It was two decades ago that I learned a lesson about busy people. I worked for IBM at the time, at its software development, Santa Teresa. I was there writing technical manuals for programming languages, but I had many friends on the development side.
One of those friends, Dustin, worked for a manager whose skills and productivity were legendary. His first name was Jerry; his last name escapes me. He headed a large, important part of the lab, and was universally admired. He was a very busy man. Dustin described to me what happened whenever he knocked on Jerry’s door, which was almost always open.
Jerry would invariably be doing something, and he would put it down when he heard the knock. He would look up, he would smile, and he would ask Dustin to come in and sit down. He would sit back in his chair, put his feet (always in cowboy boots) on the desk, and say, “What’s up?”
What would follow would be an unhurried meeting in which Jerry gave Dustin his undivided attention. What followed that would be timely, appropriate action addressing whatever it was Dustin had talked about.
When I get busy, you can barely talk to me. My mind is on the next thing I have to do, and if you come to me with the simplest problem – what’s for dinner, say – I feel like it’s the last straw, that I have exhausted my bandwidth, that there’s no more to give.
My web designer/business consultant/media coach is Amanda Blum. No matter how busy I am, she is much, much busier. She runs her own business, and she has a steady stream of client requests in her inbox, twitter stream, and voice mail. But when my site got hacked and completely erased, she put her feet up on the desk (I imagined – she’s 3000 miles away), and calmly laid out our options to fix it.
Amanda didn’t just design and implement my site, she dragged an old-school print journalist, kicking and screaming, into the modern world. She did it with patience and generosity and grace. And she did it with skill; I’ve seldom known anyone so wonderfully competent.
Not to mention that her preferred payment is oysters.
In the midst of all she had going, she found time to figure out what had happened (a long, sad, technical tale), and rebuild my site. She recruited a colleague, Chuck Reynolds, to help her. I don’t even know Chuck Reynolds, but he worked out a bunch of intransigent bugs. While the random malice that motivated the hacking makes me want to throw up my hands and give up on the human race, the good will that motivated the repair restores my faith.
This is all by way of saying thank you. Amanda, thank you.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.