“Just over a week from now I will be turning 37. I have three kids and I’m a CEO. What the !@#$ am I doing in the middle of this mosh pit?” That was the last thought I had before acting like a human ping pong ball for the next 90 minutes.
Despite that last thought, the monster in my head had been beating me up all night. Earlier in the day I had led a demo to showcase our newest website platform features. The demo was not for a client pitch, but for an award. Usually demos go pretty smoothly, but this one had a few hiccups. We had just launched new code the night prior that our team had been working on for the last 5 months, and while we had tested that code quite extensively, it caused another small area of our site to temporarily not function properly.
This wouldn’t normally have been a big deal, but this time it was, because this was a demonstration to win an award. And while 85 of the 90 demo minutes were solid, the other 5 minutes — when things weren’t functioning the way they should have been — kept eating at me.
“Why didn’t we review that? Why did I even show that module, given it wasn’t that crucial to the demo?”
These thoughts and many more were racing through my brain the entire evening. It may not have been obvious to everyone I was talking to, but despite it being the day before Thanksgiving and being at a concert, I was not having fun.
I had been invited to this concert a month prior, and it wasn’t until a week ago that we learned it would coincide with demo day. In theory it sounded great: we would have a kick-ass demo, a chill day, then party on what some claim to be the biggest party night of the year.
I was not in the mood to party.
As the opening band began playing, I had been optimistic that the monster would just go away. Instead, it got worse as the realization hit that there was no do-over — despite our team fixing the code conflict immediately, I couldn’t modify those 5 minutes of the demo as if it were an editable video clip. What was done was done. I had also been nudging my brain to take the advice I often give, which is not to worry about things you can’t control.
The advice didn’t work.
I stared down at my watch and then looked over at my wife. I wondered if she was having fun. Then I went to the bar to pass some time and grab drinks for myself and the group I was with. The night seemed like it was in slow motion, and the torture in my mind was only getting worse. The opening band proclaimed that it was their last song before the main act would come on. That was good news — while the band was decent, I was ready for a change.
About 15 minutes passed and the main act, Local H, took the stage. During the first song a mosh pit formed in the middle of the venue, which immediately brought back memories from when I was a bit younger. Intriguing, I thought, but there was no way in hell that I would jump into a mosh pit now. After all, I am old — well, old by comparison. As the mosh pit started to get busier, my mental demographics poll gauged the average age to be about 25. Having just recently looked at a photo of myself when I was 25, I can tell you that at 36 I am not my 25-year-old self. Plus, all I could think about was that demo.
I was at the concert with my buddy Bruce, my wife, and a few work employees. Just by looking at their general demeanor I could tell they were having a blast (with the exception of my wife, who has been known to fall asleep at massively loud raging rock concerts). Here I was, really not having fun and feeling guilty about it. Layering that guilt on top of continuing to beat myself up over the demo was creating a perpetual feeling of inadequacy.
Just as Local H started Bruce and a couple others jumped into the mosh pit. At that same time my wife needed to sit down — it was time to rest her eyes, as she likes to call it. Then I was alone with only my thoughts. How could I be such a lame ass? I love music. Life is good. This should be fun. Convinced this night wouldn’t get better unless I took action to change it, I did something I would have laughed at just thinking about hours prior.
I jumped in the mosh pit.
As I entered the human circle, all I thought about was the present. (That did include a strategic plan to not get bulldozed by the twenty-somethings.) Nonetheless, I was present. As the songs went on and the mosh pit grew larger, my mind amazingly stopped thinking about the demo. In fact, my mind did nothing except enjoy the moment. After a couple hundred times of running into people like we were having a very unsafe football game, and giving a dozen or so high fives, I began to feel really alive.
The next hour passed like the blink of an eye.
While the last song played, the only thinking I did was wishing the band could have continued for another hour. As the last high fives were given and the lights turned on, besides the sweat dripping down from my body I didn’t have a problem in the world. I felt awesome. I walked over to my well-rested wife and was welcomed with a smile and a laugh.
“You two (Bruce and I) are like a couple of kids,” she stated, as her smile grew. I couldn’t disagree. I smiled back shrugging my shoulders.
Then it hit me. It wasn’t the release of aggression or mental satisfaction of running into someone that made this fun.
It was that my mind was blank.
I was in the present.
This is akin to the feeling I seek through meditation, something I grew fond of recently. It’s amazing the psychological effect that not thinking can provide. Sounds crazy, but that 90 minutes of not thinking was the perfect elixir.
That evening will not be remembered for the 5 minutes I would have changed in the demo. It will be remembered for the 90 minutes when I forgot all about it.