Basketball Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently wrote an article for Esquire magazine entitled, 20 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 30. This one is my favorite:
9. Career is never as important as family. The better you are at your job, the more you’re rewarded, financially and spiritually, by doing it. You know how to solve problems for which you receive praise and money. Home life is more chaotic. Solving problems is less prescriptive and no one’s applauding or throwing money if you do it right. That’s why so many young professionals spend more time at work with the excuse, “I’m sacrificing for my family.” Bullshit. Learn to embrace the chaos of family life and enjoy the small victories. This hit me one night after we’d won an especially emotional game against the Celtics. I’d left the stadium listening to thousands of strangers chanting “Kareem! Kareem!” I felt flush with the sense of accomplishment, for me, for the Lakers, and for the fans. But when I stepped into my home and my son said, “Daddy!” the victory, the chanting, the league standings, all faded into a distant memory.
I struggle with this one almost daily. It’s hard when we are wired to spend more time on the things that give us an immediate or financial payoff. And it’s especially tricky when one’s career is very mission-based, like mine.
Adultitis will use anything it can to distract us from the things that are most important. Sometimes it can be pretty darn convincing.
“Sacrificing for your family” sounds like a noble pursuit, if it means that you’re sacrificing your body or your time with them in order to keep them from starving or freezing or living on the street. Except that most of the time, in these days, in this country, that’s just not the case.
Most of the time, we are actually sacrificing our family FOR the more feature-laden vehicle, newer gadgets, extended cable package, tuition for a more prestigious school, or the bigger house we THINK we need.
The rationalization to provide these things sounds great, but it’s a tradeoff that in retrospect, after it’s too late to do anything differently, always turns out to be a bad deal.
A better choice might be to sacrifice at least a few of these superfluous things FOR our family, so that they can have from us what they need most: our time.
[ About the Art: I give you the Lincoln Family. Just playing around one day thinking about the different sizes of Lincoln Logs and how they could resemble a family. Whenever my daughter Lucy has three similar objects, the biggest one is always the daddy, the middle one is the mama, and the little one is the baby. I went with a color scheme and costuming that resembled an antique photograph. Partially because I needed to draw one of them with a killer mustache. ]