I’m showing my age here, but there is an old country song performed by the late Tennessee Ernie Ford titled “Sixteen Tons.” The song is about a miserable coal miner who could never seem to get ahead no matter how much Number 9 coal he could haul out of the mine.
The chorus went like this:
“You haul Sixteen Tons, whadaya get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store.”
We could update that song now and call it “Sixteen Hours”. For many, it seems that no matter how hard or how long we work we still end up owing our soul to the company we work for or the profession we have chosen.
Now with iPhones, Droids, email, and Internet networks we can extend our work to every moment of our lives no matter where we may be. Last week I called a client and she answered her phone in Orlando. She said she couldn’t talk for long because she was in line for the Jungle Cruise at Disney World and was about to board.
Well excuse me! Why did she even answer the phone? Wasn’t she on vacation? Yes she was but she thought I might be one of her clients and she didn’t want to miss the chance for more business!
Been to a little league ball game lately or to the waiting room for a dance class? Look around and you’ll see moms and dads on their SmartPhones swiping their finger back and forth, checking email, making business calls and surfing the web while allegedly watching their kids play baseball!
More than anything or anyone else, we allow our business to invade our lives. No one in our family is as important as our clients, our vendors, our co-workers, our managers/bosses/employers, and even our competitors. We allow them to interrupt family meals, steal us away from family gatherings, schedule us in other cities on important anniversaries, and compel us to come in to work early and stay late.
There’s no question that we live and work in a highly competitive world, and that company loyalty is good, but the way we let our profession/job/company control our schedule, steal our time, and invade our family leaves us exhausted and befuddled.
So we willingly work long days at the office, spend isolated hours in airports, and put our company or profession before our mate and children. Then, at the end of our “16 Hours” whada we get? Another day older and deeper in debt and farther removed from the really important people in our lives – our wives/husbands/children/parents/friends.
But what else are we supposed to do? How do we tell our boss “NO” or our client “my kid’s playing soccer” or our project manager “I can’t, it’s our wedding anniversary!”
Of all the reasons we allow people into our lives, perhaps this is the area over which we feel the least control. We think our job or profession is more important than anything or anybody on earth. We believe that it cannot function without us; that the whole thing depends on our personal presence. Either that or we’re scared to death that it can function really quite well without us and we don’t want anyone to find out!
We end up running as fast as we can chasing the wind and never catching anything much more than a little more stress for today than we had yesterday.
If I’ve described you, it’s time to stop letting everyone else run your life. Find out who and what are truly important to you; then give them the best that you have to offer.