One of those days

imageShortly after I started working, Jimmy Buffett released “Son of a Son of a Sailor” and gave me a song to live by. The song, “A Cowboy in the Jungle” wasn’t one of the big hit singles off that album, but it has been one of my favorites since the first time I heard the chorus.

“We’ve gotta roll with the punches
Learn to play all of our hunches
Make the best of whatever comes your way
Forget that blind ambition
And learn to trust your intuition
Plowin’ straight ahead come what may”

The sentiment wasn’t new to me, but to hear it in a song validated the approach I had been taking in my life. Given that I had opted for a career in systems development and information management, being able to “roll with the punches” seemed like a worthy goal.

Recently, a day in the office reminded me of that goal and sent me scurrying to YouTube for the link I included above. The story starts pretty early.

I was on my way to work and I was thinking about all the things I had to do, so I decided to stop for breakfast at Maddie’s. Part of me wanted to delay the start of challenging day. Part of me figured that breakfast would make me feel better and that eating a substantial breakfast would allow me to skip lunch. Working straight through the day would help me make progress on the complex project waiting for me on my desk.

“Coffee ?”

“Yeah, I guess”

“You don’t have to have coffee if you don’t want it.”

“I’m sorry. I’m getting food to go. I probably won’t finish it but it’s hard to pass up good coffee at 6:20.”

After the order was ready, the waitress looked at my half full coffee cup and asked:

“Would you like me to pour that into a to-go cup?”

“That would be sweet. “

“You know what, let me top this off. I’ll leave you some room for milk?”

My day was off to a great start. Once I got to my office, but before I could finish that bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, my day was upside down. Issues came via email, a phone call and a visitor – all before the time I am actually supposed to begin working. The complex project I had hoped to work on had to be set aside so I could deal with other things. It was time to roll with the punches.

Rolling with the punches took me from graduate school in Pittsburgh to a programming job outside of New York City. A chance interview while on vacation in Washington State led me to Seattle. A job search after being laid-off in Seattle brought me Hartford, CT. Hunches were played. Good decisions proved to be flawed but I tried to make the best of everything that came along.

Thanks for the good advice Jimmy.

The best bit of advice though is in the last two lines of the chorus:

“…learn to trust your intuition
Plowin’ straight ahead come what may

My intuition hasn’t always been the best guide, but coupled with the last line, things have almost always worked out well. Of course, it’s helped that I’ve learned to also trust my wife’s intuition. “Learned to trust” might be giving me more credit than I deserve. Let’s just say that she has had some insights into things that have proven to be valuable and that I have recognized that value. Let’s not talk about whether I recognized the value before or after it was proven.

The other lesson that I’ve learned was illustrated by the waitress at Maddie’s.:

“You never know what might turn out to be the best part of your day, so recognize everyone who does something nice for you.”

When the best part of your day happens before 6:30 am, you’ve had a certifiably bad day. On the other hand, it’s better than a day in which no good thing happens. Without trying to summon the spirit of Tevye, on the other hand, when the nicest thing in your day comes just as it ends; it’s quite the special feeling.

A few weeks ago, I was in Washington, DC for a series of meetings. imageThe days were long, and even though I enjoy being with the people at those meetings, I was ready for each day to be over before it was. On the longest day, I returned to my hotel room, only to discover that the housekeeper had not only done all the normal things, but she had straightened out the pile of stuff I had left in the chair. Before going to bed, I wrote her a note and placed a larger-than-normal tip next to it. That was the nicest thing that had happened to me that day.

21 thoughts on “One of those days

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  1. I love the way you write, Dan, and the way you think. I’m glad you listen to your wife, because women usually have it over men in the intutition department. Listening to the “voice” even when it does not make sense, is not easy for a man to do, who needs structure, a PLAN. I too have learned to appreciate the beauty in life, especially in a day gone sour. GREAT post, Dan! Love, Amy

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    1. Thanks Amy. I’m still working on trusting my wife’s intuition when it seems to be in conflict with “the logical outcome” but she is right more often than not. Thanks for the kind comment.

