Shortly 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.
“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. The 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.