I remember one day in my late twenties, still early into my career as a sports agent, I was at lunch with my parents. They had flown down from Michigan to visit me in Atlanta and were only in town for a few days. Just hours after they landed, we went straight to a cool spot for lunch. We sat down, excited to connect, and no one was more excited than me.
However, during lunch, my phone rang constantly with clients calling—baseball players on their way to the field, golfers leaving a practice round, coaches assessing their next game—and I took every call without hesitation. To say I wasn't really present was a huge understatement.
As I chatted with clients, the two people who are the most important people in the world to me ate a lunch they could have enjoyed a whole lot more back at home in Michigan. They sure didn't need to travel 775 miles to watch me on the phone!
Finally, my mom looked at me after a few calls and said, "What do they want?"
And I turned the fire-hose right on her:
One of my golfers needs new logoed apparel sent to the tournament this week.
One of my baseball players thinks he's getting traded.
My boss wants an update on one of my baseball prospects.
My coach's wife is calling me about a new head-coaching job that
One of my agents needs me in a meeting this afternoon regarding a pending deal.
My broadcaster wants to add more games to her schedule.
As I rattled them off, I could also see a more important message in my mom's eyes.
You just don't get it, Molly.
It was a moment that I never will forget. A moment I realized I wasn't being present with who mattered most. I had been afraid to not answer the calls, but as soon as I ended the last one, the truth hit.
If I hadn't taken those calls right at that moment, what would have happened? Would those clients have fired me? No way. I had filled their cups (or overflowed them) plenty.
I was acting just like one of those people quick to wear business as a badge of honor, but in that moment, my parents took me back down to earth. They didn't care about the high-profile athletes and coaches blowing up my phone. They just wanted to know if I was taking care of myself, getting my rest, and enjoying my work and friends. This part of their love for me usually gave me such energy, but this time I had blocked all that good juju by answering my phone
when I could have been present with them.
I got up from that lunch more exhausted than when I sat down—exhausted and conflicted, really. I felt bad they had flown all that way to listen to me talk on the phone for the first few hours of their visit.
I wished I had put my phone in my purse for forty-five minutes, and then fully engaged with my clients after lunch. It wasn't guilt. It was failure to behave in a way that was consistent with my values. Giving 50 percent never feels good, and people can tell when we are only half-present.
If we're lucky, we have people in our lives who help us set our energy clocks—who remind us what's truly important. My parents did that (and still do at times) for me, and every day I am mindful of doing the same for my three daughters.
But eventually, we have to set the energy clock for ourselves, and it is rooted in clarity around who and what matters most to us and putting our energy toward those things.