PrioritiesThose of you who know me, have likely heard this story.  If you have, you can pretty much stop here.

Let me give you the background on this one.

Back in 2000, I had a project in San Francisco.  Yes, I can certainly think of worse places to be stationed for work.  For some unknown reason the way the project was written, the containment for costs was paramount.  So what this meant to me is that I would fly in on the Monday, I would have to stay the entire week and weekend and then leave the following Thursday.  So in effect I was there for a full 11 days.  I was provided an apartment, it was a crappy postage stamp sized place that had a Murphy bed, and its proximity to the Bay Bridge, nearly made me go deaf.  Even with the windows closed, I couldn’t escape the constant din of road noise.  And with no AC, I had to have the windows open.

The project work was ok, but nothing that made me jump up and say Hurrah !  Those of you that know me, know that I’m usually fairly jovial at most times.  So I came in one Monday morning to start my 11 day stint.  My project manager came by and said Good Morning to me, I replied the same.  About 30 minutes later, I was called to his office.

He said to me “What’s wrong ?”  I had only said good morning to him, I didn’t think that I was conveying any message that would say “I have a problem”.  I told him that nothing was wrong and then he proceeded to tell me that he thought I was lying, and that he seriously thought that something was wrong.  I told him about some of my woes, like being there for 11 days.  His response to me was “I think you should leave and go home…”  Woah !  What ??? I didn’t think that my comments required this level of response.  The only thing I could think to say was “Pardon ?”  He iterated that if there was a problem at home then I should leave.  I was getting confused by this message.  I didn’t think that I conveyed the message that I needed to be at home…. The next thing I know I’m defending myself from potentially being forced to leave.  How did this go so wrong from a simple “Good Morning” ?  I’m thinking that this conversation is seriously going side-ways.

Then he said to me… “I have three priorities in my life, and I expect you to live by them”.   WHAT??  I must have had the look of, ‘You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, right ?’  He walked up to his whiteboard and wrote the following:

1) Health

2) Family/Friends

3) Work.

He said “Do you know why these are the priorities ?”

I responded with a smart-ass response of “No, but I have a feeling that’s what I’m going to be told next”

“Correct.   Health, both mental and physical, the reason why its first on the list, is that you need to take care of yourself.  You can be surrounded by wonderful friends and family.  However if you aren’t healthy, it’s almost irrelevant.  You could have the best job in the world, but it won’t matter, because you won’t be well enough to work at it.”   “Second Family/Friends, if your family life or your friend situation is in shambles, then work becomes secondary.  That fantastic job that you have won’t really mean anything. ”  “And that’s why work is last on the list”

He then said to me. “Do you understand the priority list ?”  I replied that I did.  He said “I’ll ask you one more time, do you think you need to go home ?”  I said “Nope”, I half-heartedly thanked him and I walked out of his office.

I don’t think that I realized it at the time, but this was one of the most valuable lessons I have ever had.  The simplicity in the list is what stuck with me.  I love the fact that I can go back to these 3 simple concepts and it puts it all into perspective.   I feel very fortunate that someone took me aside to show me this, and even though the method seemed a bit harsh at the time, I’m thinking that it’s exactly the method I needed it to be in to have an impact on my life.   My only regret is that I haven’t ever maintained contact with the Project Manager who showed me this.

So answer me this… Do you have a priority list ?  You are welcome to this one.  You are welcome to build your own, but I encourage you to have one, just make sure it works for you.


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