The Human Automatic Watch: Why We Need Interaction and Challenges to Thrive
I recently had a Zoom coffee time with an old friend named ‘Mike’ (‘Mike’ is not his real name but since I was too lazy to ask for permission to use his real name, from this day forth, he shall be known as ‘Mike’). ‘Mike’ is an accomplished executive who is on the lookout for new opportunities. A chance to take his collective wisdom (the way I am choosing to describe my own age as a function of passage of time and lessons learned) and put it to use both for his advantage and ideally, for the advantage of others. During the chat, our conversation meandered towards the topic of time and its passage. ‘Mike’, like many of us, has experienced the lull that comes with a break from the bustling corporate world.
After the perfunctory time spent catching up on the comings and goings of each other’s careers, we hit layer two of conversation. You know, the spot in any chat where the interesting bits; the humanity of our experiences start to surface. As those more visceral stories were exchanged, I started to see a thread in common. For background, ‘Mike’ and I share an affinity for watches. And in this case automatic watches. Automatic watches are unique: they require motion to keep ticking. Without being worn and moved, they lose energy and eventually stop. This mechanical wonder mirrors our own need for interaction, challenges, and experiences.
Energizing Our Human Clockwork
As our chat continued to uncover areas of pain or loss, I noticed the continuation of the thread. We’re a lot like those fancy automatic watches. We need a bit of shaking up to keep ticking along. It’s all about staying ‘wound up’ through the hustle and bustle of life. For ‘Mike’ and folks like us, it’s not just about packing our schedules to the brim. No, it’s the meatier stuff that counts – the hearty exchanges of thoughts, the laughs and tears shared, the sense of fitting into something bigger than ourselves. These moments, they’re like little shots of espresso to our soul, keeping our inner gears whirring (I will digress at some point on the power of Cuban Coffee with sugar that I discovered with my best friend, Keri, years ago in South Florida and how it fueled countless innovations and foolish pursuits, but that is a blog for another time). They’re what keep us sharp, driven and on our toes.
When we hit a lull, like an automatic watch left untouched, our zest and pep can start to dwindle. But throw us into the thick of life – with all its challenges and thrills – and watch us light up! It’s in these moments of connection and learning, of pushing boundaries and sharing insights, that we really come alive. It’s a reminder that while we all need a bit of winding, not all wind-ups are created equal. They fuel different parts of our humanity, each essential in its own way.
Craving More than Monetary Gain
The conversation with ‘Mike’ underscored an essential truth: while financial stability is crucial, there’s a deeper craving in all of us. It’s the desire to create, develop and nurture relationships. In the world of work, it’s not just the paycheck that matters, but the camaraderie, the shared goals and the collective triumphs and setbacks. These elements give us purpose and a sense of achievement beyond monetary gain.
Conclusion: Keep Moving, Keep Engaging
As our conversation concluded, it became clear that the journey back to the workforce for ‘Mike’ wasn’t just about re-entering the professional arena. It was about re-engaging with a world that keeps him wound up, operational and vibrant. Selfishly, that realization was about me as well. When I reflect on the most impactful moments of my now 3+ decade long career (Old Guy Card – ENGAGED) most of the most amazing memories are not about the technical accomplishments or company financial goals attained. Those are necessary but not sufficient for the fulfillment I feel we need (and must demand) out of the place we spend at least a third of our time in; our job. The most impactful moments are the emotive ones. The immense swings that include, joy and pain. Elation and sadness. Bonds that last a lifetime are forged over emotions like that, not over successful Sprint demos or eclipsed quarterly targets. (Fortunately, doing the former will lead to even more dramatic attainment of the latter in my experience and that is a secret to high performance)
We are all, in essence, like automatic watches, requiring the movement of life’s experiences to keep us ticking. So, whether it’s taking on a new project, diving into a lively debate or simply sharing a coffee with a colleague, remember that these interactions are vital. They wind us up, keep us going, and ensure that we, as complex “human persons”, are always at our best.