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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Take the Time to Focus In

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When people ask me, as they often do, why my wife Diane and I moved from the Washington, D.C., suburbs to Los Angeles, I tell them the truth. When Diane, who grew up outside Philadelphia, was eight, her parents took her to Disneyland and she never got over it.  She’s wanted to live in Southern California for most of her life.  So, when we figured out how to do it, we moved. And, as I usually tell people, we moved in the most inefficient way imaginable.

We had been in our house in Virginia for 13 years and raised two boys there. Needless to say, there was a lot of stuff in there. Some of it we moved to our new apartment, some of it we sold, much of it we gave away and the rest we shipped to a storage complex in Venice, CA. Partially because we packed in a hurry and partially because the guys on the truck unloaded things really haphazardly, our storage units looked like they had been arranged by chimpanzees. It was a huge mess.

Months and months ago, we circled the third week of August as our vacation at the storage unit. We were going to conquer the mess, sort through stuff, find stuff and give more away.

We did all of that for about six days in a row. Every morning before we went over there, I kind of went through a little panic because we were also just a couple of months away from the launch of my new book and the regular demands of our business were in play as well. The little voice inside my head cried out every morning, “And you’re going to spend the day in the storage unit?!?”

An interesting thing happened every day though. I enjoyed it. With the help of our youngest son, Brad, we sorted through a ton of stuff (like, literally, a ton of stuff).  We found things we had been looking for, gave carloads of stuff to Goodwill, and, as we uncovered old keepsakes and mementos laughed and reminisced about good times and crazy times in the life of our family. We brought a few of the most treasured items back to our apartment and left the rest at the unit, much better organized, to sort through on a future vacation week.

This past week, our oldest son, Andy, has been in town to sort through his stuff. Yesterday, he headed over to the storage complex to finish his work. The only problem was that the roads around the storage facility were blocked off and firetrucks were everywhere. The night before, a fire had broken out in the complex that took 300 firefighters more than 12 hours to put out. Eight firefighters were injured battling the blaze; fortunately, none of the injuries were life threatening. Amazingly, they contained the fire to one section of the 300 unit complex.  The professionalism and bravery of the firefighters is both astounding and humbling. When you think about people risking their lives just to save other people’s stuff how can you feel anything other than humbled?

It will be several days before we’re allowed back in the complex to see what’s left. We don’t know what to expect exactly but expect to find a lot of water logged keepsakes, photos and documents. We’re not thrilled, of course, but are thankful that there are brave professionals who saved most of the building and the stuff inside it. We’ll see what’s there.

Here’s the other thing I’m thankful for. I’m thankful that I took the time to go over there every day during that week in August when I knew I was “too busy” to do so. I’m thankful that I had that time with Diane and Brad. I’m thankful that I took my diplomas and my Eagle Scout badge and some priceless (to me) books out of there. I’m thankful that I was able to sort through some items, maybe for the last time, that surfaced some wonderful memories that had been locked away in the deep recesses of my mind. Maybe I’ll get to sort through that stuff again and maybe I won’t. But I did that week in August. I am so glad I took the time.

It definitely raises my awareness of other aspects of my life where I need to take the time.

(Image via Kuzma/Shutterstock.com)

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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