness at the clock sitting on the dresser. It definitely said 2:45. But something didn’t seem right.
After a few moments of staring at the clock, I thought it seemed REALLY quiet in the room. And it was at that point I suddenly realized that the second hand on the clock wasn’t moving.
Time actually was standing still – but it wasn’t because I’d been living in the moment, it was because the batteries in the clock (which we’d gotten as a wedding present 3 years earlier) had just died!
When I realized what was going on I immediately stood up, plopped my daughter back down in her crib, and went to bed.
Now this used to be where the story ended. It was just a funny story I’d share with friends.
However, in the years since that night I’ve come to the following realization…
When I think back over my daughter’s life so far, there are very few memories I can recall so clearly, so vividly and so fondly as this one.
And 10 ridiculously fast years later I can still remember her little duck pajamas, her tiny fingers wrapped around mine, and the joy of sitting there in near darkness and silence holding this precious little girl in my arms.
As entrepreneurs, we can’t always live in the moment. We need to plan, strategize and focus on the future.
But we often get so caught up in looking towards the future, we don’t stop and live in the here and now.
We don’t stop to think about how far we’ve come.
We don’t take time to celebrate the little victories and achievements we have every day.
We don’t take as much time as we should to set work aside, turn off our smartphones, tablets and laptops to enjoy and give our full attention to our friends and families.
So, this holiday season, take some time to live in the moment and fully enjoy what you have.
Doing this may not make time stand still, but it can certainly help you savor some of life’s more important (and even not so important) moments.