Living in the Fast Lane

I'm honored to have Frank Sonnenberg guest post an excerpt of his Must Read book, BOOKSMART - which you have to get. See Frank's bio at the end of the post and again, get the book - it will change how you think, lead, behave, live. 

Living in the Fast Lane

In today’s wonderful world of time-saving technologies, you’d think we’d be beneficiaries of an improved quality of life. More time for friends and family, more time to pursue personal interests, and more time to follow our dreams.

Wrong!

Despite these continuing advances, time saved has become time filled. Bombarded with added responsibilities, working families are faced with greater demands and obligations, increased stress levels, and tough choices to make between personal and professional commitments. In many cases, instead of living life to the fullest, we’re living life on the edge — cramming as much as we can into a day, scrambling to get ahead, and running rampant on what sometimes seems to be a never-ending pursuit of the almighty buck.

This is life now that hyper-speed Internet communication has connected us to the demands of a hyper-speed world. One where tomorrow is not good enough for answers needed today. One where the pace of life that we once knew has changed forevermore, slamming us into high gear — full rev…with no time for idling. And often, no time for breathing.

Too often, our “must-do” lists do not include doing something for ourselves. Like hamsters, we live on a non-stop treadmill running pointlessly to nowhere, as moments pass us by. The scene of the “Norman Rockwell family” gathered together around the table has, in many instances, been replaced with that of working parents struggling to make ends meet. And children are being raised by others while we embrace a frantic daily work ritual. In short, we are becoming “absentee parents,” losing opportunities to spend quality time with our children.

This is life.

Or, perhaps better stated…this is life?

Sadly, we are losing the priceless things that we once treasured. An extra hour or two to putter around the house, the joy of watching a child’s first steps, or taking time to make our favorite chocolate chip cookies from scratch using grandma’s recipe. And — home-cooked meals? Who has the time?

Today, those home-cooked meals we once enjoyed have been replaced by take-out dinners or a quick stop at the drive-through window. Family meals around the table have been reduced to grabbing a bite with anyone who happens to be home at the time, rather than “being a family” at least once during the day. Family conversations are fast disappearing, and what once was quality family time has now evolved to a drone-like fixation on a mega-sized TV screen, fighting for possession of the remote.

Even those special occasions we once anticipated and celebrated have been reduced in significance. For example, many holidays have become over-commercialized, and we find ourselves looking at them as “days off,” rather than pausing to reflect on their true meaning and sharing them as a family, as a community, and as a united nation. And the care and time once spent thinking about buying, or making, just the right gift has, in many cases, been replaced with gift certificates — that is, if we can remember the occasion in the first place. These pleasures are often lost in the blur of living life in the fast lane, gone because we fail to hit the pause button and put our lives back into perspective. In many cases, we’re becoming worker ants with tunnel vision.

The sobering fact is that there will come a point in time when we sit back, or more likely collapse in exhaustion, wondering what we’ve gained from this frenetic race called life. And in those moments of retrospection, will we really regret that missed promotion, the rejected proposal, or not being able to buy the bigger house? Or will we ponder our failed relationships — the feelings left unshared with someone we love, or the precious time lost with our children? Sadder yet, will we find ourselves living in a society where future generations accept these values as the norm?

Attention, Fellow Homo sapiens!

This is your wake-up call before it’s too late — the early warning signal to get a perspective on the things that matter.

Make time for yourself — if only just a few minutes — to reflect and regain some perspective — where you can redirect, realign, and realize a better, more rewarding life.

As authors, we find that we, too, are very much a part of this hyper-speed lifestyle that we’re all living. We’re no better than the next hardworking parent or individual trying to keep it all together. But, in our quieter moments, we do realize that there is a need to slow down…to put on the brakes and consider those values that are most important in life.

So take a moment to replenish your energies, re-establish your priorities, and re-introduce yourself to those things you once held close to your heart. There’s more to life than increasing its speed.

This is excerpted from BOOKSMART: Hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happiness By Frank Sonnenberg © 2016 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.

