There was a time, I suppose, when it was really hard to get back to people.
Let’s say someone sent you a smoke signal. I guess you would first have to build a fire, and a smoky one at that. If they sent you a message towards the end of the day, would you really have enough time to respond? And, if you waited until the morning, how would you know if they were still listening?
If someone sent you a papyrus scroll, not only would you feel obligated to respond, you probably would have to feed and house the messenger who brought it while you prepared your own papyrus scroll. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Well, it probably was.
If we move to more modern times, the Pony Express was able to move messages from Missouri to California in a remarkable 10-13 days. I guess that left you waiting about a month for a response. The Pony Express was, of course, put out of business by the telegraph.
I’m going to skip over airmail, the fax machine and all the many messages we used to have to send by Federal Express and come to today when we have cell phones and email, and amazingly, both combined on one device. (Although I must admit I don’t write emails on my phone except under duress. I type 90 words a minute and it would be a colossal waste of my time.) Should I even mention text messages, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?
I was out to dinner this past weekend with an old friend and we were lamenting the high volume of calls and emails that go unreturned these days. Neither of us could come up with a reasonable explanation as to why this is the case in these modern times.
If you actually know who I am and I send you an email, is it really all that hard to hit reply and say you are too busy or not interested? It wasn’t all that long ago that you had to draft a letter, have your secretary type it, correct what she typed (perhaps a few times), sign it, and only then put it in an envelope. Hitting reply somehow seems so much easier.
Returning phone calls, I realize, is a little more difficult. It is my belief that every phone call takes about 15 minutes of your day. That means you can only do about 32 of them a day. Still, it is disappointing that many people these days don’t return calls, even to people they know. And, even when it might benefit them.
I have no explanation for any of these issues. All I can tell you is that I don’t plan to ever be a part of that society. All my calls and all my emails are returned. Some, perhaps, not on a timely basis, but they do get attended to eventually.
There was a line in the movie Forrest Gump: “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Think of every message you get as a potential missed opportunity. Unless you actually speak to someone, you don’t know if by connecting with them, your life might have been somehow better.
We have so many power tools in today’s world. Enjoy the benefit. Don’t make any excuses to yourself or to others.
Let’s check back with each other in 10 years’ time and see who is in a better place.