I have long been an 80-hour-a-week kinda guy. I have been lucky enough to love my work with all my heart whether it was radio, journalism or, now, marketing.
If you analysed my ‘weekends’ for the last 15 years, I think you would struggle to find more than 15 days of purely social time.
This has never really bothered me because I take my work seriously and personally and feel deeply connected to my clients.
I have had bouts of guilt about family time and taken some measures to increase time with them (just replace it with time drawn from later in the evening for work).
But on Saturday I took 83 minutes out of my week to spend time with two dear old friends with whom I had not stopped to be with for almost two years.
I think what I realised today is something important for me and for you, if you are similarly blessed/cursed with a deep love for your work and a drive to achieve. It took me by surprise!
Friends give your life context
The thing that struck me first, when sitting down with my friends, was that there were no expectations upon me.
Because almost all of my ‘social’ interactions for as long as I can remember have had a commercial tint, the atmosphere has always been one in which I have been ‘on’ and being relied upon to share pearls of wisdom or sensible insight amid my quips.
Saturday felt great.
I actually had a taste of Saturday through the week when I was juggling a very stressful set of negotiations. A good old friend shared a story about her son on Facebook (she had told him she didn’t like dobbers and he replied he wasn’t a dobber he was a ‘snitch’) and the notification broke into my day while I happened to be checking emails. It gave me a momentary belly laugh. Those few seconds flushed my system of its stress and I actually found a creative solution to a client’s stressful situation.
Between that moment and Saturday’s rare ‘time out’, I have come to the realisation that it is vital to have time with friends, not just from a ‘human’ perspective but also from a ‘business’ perspective.
It’s okay to be ‘off’
One thing I had noticed within myself in recent years was a resentment and disapproval of people who lived for the weekends.
I have always thought it ‘broken’ when there is a disparity between the person you are at work and the person your are when not at work. For some people the difference between the two ‘thems’ is staggering. And this is made even more tragic when the ‘them’ at work is sadder, angrier or more disenfranchised than the ‘them’ at home.
That is why I have aimed for work/life blending rather than work/life balance.
But this break with the boys helped me understand what it is all about. It was really pleasurable to just stop and toss around ideas, listen to stories and share stories.
For a few minutes, I tasted what it was like to be ‘off work’ and it was enjoyable.
Room for mistakes and missteps
The other insight gained through this 83 minutes was that unlike being in a client/consultant relationship where the client is relying on you to be on the ball the whole time, friends don’t.
With friends, you can just goof off if you need to. You can be off topic, off colour, offside, off with the fairies – it just doesn’t matter. You are ACCEPTED for who you are.
Good friends accommodate your excesses and faults and possibly enjoy them too.
In fact, with friends you can just be. In other words, you can say to yourself, ‘I am’; I am present, I am in the moment, I am respected, I am who I am. Maybe it is through time with friends that we get to define ourselves or at least better understand ourselves.
The public apology and promise
Chris and Brett: Thank you. Thanks for that moment of realisation.
To my other friends, ‘to those of them left’, please accept my apology for being hidden or unavailable. I will make it up to you for all our sakes!
And to my family, there will be more of me more often.
I will still be engaged with my glorious clients but might even be more valuable to them once I have started reconnecting myself to the roots of the stuff that grew Steve Davis.
So I get it now. Finally, I understand what many of you have known for a long time; that time with friends recharges batteries and enlivens your soul, just like those printer cartridge and colour tv commercials, colour can be breathed into the greyest recesses of your personality and memory.
Those 83 minutes were priceless.
Now my challenge is to arrange another 83 minutes in the next 83 days!
What does ‘time with friends’ mean to you and give to you? I would love to know.