I must have a genetic predisposition because I come from a long line of workaholics. Last year, someone at work chastised me for working too much and said that I would regret it someday. He said, “no one lying on their death bed wishes that they had worked more.” I replied that he should meet my family.
I thought of my great-great grandpa Clarence Crowley who walked to work every day. When he was 86, he one day didn't feel well and came home early from work. So he went to bed and then died the next morning. He’s a family hero because he never missed a full day of work. In his whole career, he only missed one half day….and it was because he died. There’s someone who didn't have to leave this life worrying that he could have worked more.
I saw a TV show once where some FBI agents complain about the early meeting their Mormon boss makes them attend. One of them says that, from a Mormon’s point of view, you “wear down the enemy by waking up earlier than they do.”
So this is part of who I am. I work. And when I take “vacation time,” it’s so that I can stay in my home office and catch up on work. My perfect Saturday is filled with yard work. And when I relax on Sunday, it’s by doing church work.
It can be a little much. And sometimes it’s work just for work’s sake. I’m prone to spend too much time on worthless projects or take over other people’s tasks just to keep myself busy. Once I landed in a far corner of the territory I cover and realized I had no reason to be there. I had no meetings there. No one knew I was coming. There was nothing I could get done there that couldn’t be done more easily from home. I realized I had traveled there only because it sounded difficult and inconvenient to do so. That’s pretty dumb.
All the work can also be a huge distraction from important parts of life that shouldn’t be missed. The truth is that I might someday lie on my deathbed and have regrets about things other than how much more work I could have done.
President Dieter Uchtdorf spoke on this recently. He indicated that, in his observation, the single biggest regret people had at the end of their lives was that they hadn’t spent more time with the people they loved. And I do worry about that.
About two years ago, I started making a concerted effort to connect more with people and to stay in better touch with my closest friends and family. I began using Sundays as my day that I called siblings to keep in touch. Sometimes I’d also schedule group calls where everyone joined in on a single call-in line. What a joy this has been! I’m closer now with my siblings and parents than I’ve ever been. I know what’s going on in their lives and they don’t hesitate to call me if they need to bounce an idea off me or to discuss challenges they are working through.
I’ve also tried hard to be more in tune with the Holy Ghost and to look for guidance on connecting with people. These experiences have been really mixed. In a few cases, I’ve felt strongly that I needed to contact someone and apologize for having been rotten to them when I was young, dumb, and incredibly jerky. Those have been cathartic experiences for me. I’ve written long letters to people. I’ve called people. And I’ve even caught a couple in person. In general, people have been pleasant and gracious. But a few have not responded at all. And a couple have seemed to be worried I’m a stalker.
In other cases, I’ve just felt a strong inspiration to rekindle an old friendship or reconnect with someone that I’ve not talked to in several years. These have been my best experiences. And I’ve been grateful for them over and over again. In some cases, I’ve been startled by how grateful I am for the impulse I had to connect and the time I took to do so.
One such case was last April. I began to feel strongly that I should contact an old acquaintance. To be honest, he’s not someone I knew particularly well. I’d only met him three or four times total in my life. But he was one of those unique and incredible people that you immediately admire and connect with. Despite having a long list of impressive accomplishments, he was open and loving and gracious and humble. He’s one of those people who always makes the other person in the conversation seem more interesting than himself.
I sent this friend a message on Facebook and he messaged me back. We called and missed each other back and forth. Then finally, about two weeks later, he called me in the middle of a busy work day while I was visiting one of my out-of-state teams that really needed my time and attention. I thought about not answering, but the feeling was still strong, so I answered.
We talked for well over an hour and it was wonderful. We caught each other up on life. We talked about considerable challenges we were both facing. And we expressed a lot of love and admiration for each other. A few days later, he sent me a brief message thanking me for reconnecting and ended the note with, “Love you brother.”
Last week, that friend of mine died in a terrible car accident. I’ve thought over and over again how glad I was that he and I had a chance to talk at length and to send a few messages to each other in the past few months. I’ve read and re-read his final note to me with the “Love you brother” ending. I’m so grateful it’s there for me to read. And I’m so glad I don’t have to regret not having called him when I felt compelled to do so.
This weekend my sister showed up in town without a lot of notice or plans. It had been a long, busy week for her and she just wanted to see family. So before she had a chance to talk herself out of it, she put the kids in the car and drove 6 hours to Boise.
So I was relieved and happy when I heard she was here. It was an immediate reminder to me that I need to break away from work sometimes and spend time with the friends and family I love.
She and her kids came over in the afternoon, along with my Dad. We had a fantastic dinner together. We went for a drive. And, since my nephew remembers me as the “guy who throws powder at the fire,” we had our first backyard fire of 2015, complete with coffee-creamer fireballs.
And, although I know it’s sure to be very busy week, I’m going to start every day with a prayer that I’ll remember to take some time out to spend with the people I love.