I did the run/walk to the back of the office in search of our IT Tech, arms full of archived issues, heavy hard-bound volumes stacked to my chin.
“Can you pull these images for print from the volumes I’ve marked?” I asked trying to flip open the top volume to show him what I needed. He’s a sixty-year-old man of few words, lengthy pauses, and uncommon brilliance. He took the volumes in slow motion, nodded once and turned the pages with a grunt of acceptance. It’s deadline week, which in the publishing industry means everything gets reworked down to the last minute.
“It’s for an article we’re running in this issue,” I said with a tone of urgency.
“Ya, I can do that,” he responded, “I just have to…” his voice trailed, while I nodded rapidly, hoping to alter the cadence of his explanation. Shifting my weight, balancing the volumes on my other hip, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure the publisher wasn’t heading my way with another issue change.
“You know, back when I first got started…” He launched into a story about the history of processing photos, and how, in the last three decades, he’s watched his department dwindle from 30 people, to himself alone. This man of few words, normally removed from everyday conversation, just kept talking, while I stood there trying to find my exit. Irritation radiated off me as his progress slowed, heavy laden with details I didn’t need to know.
The office was a swirl of sharp conversations, and hurried footsteps, and ‘will someone answer that damn phone.’ It hit me like a splash of cold water to the face, he was sharing a part of his story. They say you can read my face like a book, and I was ashamed of the page he was seeing; as I stood face to face with one of those inconsequential moments that can define you. What if in staying 10 steps ahead of the competition, I’m also five steps away from my community?
So I sat down on the gray carpet at his feet, in the middle of the computers and scanners, barricaded by manila folders stacked high, and the hum of commercial printers. He talked while he scanned and manipulated images from those bound volumes. He told me stories of what the industry once looked like and the man hours required to create a single page. It’s a novelty in and of itself, the changes his generation has seen in a lifetime: from the novelty of in-home televisions to the commonality of Netflix, from laying type by hand to Google Docs. I sat and listened. The world didn’t fall off it’s axis, and my work ethic wasn’t compromised; deadlines were met and the issue got to the printer in time.
In a culture that glamorizes the hustle and the grind, the dream chaser and the goal getter — are we brushing past the people in our lives? If in the end we’ve conquered the world but not made it better, did we do our job?
Our society encourages the idea that stress equates success. It values input over output, while disregarding what we know to be true: we’re designed for community. It’s essential to our personal, societal and economic well being. We’ve never been more connected, or more easily accessible, and yet the greatest social epidemic in American life is loneliness.
If Brene Brown, who once said: “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives,” is right, then where are we finding it? And who’s making time for it? Between our to-do lists, noise-canceling headphones, and the inevitable caffeine crash at the end of the day, we’re left with enough energy to watch Friends but not make them. Community takes time, while hustle hogs it; and burnout leads to bridges burned.
Please know this sweet girl, that whatever you think will be lost by making time for people will be made back tenfold. When we invest in others we fill their account as well as our own.
Because no matter what the career articles say, Roosevelt said it best: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Those few minutes with a man of few words changed everything. By making him a priority over my to-do list, he made me a priority over his. My computer was the first one fixed, and my projects were the first completed.
The simple act of being fully present, has the ability to create loyal customers, effective partnerships, and countless opportunities that wouldn’t exist with hustling alone.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”― Maya Angelou. If time is money then this is where we should be banking.
Being a Girl Boss is as much dream chasing as it is being aware of the people standing next to you. We can either be the kind of women who people take their breaks with or who people take their breaks from. We can be the kind of bosses who make people feel heard or hurried. At the end of the day if no one can rest with you, no one has the energy to celebrate with you either.
Let’s be the kind of women who hand out umbrellas while they’re shattering glass ceilings.