Don’t Confuse Work and Family

JimMy partners in the firm asked me a while (a long while) ago if I would take the time to write about my recollections of marketing programs from my past 40 years in the business, especially the humorous ones, and lessons to be learned, even the lessons learned the hard way. I agreed to do that but the hardest part of that sentence to write was “from my past 40 years in the business”.

The time goes so fast in the marketing agency business that 40 years is a nanosecond in your life when you stop and recall it. Either you jump from client to client every day, using different disciplines (PR, advertising, ally organization, promotion, etc.) or you are handling one major assignment for a year or more, working towards an execution date, and then it was over and you moved on to the next one.

That brings me to the point of this first blog. And unfortunately, it’s not funny and it’s not upbeat (totally). Sorry, but I have to get it out of my system and it’s in two parts but related. And it has a moral which you may find instructive.

The First Part

My wife and I went to Disney World in Orlando last weekend. At 65, I assure you it was not to fulfill a dream to re-ride the whirling teacups from “Alice in Wonderland”. I went to watch my granddaughter Anna compete for the International Cheerleading Championships with teams from around the world. She and her team had just won the National Championship for the second year in a row in Dallas the weekend before and were going for the second leg of the Triple Crown of cheer on Saturday and Sunday.

I played golf on Friday with my son-in-law and dads and coaches from the team and my wife had to power-walk Fantasy Land with my daughter and granddaughter. I felt better about my score than my wife did about her legs. There was the usual casual (?) drinking after the round and the lies abounded but most of the talk was about each one’s daughter’s wants for Disney experiences and the competition ahead. I began to feel maudlin.

I had all those experiences with my daughter and son in the 70’s and 80’s but they weren’t as vivid as I wished. Just their joy of jumping into the hotel pool wasn’t there. I had been distracted by work problems, every hour, every day. I began to wish I could relive it all differently. However, age interferes with that.

My granddaughter’s team came from fourth after Saturday to International Champs on Sunday and that was exhilarating. But the feeling of regret wouldn’t go away, even with that.

The Second Part

My friend died a couple weeks ago. He was also my lawyer and a business partner but that’s not as important.

Oliver Lee and I were both products of the Savannah, Ga., school system in the 1950’s and 60’s, me on the white side and he on the Black side of the worst lie perpetrated on the Baby Boomers, separate-but-equal education. It was very separate but not even close to equal. But, like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, he caught a break at the very beginning of the Civil Rights era.

Oliver was selected to attend an advanced prep school for gifted students in Connecticut. Clarence was selected to attend a Catholic boarding high school in Savannah and I was appointed his “big brother” for his first year to teach him the ropes, academically and socially, and generally look after him, as I was a senior and him a sophomore.

I never knew Oliver in Savannah but, through Clarence, I began to understand for the first time the inequity and stupidity of a system gone wrong. Oliver and I talked about that at times, he reluctantly, as he went on to become an SEC attorney and partner in several major Atlanta law firms. Then his entrepreneurship showed up and he ran several of his own companies while still practicing law.

But his credentials were secondary to his gift for advice and counsel to me on matters professional and personal and just being there when I needed to vent or just shoot the trash. I don’t have a wealth of close friends but I counted him as one and he always found time, even while battling his own medical demons, to be there for me.

He was one of the good guys and I will never forget him. He too had a small granddaughter and he delighted in her. I hope she remembers him as well. That was also a thought I had often last weekend.

The Moral

Don’t confuse work and family. Pour your heart into both, but separately and appropriately. Cherish the moment and pay attention to the details. They won’t be back again.


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