Focus on the Miles that Matter

A Good Traveler by L. Cota Nupah Makah

A Good Traveler by L. Cota Nupah Makah

My wife and I, and our 14-month-old son, just got back to Provo, Utah after spending three months in Texas for an internship with Hewlett Packard. After the trip was over, we were a little surprised to see that we drove a total of 6,000 miles during those three months! It is only 1,300 miles from Utah to Texas, so that means we drove 2,600 miles getting there and back, and 3,400 miles while in Texas!

To us, the 1,300 mile trip each way seemed like a big deal. We had the car checked out, mapped several possible routes, planned out lunch stops and hotels, and packed enough food to feed everyone on the freeway system between Provo and Dallas a pretty solid meal. We were prepared. Little did we know we would travel much more than 1,300 miles once we got to our destination. The real trip began right after we arrived. The two big milestones we planned for turned out to be small compared to the miles traveled in between. 

Small trips, quick excursions, and everyday errands turned into 3,400 miles of travel over the summer. Though we did not pack snacks, plan breaks along the way, or get the car checked out ahead of time, these little trips had a much larger impact on our overall experience than the two “big” road trips did. This may seem like a no-brainer for road trips- but I think we ignore this principle in regular life far too often.

What if the things we think matter are actually just tiny little turns compared to all the miles in between? How often do we think: Once I get a promotion, I will relax and spend more time with family. Once I graduate, I will have more time to serve at church. When we move into our new house, I will get to know the neighbors. When my kids are a little older, I’ll have time to….

We travel many more miles between our life milestones than we realize, and it is those in-between miles that matter. It is up to us to decide what we do with those miles and make sure they are not wasted. If we are not careful, we’ll realize too late that milestones come and go and it is the life we live before and after them that really matters, not the milestones at all.

The question is: How do you keep everyday moments in focus while working towards larger milestones?



A Giver At Best


I recently started reading a book called Give and Take by Adam Grant, a professor at The Wharton School. It is an incredible book you should read. period. I won’t ruin it for you, but I want to touch on one subject that really hit me. We have all heard of givers and takers. Well Adam Grant highlights a third group called Matchers.

These people maintain a healthy ratio of give and take. They tend to give only when it appears they will receive something in return immediately or in the near future. They will not take if it means they have to give more than they are comfortable giving. It is all about balancing give and take.

Well I am/was a Matcher. I didn’t really know it until recently, but I usually do keep track of what I do for others so I know who to ask favors from later. I find it hard to help people I know will never reciprocate. I have a hard time recommending anyone but close friends for jobs because I feel the potential harm of that person failing at the job outweighs the potential good of that person succeeding. 

Right before I started reading Give and Take, I reached out to a Google employee through LinkedIn who graduated from the same MBA program I am currently in. We had not personally met, but we did share a few common contacts. I asked him if he had any knowledge of a program called @GoogleTalks  or if he knew someone close to the program that I could talk with. I explained that I hoped to learn more about how the program originated and how they maintained it so well. This individual accepted my connection request and then responded, ” I am not comfortable sending you to the people who manage the program, since I don’t know you other than an intro email on LinkedIn. Nothing personal.”

His response irritated me. What was he worried I would do? I wondered. Am I that untrustworthy right from the get go? I felt a little offended that I was assumed to be unworthy of someone’s good will just for being unknown. He could have offered to connect first and find out more details. He didn’t bother. This man was a Matcher at best and a Taker at worst. There was no benefit to him so he saw no reason to help. Considering Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, I found this situation ironic.

I learned a valuable lesson though. I did not want to treat anyone the way he treated me. And then I started reading Give and Take. Givers do not need anything in return for helping someone. They are happy to lift someone by giving advice, sharing resources, listening, or making a critical introduction. They are not reluctant to help strangers. A giver thinks if the benefit to the other person outweighs my own discomfort, I’ll give. That is an important point. Usually we think, will the benefit to me outweigh the potential harm or discomfort of helping? For most of us, thinking about the benefit to the other person first is a fundamentally different way of thinking.

I decided to start giving more- wherever I could. I soon found that opportunities were everywhere! A colleague I had not spoken to in almost 8 years posted on facebook that he was looking for work. I took 3 minutes to make a connection with a recruiter I knew and put them in touch with each other . I took a few minutes to write a few LinkedIn recommendations for some coworkers. I reviewed a friends resume and gave him a few suggestions. I took more time to play with my son when I got home from work.

Small opportunities to give have not stopped coming. I now realize how many chances to help people I know well (and some I don’t know so well) I was passing up each day. Now that some time has passed, I am learning that I have stronger relationships with people I care about. I notice people’s needs and remember their goals more. I am happier. I am not busier, more tired, poorer, or anything like that. So, there really is no downside to giving more.

Are you a Giver, Taker, or Matcher? What keeps you from giving more? What motivates you to give?