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      1. Hehehehehehe I laugh due to the fact, I am married to one who always insists “BUT how do you KNOW?” and I see the vein bulging on his forehead when I say, “I don’t know, I just do.” And I do. I frustrate him … he is the logic in spades. You would think being married 30+ years the man would finally catch on um, yep, my wife knows. (smile) And you are SO welcome for my comment. You deserve it and so much more, Dan. Love, Amy

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          1. I am laughing SO hard it is NOT funny. When are you guys just going to get it that women are “wired” differently and that our “hunches” are usually (99.9999999%) right? OMG! I am laughing uncontrollably! Unbelievable!

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  2. I really enjoyed your train of thought in this, it had me holding on though, because you really do roll with the punches and change directions often. I am so glad you have had a great and unique path from one area of the country to another. I like that you notice the details and the kindnesses of workers. I leave tips in lots of places that others don’t. It makes me feel good, since I have been on the receiving end before… You are an interesting writer, don’t sound like a programmer. Was married to one, so I sort of have a ‘stereotype’ in my head about them. Sorry about that! I have followed and ‘liked’ your stories, but maybe have to comment more often! Smiles, Robin

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    1. Thanks for the comment Robin. I try to maintain a train of thought but sometimes it wanders off the tracks. I don’t mind not fitting the programmer mold too well. But, programming is a language skill, and I’ve found that the best way to understand what people need from systems is to understand their stories and to be able to tell them to others. So, in a strange way, my programming career kept the juices flowing. I look forward your comments and I am enjoying your blog too. Thanks again, Dan

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  3. Another great read here, Dan! I suppose by now you are going with your wife’s intuition if not all, most things. Sometimes when our days don’t go as planned, even pressing the restart button won’t help. You’ve just got to roll with the punches, as you’ve been doing so well. Your note to the housekeeper must have made her day! It was good of you to take the time (after a harrowing day) to give her the gift of a written message and a larger than normal tip. You’re definitely a bucket-filler!

    Have a great day:)

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  4. I’m not too familiar with Jimmy Buffett’s songs (ask me about Bruce Springsteen!) so I won’t comment on this specific song, but I totally agree with your words about intuition and nice things. Following our inner instinct sounds cliché, but whenever I have ignored what my intuition was telling me all along I’ve only met trouble. And nice things such as what the waitress at Maddie’s did for you go a long way. For the last two years I started to give holiday or thank you cards to people I meet on a regular basis but aren’t “friends,” like hairstylist, waiters… And hotel housekeepers, too.
    Even if they get paid for a certain task, people who do extra things for us deserve our gratitude and yes, an extra tip is a great idea. Love your post!

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    1. It’s funny that you mention the holiday cards. We stopped sending cards to the big long list of people when our daughter was in college but we still give them to the people like you mention. It’s just a nice way of saying thanks for those little extra things.

      BTW, in Springsteen terms, “Son of a Son of a Sailor” came out about the same time as “Darkness on the Edge of Town” – a great time for music. Thanks, as always for taking the time to comment.

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  5. Beautiful sentiment in this post Dan, and a timely reminder.

    I’ve just finished up a season of managing a junior thunder football team (well 2 actually, Un9’s and Un11’s) who’d have thought organising football matches for kids would be so much hard work!! Working with children clearances, writing policies, sourcing coaches, uniforms and who’s gonna cut the oranges!? – Then there’s the fundraising.

    There were MANY MANY times I was feeling swamped with the additional work and wanted to throw in the towel (or hide under my desk and rock back and forth).I kept telling myself. ‘Tony Robbins says… something has to be hard something else to feel like you have achieved something, and something, something.. blah blah blah.

    I’ll happily take ‘“…learn to trust your intuition
    Plowin’ straight ahead come what may”’

    Plowing straight ahead – so much easier.

    Just Do It.. lol

    and yes, appreciate the people and the small things that bring you joy in the process!

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    1. Thanks. I can’t imagine organizing sports today. Who’s going to cut the oranges indeed. My dad coached little league baseball. If they won, he took them for ice cream.

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      1. I wish I took my little ones out for ice cream.

        Instead I engraved 30 medals, designed and laminated personal certificates, made 60 Rainbow jelly cups, organised cakes, and snacks and water filled balloons and took them all to the park for scratch matches for 3 hours. lol

        Then there’s the framed certificates for all the sponsors and the helpers, and the gifts and the thank you speeches…. and.. and… Falls flat on my face in reflected exhaustion*

        I bet those kids would have been happy with just ice cream

        Funny how we make everything so much more complicated than it has to be.

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