The Cat’s in the Cradle

From the May 2012 Issue.

If you were alive in the 70’s you undoubtedly know this song by Harry Chapin. It’s a wonderful song and one that I think about often. In particular, I think about the story line almost every day and try my darndest to learn from it.

For those of you that don’t know the song or need your memory jogged, the story is about a boy who wants to play catch or do some other activity with his dad, but his Dad is too busy working. As time goes on, the boy gets a job and the Dad retires. The roles are reversed and now the Dad wants to play catch with his son but the son is too busy with his life. It’s a tragic fate that I try to avoid every day.

We all know that “life is what happens to you while you are busy doing other things“(thanks to John Lennon) but what do we do about it? What do we do to make sure we are present for what life brings today?

This challenge of taking time out to enjoy the moment is especially hard as a parent and as a business owner. There are times when I feel like I am not doing so well but then I think about how technology has enabled me significantly more opportunities to be connected with my kids.

For starters, my Dad, had to stay at the office if he wanted or needed to work. You couldn’t easily bring work with you back then. That meant that he didn’t make as many swim meets or school plays as I am able to. The upside though, was once he was home he was totally present with his family. That brings me to our generation’s great challenge. – disconnecting.

I think this is the struggle of our time, learning to disconnect when we are so connected. Facebook, Twitter, email, phones are available 24x7 and yet if we do them 24x7 we have lost the great advantage that technology brings – freedom to connect person to person.

Technology provides me the ability to work from wherever I am. In large part this is thanks to cell phones, the internet and the cloud we all rely on. I can pay bills, review contracts, talk to employees or customers or vendors whether I am in the office or with the kids on a field trip. For this I am very grateful and it is the primary way I make sure not to fall into the trap of the ”Cat’s in the Cradle” song.

But here’s the rub, wherever I am, my office is with me, which means I work much more than my Dad ever did on the weekend or after dinner or on vacation. So the freedom to leave the office is great but the urge to make progress and the ability of technology to work from anywhere can keep me from enjoying the moment. Add in the addiction of social media and it’s possible that some of us have become chained to the smart phone instead of the desk.

So, what is one to do? One of the things that I have started doing is to schedule non connect time. That could be a run, doing the dishes, eating a meal with the kids, or going on a hike with the family. Most important, I leave the phone behind. I have found that in such a connected world, it is extremely important to schedule disconnected time.

As you come out of busy season and start thinking about how to build your practice for next year with more technology, it might be interesting to think about scheduling your own “disconnect” time as well. Maybe just maybe start with downloading “The Cat’s in The Cradle” or watching it on YouTube.

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