What is important, really?

· February 21, 2016

The team I’m currently part of is under immense pressure and stress, a situation that predates my arrival. I’ve been in meetings where none of the five attendees could even sit down due to stress. Just two weeks after joining, I found myself consoling a tearful colleague who had been berated by the “customer,” despite her best efforts. Personally, I’m apprehensive about conveying any news, whether good or bad, to the customers, as they seem perpetually irate. It’s a concerning environment.

What is important? Really.



Before delving into my thoughts, let me share a few glimpses—recent and past—that have prompted me to ponder this question:

  • In Indonesia, an important meeting was abruptly interrupted by news of the death of one of the foundation’s board members.
  • Just fifteen minutes ago, my friends and I were at McDonald’s, amidst chaos—fighting and screaming. Shortly after, I encountered an old friend who confided in me about his daughter’s severe psychological issues, which had necessitated another trip to the ER.
  • Another incident in Indonesia involved witnessing a manager shouting in the face of her staff, mere inches away. After the confrontation, it was my turn to speak, as I needed to pick up my children from school, already fifteen minutes late.
  • On September 11, 2001, amidst a tense meeting with a client, we learned of the plane crashes into the World Trade Center.

What if? What would then be important? What is really important?

Here’s a little thought-experiment that you can amuse (eeeh… not really but challenge maybe) your brain with the next time you’re in a though, horrible or hard meeting;

Take the most horrible person in the room and imagine how you would look at her if you learned that her mother just died. Or that manager cracking his whip (figuratively speaking… I hope) at you - what if you learned that his wife just left him. Or if someone just brought news about that silent girl in the finance department - she just got diagnosed with cancer.

What would not be important?

  • The thing that you just thought was the most important thing in the whole world (“the sprint is late! Again!”) - how important is it now?

  • The thing that winded you up just minutes ago (“how can someone behave in such horrible way to my friend”), it’s not very important now right?

  • This person that you just can stand, because he simply just don’t get agile; right now he needs a hug - don’t you think?

  • How important is it if my boys behave in McDonalds - when my old friend just told me about his daughters problems?

  • Even discussing corruption and financial problems on the verge of bankruptcy… and then someone dies. What is important?

  • When she yelled her staff in the face and I had to leave, interrupting the yelling, to pick up kids; what was important now again?

That, right there. The strange feeling I get when I think about things like that; it’s called empathy. And I think we see too little of it in our workplace.


WHAT? The things we work with is not important? Losing millions of dollars is not important, is that what you are saying?

And why on earth should I think all those horrible thoughts? You want me to get depressed?

Of course not. But when the going gets tough, I’ve found that gaining some perspective on things helps me realize what is really important.

A final thought; think back on the toughest project I was in - what do I remember? The details about what got me worked up? The code? The time-schedule? Or the people and the relations between you, how you felt?

Or do the opposite; the best time I had - what do I remember? For me it’s always people and the feeling of being great together.

What is important, really? Can I be the one that spreads more of that in my workplace?


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