Darcy tried to make out the time with one eye, but it was too blurry. There was no denying it though—it was time to get up; same job, same wake-up time, same routine for the past 19 years. He shuffled into the bathroom and yawned like a big, old lion. He glanced in the mirror and recalled he had shaved yesterday and rationalized that he didn’t have any important appointments or business going on today, so he decided he could skip a fresh shave today.
He showered and combed his hair, dressed hurriedly and headed out the door. As he drove to work, he passed a familiar fast-food joint and pulled through the drive-through. There was a three-for-one special today on breakfast burgers, so he ordered the special and ate two before he got to the office. The other he hurriedly shoved down his throat as he walked in the front door. The receptionist at the front desk gave him the familiar nod and smile as he passed her on the way to his office.
He flipped on the lights, plopped down at the desk, and let his computer warm up. He peeled the lid off his coffee and gulped down a generous helping. And so the day began. As the calls came in, he did a good job of under-committing himself to any time-consuming task. He suggested that people call another department or wait until next week to call back when his vacationing assistant would return. He pulled a bag of chips from the drawer and finished them off. Lunch was still two hours away, and he was rather bored and hungry.
His boss knocked at the door and gave him a few direct assignments. Darcy got those done immediately but without much commitment. He answered the questions, but didn’t incorporate any insights or additional research. Hey—he did what was asked, right?
At the end of the day, Darcy stopped at the corner pub and had a beer with some of the guys from his Fantasy Football group. He ordered a sandwich and then headed home. He walked into an evening full of activity: the kids were doing homework, and his wife had dinner waiting on the sink, covered in plastic. He gave her the obligatory peck on the cheek and sat down to eat, again. “Didn’t you eat at the pub?” she asked. “Yeah, a little,” he said. “But I’m still hungry.” She nodded and drank a cup of coffee as he ate. He said nothing more, although she sat there hoping he would, but almost anticipated that he wouldn’t.
Darcy cleaned his plate, drank heartily from a glass of iced cola, and smiled. “Thanks, honey, that was great.” She rose, smiled, and took the dirty dishes to the sink. With her back to him, she sighed.
Darcy walked past the kids and went into the den where the couch was waiting for him. He took a short nap, rose, and started upstairs to change clothes. As he went up the stairs, his youngest boy came up behind him with a football in his hand. “Couple of the guys are coming over, Dad. Will you throw us some passes?”
Darcy turned and said, “Not tonight, buddy. You got enough guys to play with each other anyway, right? I’ll throw some other night.” His boy nodded, shrugged, and walked away.
Darcy’s not such a bad guy. He means well and is honest. He’s a homebody and very loyal to his wife and family. He’s not really lazy or even slovenly; he just likes to eat, sleep, and relax. He’s the average American, really. But Darcy is ignoring the signs all around him.
He’s blowing off his kids regularly. His wife is dedicated but getting bored. His boss doesn’t even try to get more out of him anymore—he just accepts the minimum that Darcy has become accustomed to providing. The term “good enough” is strong within him. He’s carrying extra weight and hasn’t worried about his diet in years. And he leaves no impression. The lady at the front desk barely looks up when he walks in anymore. There’s nothing interesting about Darcy because he has allowed himself to become part of the scenery. He just doesn’t stand out at all anymore. Was it a changing work environment? This fast-paced society? His antiquated job skills? His long marriage? His indifferent kids?
Him and the choices he has made. The decisions he didn’t bother with, the ones he put on automatic pilot and hoped would just disappear … they became the results of decisions he never made and they not only didn’t disappear—they came back to bite him.
Out Of Your Comfort Zone
How about that evening class your boss wanted to send you to? You made an excuse and got out of it, but someone else took it in your place. That person got stronger on what you left behind, and it essentially weakened your status within the company. And that comfort zone you have assumed with your wife where you don’t have to keep in shape or pay attention to her because you’ve been together so long … well, guess what, mister? She’s bored and hasn’t done anything about it, but she sure seems to dress a lot nicer when she goes to the grocery store these days. And the one time you went with her, she sure seemed to talk an awful lot with that one guy who stocks the fresh produce…. She would never do anything out of line, right? I mean she’s already got you. They’re just friends. But she sure seemed happy to have someone show a little interest in her. When was the last time you did that?
And your kids. Sure, they have enough friends to play without you, but aren’t you glad they’re still asking you to play? Do you have any idea how much you’ll miss that opportunity when it disappears? Because it will disappear, my friend. It will.
Here’s the 4-1-1 on all that, folks. All those comfort zones you enjoy often equal a lazy approach to life. I’m thinking it’s fair to say you shouldn’t really ever get too comfortable in anything: job, relationships, friendships, kids. When you begin to take all of that for granted and think it’s on automatic pilot—that bee will sting you.
In a nutshell—you never should completely assume it’s time for complete, unencumbered rest. This is life and life is dynamic. It is an action word and requires your participation. Don’t get too comfortable. Because you will not be asked to spike the ball and do your victory dance. In life, I have found that there is no ending point—it is a perpetual push of one continuous set of changing goals and priorities. And if you choose to lay back and not participate, there’s always someone else who is willing to fill that gap you have left open.
Do you want to stay relevant to your job, your wife, your kids, your world? Every once in a while, remember to be impressive, and do things that are impressive.
You don’t have to rescue a kitten from a tree or buy your wife a diamond. But it wouldn’t hurt to buy a single rose now and then. Perhaps suggest that the two of you walk around the block together after dinner; I help you get healthier. But I bet you wind up talking. And even though the office has gone casual, it wouldn’t kill you to overdress now and then. Even if people say, “Wow, where are you going today?” You can always make an excuse about somewhere you have to be after work. Let people see you looking your best now and then. The workplace needs to remember when you were previously the juggernaut who was an agent of change. Maybe your heyday has passed, but you can still remain an integral tool. Your history alone should validate that.
People only forget you if you let them. You are responsible for the amount of excitement you create or the lack of the same. There endeth the lesson.
Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a BS in Business from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University and has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at XXXXXXX.