When to Play with Your Pistol

When to Play with Your Pistol

There’s an old “Doonesbury” comic strip in which it’s Christmas and Duke, who is theU.S. ambassador to China, is at his desk opening gifts. One of them turns out to be a pistol—maybe an WWII-vintage Luger. As he’s checking it out, looking through the sites, working the action, his assistant, the ever-dour Honey, is nagging him to get to the evening’s state dinner. Finally, Duke whirls around, levels the pistol at her head and shouts, “I want to play with my presents, dammit!”
I feel like that once in a while. You see, I love products. I love gadgets like my Kindle and my ancient Creative Zen Microphoto mp3 player. I love big telecomm products like the DSL services I helped develop a while back. I love working on the multiple web apps I support today. I love the tools in my workshop, the flat screen TV in my den and even the non-stick cookware in my kitchen.
The trouble is, sometimes I grow so fond of the bric-a-brac around me my priorities get completely out of whack. I can get obsessed with the products I’m involved with at work, too, and that also throws life out of kilter.
A few weeks ago. I was in my garage-cum-workshop, sawing away at a bookstand, and really enjoying the jigsaw I was using to cut the outlines and the mortises and the new (!) set of files I was working the rough edges out with. It was a fun job made all the more so by the cool equipment.
I’d been working (well, playing) for about a half hour when my son, who’s almost 10, came in and asked me if I could play, maybe go to the park or something. Without thinking, I said something charming like, “I’m in the middle of something right now.” I turned back to the project, but not quickly enough to miss the crestfallen look on his face. He wandered back inside.
I tried to start sawing again, but my finger just kind of died on the trigger. I love that saw, I thought, but it’s not going anywhere. It’s not going to change, but in a few short years my boy isn’t going to want to hang out with me so much. He is growing and metamorphosing before my very eyes.
The same goes for work, I reflected. How many times had I let my boy do without me, or been only partially present for him, because I was doing something for work thatcould well have waited until the next day, or the next hour?
I put the saw down and went to find my son. We spent a very happy afternoon playing tag and goofing around in the park.
It’s good to work with passion and dedication, and to put in extra time. Those things can lead to excellence. It’s good to play with your toys, too, to relieve your stress and make yourself a well-rounded person. But for those of us who love both playing with and managing the “product stuff” of life, it’s easy to lose balance.
We need to remember what, and who, we are working for, not just what we are workingon. We need to recall what’s more important, toys or people?
You want products? Produce lovehope and charity. Produce good feelings in the people you love and even in the people you don’t. Consciously make relationship management a part of your work plans every week.
 After that, you can play with your new pistol.
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