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Frank Sonnenberg is an award-winning author. He has written six books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of “America's Top 100 Thought Leaders” and one of America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts. Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs” and among the "Top 100 Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs." Frank’s newest book BOOKSMART: Hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happiness, was released November, 2016

I'm Standing Up, Not Leaning!

I don’t lean in, lean out, lean sideways, lean back…I stand up straight.  As a kid, my parents kept telling me to stand up straight and strong.  It created an aura of confidence, self-assurance, and supposedly, it was better for your back.  In fact, we now know that standing strong can actually change your mood and confidence.

Perhaps because I’m short (5’ 1” on my driver’s license), I’ve always stood straight, because I had to.  And I became tall – not in the physical sense, but intellectually, emotionally and professionally.  Throughout my career, I never felt discriminated against because of my gender.  Even after I had children, I never felt the need to do anything but stand up straight.

That’s why I have trouble with Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. What I find missing in much of the Lean In discussion is the joy of parenthood.  I didn’t “hear” any joy of being a mom, wife or even executive.  Children are not tactics or tasks to check off a to-do-list.  I’ve found being a mom an incredible privilege, responsibility, and indescribable joy.  Admittedly, I’ve had a charmed career path that I worked hard at, very hard, and built the credibility to ask, and get, what I wanted.  Having children and enjoying them, relishing in and with them, has been key to my success. 

I waited to have children.  Most of my friends and colleagues thought it was because of my fancy career.  They were wrong.  I waited til I became closer to being a mom I’d want, especially since my mother was, yes really, the perfect mother for me.  I didn’t want to inflict myself on a child when I wouldn’t even want myself as a mom.  Having children has taught me so much about myself, about motivating the behavior you want to see, about managing and freeing people and the illusion (delusion?) of control.  Being a mom has matured me into a better human being. My children didn’t hold me back, they propelled me forward…and made me redefine and want different things out of my career.  They have helped me define success and impact.

My stay-at-home mom unwittingly taught me about being a ‘career woman’.  She taught me the value of diverse thinking, of integrating art, music, science, and literature to look at the world differently (#STEAM 50 years ago), to create and recombine ideas.  She taught me how to criticize without being critical, without even realizing I’d been criticized, and therefore motivated to change.  She taught me how to prioritize what really and truly mattered.  She taught me that relationships matter more than stuff.  She taught me how to ‘present’ myself in public.  She taught me to stand straight.

Sheryl’s path, my path, your path, isn’t prescriptive.  And, as Stew Friedman points out, we all need options – to be professionals, parents, spouses, siblings, children.   We need to stop using words like Leaning In, Leaning Out and just be ourselves.  This may be idealistic, but if we don’t put it out there, we won’t aim for it.   Our world (and I firmly believe the fabulous Millennials will force this) needs to encourage and enable diversity of work styles, not just thoughts, gender, race, creed.  There are times that our work requires us to be front and center, but if it’s always the case, we end up being less than productive for our work and our families.

The Generation Xers are the transition between moms who stayed home and moms who worked.  Most of our role models are our moms who mainly stayed home, if we were privileged to be in that socio-economic position.  We are presented with a plethora of options that we still struggle to justify and judge.  I hope that our Gen-Y ‘kids’ – both women and men – will have an easier time defining their roles for themselves and their own relationships.  Our world, our work, our communities and our homes need them to.  We need to stop requiring ourselves and others to lean in or lean up – and instead, encourage and support standing up straight.  And it starts with us – with each of us.

A version of this was originally published in Switch and Shift as "Standing Up Against Leaning In"

BOLD: Do Your Behaviors Belie Your Beliefs?

My contribution to Switch and Shift's BOLD series - just up my alley!!!

"At one level, it’s a matter of faith.  At another level, it’s a risk-reward analysis.  In all the situations I faced, the risk of compromising belief far outweighed the reward of any compromised behavior.  At the end of the day, if I didn’t have my integrity, what did I have? At the end of the day, what was the worst thing the company could do to me? Fire me!" read on.....