Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Breakfast Food For Thought

Knowing that it’ll only be a couple of more weeks that I make a daily trek in to Toronto makes me pause a bit to consider some of the small things that I’ve often taken for granted since I started the commute back in 1999.

Among them are things that define the true character of a city, IMHO, such as watching the different parking lots get converted into condos that very quickly rise up into the skyline, the regular cast of commuters and homeless people who I share the “street-stage” with every day but whose names and real stories I’ll never know, the changing billboards up high and the handbills stapled or taped to lamp posts and on buildings, the evening call of the scalpers offering up “Leaf tickets” or “Jay tickets” (“who’s buying or selling?”), watching various restaurants and businesses open and then close, walking through countless movie and television show setups, and of course, glancing up at the CN Tower as I walk under its shadow, still feeling like a little kid marveling at its wonder.

But one of the things I think that I’ll miss greatly is a relatively new “tradition” -- my good buddy and lifelong friend, Greg Roberts (pause here for commercial break -- check out his awesome photography skills at both his regular website and here) works just a few blocks away from me. We bumped into each other a few times on our way from Union Station to work, and the conversation was great but always too short. So about a month ago, we agreed to meet on a Wednesday for breakfast. And we’ve only done it a few times since, but informally planned to make it a twice monthly event.

I’ll miss that. Greg is a lot of fun and the conversation is always interesting and diverse. And I continually find myself deriving wonderful pearls of wisdom from him. For example, a recent bit of advice he gave me was in regards to working excessive uncompensated overtime.

In a nutshell, overtime, particularly overtime where there is no extra pay nor any time off in lieu, is a pretty standard necessity to get certain projects and tasks done. Sometimes you just need to put that extra effort, that extra time into getting the job done. And that’s fine. But when overtime becomes a regular thing, a day in day out personal life-killing thing, consider this: Unless you work for a charity or a charitable cause, the excessive time and effort you’re giving to the workplace is being used to line someone else’s pocket.

My initial response to this, of course, was, but I love the place where I work, I want to see it succeed, the team I work with is spectacular, I can’t let them down.

Greg smiled in that way he does that lets you know he gets it and was expecting that response, and he said that’s what they’re counting on. Many of the team members often feel similarly and can get caught in that mind-set. But at the end of the day, unless it’s some sort of short-lived “let’s all pitch in and get this done for the good of the team” if you’re always sprinting at full speed, always giving 200% and doing the work of two people, you’re actually cheating the company out of realizing the actual resources likely required to get the task done, and only setting yourself up to be worked to death. And you’re ultimately giving your own time and energy (time better spent nurturing relationships with friends and family) to a non-charitable organization’s bottom line.

I should end this note by saying that while my buddy Greg is intelligent, wise and earnest, he’s not a cold and bitter person, and that’s not the basis for his advice. He’s actually one of the most generous people I know, and a loving husband, father and friend. He’s the kind of friend you can count on for support and help with little notice -- he has bailed me out of messes and been there when I needed a hand countless times over the years. But that just shows you his wisdom. While he works hard and is a dedicated employee, he invests his extra time and energy into his friends and family. One of the smartest kinds of investors you’ll ever meet.

But I’ll close by borrowing wisdom from Del Griffith, the character that John Candy played in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, who said: “Like your work, love your wife.” But perhaps in this case, I’ll push it further and say: “Go ahead and love your work, but cherish your friends and family.” Thanks Greg. Thanks Del.


Franny said...


lime said...

you know, you captured greg's essence so well you didn't even need to qualify your statement about him not being cold and bitter. he's a wise man and sounds like a rare and special friend. given his sound 'investing principles' i am betting the two of you will find a way to see each other even with your new job. love PT&A too ;)

Rainypete said...

I think Gred and Del are both on the right track. It's like I've been saying to people for years. Your job is to fill your belly and your friends and family are to fill your heart. I don't know about you, but I know which one I'd rahter have empty.

Anonymous said...

Great advice! Greg and Del are brilliant!

.- said...

Del had a lot of good advice -