"Do you have kids, Tom?"
I was grateful for the simple question and felt the life come back to my face. "Why, yes, one actually. His name is Todd. He's 16."
Bud smiled. "Do you remember how you felt when Todd was born—how it seemed to change your perspective on life?"
I strained to find my way back to the memories of Todd's birth—through the pain, through the heartache. Diagnosed at a fairly young age with attention deficit disorder, he had been a difficult child, and my wife, Laura, and I clashed constantly over what to do with him. Things had only gotten worse as he grew older. Todd and I didn't have much of a relationship. But at Bud's invitation, I attempted a remembrance of the time and emotion surrounding his birth. "Yes, I remember," I began pensively. "I remember holding him close, pondering my hope for his life—feeling inadequate, even overwhelmed, but at the same time grateful." The memory lessened for a moment the pain I felt in the present.
"That was the way it was for me too," Bud said. "Would you mind if I told you a story that began with the birth of my first child,
"Please," I said, happy to hear his story rather than relive my own.
"I was a young lawyer at the time," he began, "working long hours at one of the most prestigious firms in the country. One of the deals I worked on was a major financing project that involved about 30 banks worldwide. Our client was the lead lender on the deal.
"It was a complicated project involving many lawyers. In our firm alone, there were eight attorneys assigned to it from four different offices worldwide. I was the second most junior member of the team and had chief responsibility for the drafting of 50 or so agreements that sat underneath the major lending contract. It was a big, sexy deal involving international travel, numbers with a lot of zeroes, and high-profile characters.
"A week after I'd been assigned to the project, Nancy and I found out she was pregnant. It was a marvelous time for us. David was born some eight months later, on December 16. Before the birth I worked hard to wrap up or assign my projects so that I could take three weeks off with our new baby. I don't think I've ever been happier in my life.
"But then came a phone call. It was December 29. The lead partner on the deal was calling me. I was needed at an 'all hands' meeting in San Francisco.
"How long?" I asked.
"'Until the deal closes—could be three weeks, could be three months. We're here until it's done,' he said.
"I was crushed. The thought of leaving Nancy and David alone in our Alexandria, Virginia, home left me desperately sad. It took me two days to wrap up my affairs in D.C. before I reluctantly boarded a plane for San Francisco. I left my young family at the curb at what used to be called National Airport. With a photo album under my arm, I tore myself away from them and turned through the doors of theterminal.
***** TABLE OF CONTENTS *****
Part I: Self-Deception and the "Box"
Part II: How We Get 'in' the Box
Part III: How We Get 'out' of the Box