“He smiled. “You should slow down and enjoy your coffee. Work will always be there.”

By J. Gerald Suarez

I had finished a series of lectures in Spain and was eager to head back to the United States to catch up on work. I should’ve taken a few days off for sightseeing, but this overpowering need to remain busy prevented me from indulging in some downtime and the chance to enjoy Spain.

I arrived at the Asturias regional airport, rushing from curbside to cafeteria to grab a cup of coffee and keep heading for the terminal.

“One large coffee to go, please,” I ordered.

Greatly astonished, the waiter replied, “To go where, sir?”

“To the terminal!”

He pointed to it and said, “What’s the hurry? The airplane isn’t even here yet.”

“I have work to do.” Why was I explaining my life to this guy?

He smiled. “You should slow down and enjoy your coffee. Work will always be there.”

I was annoyed by this intervention, unable to appreciate the wisdom of what he said. I made clear again my desire to take the coffee with me. He said I couldn’t do it. “We do not have disposable cups, so you have to drink it here.” He brought me the cup of coffee and, much to my surprise, a pastry. “On the house!” he said. He knew he would have the last word. “Drink your coffee, eat your pastry, enjoy your life.”

I never forgot that encounter. I thought about how much I had traveled in my career and how little I had actually seen. Always moving onto the next thing, preoccupied with the next commitment. When you spend your life in boardrooms or classrooms, you might as well be in any country, I realized.

In the “gotta-go, gotta-do” environment in which we live, it’s easy to overcommit and confuse speed with progress and activity with advancement. Technological clutter makes it even more difficult to disengage. We multitask because our digital world allows us to, but are we really getting more done? Scientists have learned that as we multitask, we do each task more poorly than if we had tackled each one by itself, and those who multitask the most do the worst. One step forward, two back. We confuse means with ends, progressively eroding our sense of purpose and mission.

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