Now, for the first time, I have my schedule nailed down for 2012. It didn’t go according to plan. But what about 2013? Will I do any better?

They say you need written goals to make your dreams come true. They say you should break them down into manageable steps and tackle them one at a time. They say you must be organized, disciplined and work hard in order to get anything done.

I don’t believe any of this.

I’ve written enough goals for ten lifetimes. I have plastic storage tubs full of manageable steps on yellow legal pads. I’ve been disciplined and organized. I’ve worked twelve to eighteen hour days for years at a time. My longest single recording session was thirty-six hours without a break.

It was productive. It was profitable. It was mostly stupid. Not the music, the life.

I learned this lesson one day after three straight months of eighteen hour days in the studio. I was an exhausted zombie idiot by the time we finished. It was a Saturday and I was stretched out on my couch in a sleep-deprived stupor. The TV was cranking out cartoons for the kids. Then the lesson happened.

The professor? My one year old daughter, Sandy.

She climbed up the couch and sat down on my tummy like I was furniture. My frazzled nerves required a conscious effort to be patient. I mumbled something to her and she turned toward me, bright-eyed.

“Hi Daddy. How are you today?” she asked casually.

I was stunned. Shocked! Astonished. What was so surprising? When I’d gone into the studio three months earlier, she hadn’t been able to talk. A few baby syllables were all she used. Now, she was sitting on my stomach talking casually in complete sentences.

She began to tell me about a toy. I was both overjoyed and overcome with a wave of sadness. I had missed it all. Her first words. Those awkward first sentences. The game with my wife to see whose name she said first.

(Rebekah said Dada first, not that I keep track.)

I had gotten up before her and gone to bed after her for ninety days. Long enough for the whole process to happen. It was over.

She didn’t wait for me. Life doesn’t.

It wasn’t a devastating blow. Sandy would never even remember it. But I would. It was a warning, a smack in the face.

“Life is short,” was the message. “Be there.”

We do what we love. There’s always time for it. We make the time.

We don’t need lists or goals or reminders. We can’t control life with paper notes and plans. Thank goodness. Because most of our plans are pretty small.

Life is big.

Even the smallest bits of it can be huge. A first word, a first meeting, a first kiss. You can’t plan these things. They don’t show up on anyone’s calendar.

But they matter . . . whether you are there or not.

My plan for 2013 is to be there. By this time next year I’ll have it all worked out.


Photo: Part of the Google Master Plan from the Google HQ Whiteboard by Steve Jurvetson via Flickr