Your Presence is a Present

“Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.”

-Maria Popova

We talk a lot about effectiveness, productivity, return on investments (and return on infrastructure), key performance indicators, strategic planning, SWOT analysis, and the list goes on…

All of this “talk” is focused on making our internal business and our clients’ projects and organizations more successful. After all, we are in the business of Project Development and Program Management, and we are on a mission to help steward public infrastructure investments more effectively.   

That being said, with Labor Day upon us, I have a recent story that reminds me about the art of taking time off to be present.   

You see, our professional and personal lives have been bleeding into each other since, from my best guess, the invention and the follow-on en masse corporate purchase of the crack blackberry. Maybe it has always been a battle, but the more technology we create to increase communication and decrease friction, the more we are tethered to the technology. Enter a global pandemic, and we set fire to boundaries. “Zoom,” “Teams” and the like challenged all of us to master the art of raising kids while on conference calls – never fully present to our work or our families. Enter my recent experience…

So there I was – It’s a summer, Friday morning, and I am wrapping up our weekly Business Development & Operations conference call I took while on a drive to the beach. My son is in the back seat of the car, and we are headed to a part-business, part-pleasure father/son fishing trip. We get to our destination, and I check my email and calendar one more time and see that I’ve been asked to join two meetings during the day.

Damn, OK – I can make it work. I begrudgingly accept the calendar invites, knowing that it is Friday and “of course I can squeeze it in,” right? After all, why push to Monday what can be accomplished today, right? I can take the conference calls while I am on the boat, right? I can help my son learn to fish on his first time out while I juggle a few business development calls, right!?  


As we are boarding the boat and juggling snacks, towels, and getting my son off the dock and onto the boat, we pause to grab a quick “selfie,” and…my phone slips out of my hand, bounces off the boat and drops into the bay. 

Call it fate. Call it bad luck. I’ll call it God’s most recent 2×4 to the head reminder that my kids are only young once.  

After a moment (or more) of panic, my business partner Michael and our colleague turn to me and say, “That’s the best thing that could have happened to you!”  

We went on to have a wildly successful day catching sand sharks and blowfish, and what my son declared to my wife that night as “the best day ever!” And to think I had almost missed it!

Work ethic is important. I take pride in working hard, and you should too. I am passionate about our company and our clients, and you should be passionate about yours, too.   

I do believe in “taking action in the moment” and “don’t push to tomorrow that which can be accomplished today.” 

BUT, I also believe that John Wooden had it right when he said, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” 

So, this weekend, as we celebrate Labor Day – to honor and recognize the American labor movement and laborers’ contribution to the development and achievement of the US – let’s be present in the celebration!   

Making memories with family and friends…your presence is a present! 

BJ Kraemer, President