Pruning the Tree

My friends, does it seem like life is picking up speed? Wasn't it just Sunday or was it Monday. It seems like my friends at Firehouse.com just posted my latest commentary and here I am again pounding the keys on my faithful desktop computer. What is this...


It was my good fortune to take up a musical instrument when I was in my 40's. It seems as though playing my tuba opened up a whole new direction in my life. It allowed me to take time away from my all-consuming, passionate involvement in the fire service. It allowed me to experience something that is a rare joy. I was allowed to relive parts of my life while at the same time spending precious moments with my children.

For seven years, it was my great fortune to play in school bands right next to my children. It was my choice to be an athlete on my first trip through life back in the 1950's and 1960's. On the next trip through I was in the band. For these seven glorious years I got to relive my life as a member of the band. It was truly a gift from God which allowed me to be so close to my children.

It was also a gift from above which allowed me to meet the talented kids who grooved on life by making music, as well as the dedicated people who motivated and taught them. A great deal of my time was spent bonding with my children. My wife was also a part of the equation. She and I were extremely active members of the Freehold Township High School Music Parents Association. It is up to each of us to use our time wisely.

You and I need to begin limiting our non-family endeavors to the absolute minimum necessary. Perhaps my advice can help you to chart a better course through this life. Let me offer a few suggestions about what it is that I intend to do with my life over the day, weeks, months, and years which lie ahead. Let me offer a style of life that I used to live. Perhaps you will avoid the pitfalls which befell me over the years.

Many have been my successes over the years. However each came with a cost. In my younger years, I felt as though I could do anything that I wanted. My wife accused me of having a "Superman Complex." Perhaps she was right. I wanted to be a part of so many different things that my time was often spent moving from place to place at a relatively high speed.

Many times I would leave Newark after a day shift, travel to teach at a local community college, and then drive on to a meeting in Washington, DC. Many were the times when I operated on two or three hours' sleep. However, I made all of my commitments and was still able to get back home for a bit of time with my young family.

I can remember losing a consulting job because the client demanded a meeting on a night when my wife and I were planning to attend a school band concert. I could barely see my son, let alone hear him. But he knew I was there and that was what really counted. That money would have come at too great a price.

Perhaps I have seen the email too often wherein people on their deathbeds never seem to bemoan the fact that they wish they had spent more time at work. I always suggest to the younger people who ask me for career advice that they need learn how to provide more balance in their lives. Some listen, some do not.

Think about how a day plays out for each of us. There are 24 hours in the day, each and every day. Wouldn't it be nice if we could neatly divide our time into three distinct eight-hour periods? Eight hours would be used for rest and relaxation. Eight hours would be used for work, and eight hours would be devoted to our families and to assisting other people who are having problems.

Unfortunately life is not a neat package. Things are thrown at us and we must react quickly. Please remember it is my hypothesis that an unplanned life can slip away from us far too easily. I am suggesting that each of us take a bit more time for our families and ourselves. There are three phrases which must become a part of our daily vocabulary if we are to take just a modicum of control over our lives. They are not complex words, but their use can have great meaning.

These words are:

I am suggesting that you can start the process of pruning your tree of life by limiting the growth of new limbs. Each of us is busy. We need to take control over our lives. Let me offer an example of how I intend to approach this problem. I currently have a number of commitments to a variety of groups which must be fulfilled. These are commitments I shall continue to honor.