“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens.” – Aldous Huxley
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
I’d always thought that the letters I wrote to friends, colleagues and business associates were an important way to keep in touch, talk about timely things in our work lives and as a dialogue with people that I don’t have an opportunity to see regularly. I’d thought of these letters as an “important” part of my business life. Unfortunately, as many of you know, my letter writing of late has been interrupted – nonexistent is more like it. The events that cause these interruptions I’m categorizing as “urgent” – you know what I mean – put out this fire, get this project out, answer that email, get stuff done – now!
The problem is that these “urgent” things squeeze out some of the “important” ones.
Over the last few weeks, in light of what happened at Virginia Tech, I’ve been reminded that urgent is not a good substitute for important. And so I am doing one of those things that I had always thought of as important – writing this letter.
The Virginia Tech event, as with some other recent tragedies, began as a localized one – in a small town in an isolated part of Virginia. And while the media swarmed Virginia Tech and Blacksburg, it still had the makings of what might be called a Virginia Tech tragedy, or a in local parlance, a Hokie tragedy. Those of us who attended Virginia Tech were emotionally devastated by the event and did what we could to comfort each other, but it wasn’t entirely clear to me in the days immediately following the shootings that there would be another kind of reaction. But there was. The entire country, in fact, maybe some portion of the whole world, became part of the Hokie Nation. It appeared that nearly every person in this country could see themselves somewhere in this picture.
Our country’s reaction made me proud to be part of a group of people that rises to a crisis, that puts on the mantle of responsibility, that sends comfort and aid, and most importantly becomes like one of those who is suffering. I wonder how many urgent things people have put aside to attend to the truly important ones that came in response to this terrible event. If this kind of support and these acts of comfort and solidarity are truly important, do we always need a tragedy to set aside the urgent?
If not, here’s my challenge: Can we find a way to tend to the important in our lives on a more regular basis?
What is important? I am sure you can make your own list, but here’s the list I am working on:
Pay attention to the balance between work and home
Call my friends from school – the ones that I am always meaning to call
Look for more opportunities to help others
Be a more active mentor at work
Take more time to reflect – stop reacting
Oh…and write more letters.
Not so urgently yours,