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COL Give thanks for white space, too

A reader sent me an Albany (NY) Times Union article about Cablevision Systems Corp. CEO Jim Dolan.

The article isn't about Jim Dolan's day job. He heads up the communications conglomerate that owns Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers and Radio City Music Hall. Last year, according to the company's annual report, he earned $6.4 million in salary and stock. He has all the perks: limos, helicopter, jet, lavish expense account -- the works.

The article was about Jim and his blues band, JD &; The Straight Shot. They were appearing at an Albany club.

The writer of the article asked Jim why he was doing this. "You know what's great and what I really love? I'm 50 years old and I can do this. It's just me singing. If there are only 10 people out there, I'm still going to be singing, still be having a good time. I'm doing it because it's part of me. I've been playing guitar and singing since I was 17. In my life, I need more than just my job and my family. I need to be able to reflect another side of myself."

Asked if he's really the same guy when performing on stage, Dolan said, "I'm happy. I leave everything else behind. I'm wrestling for balance in my life. What it really is is that I'm letting people in, and I'm letting myself out."

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Jim exemplifies an important lesson for all of us. In the wired world we now live in, with about 30 GPS satellites whirling overhead, with the Internet humming 24/7, with cell phones, BlackBerrys, personal digital assistants, laptops and videoconferencing, we need white space.

That's the term the wired generation uses for time spent unwired. We need to spend time disconnected, devoted to our dreams, hobbies, fantasies, meditations -- personal time, down time, quiet time -- whatever you want to call it.

In fact, from the days of sailing ships, to ensure their safety, sailors had an expression: one hand for the ship, one hand for me. That way they wouldn't fall out of the rigging and drown.

The point is, you have to set aside time for yourself.

It's heartbreaking to hear executives and professionals say they missed seeing their kids grow up. They always tell you if they had it to do over again they would spend more time supporting their kids and their activities.

Last year, I wrote a column called "Make a living; make a life, too," based on words of wisdom from a University of Tokyo student. The idea was that modern life spun so fast, had so many conveniences and took so much for granted that the essence of life was missed.

Its pleasures are forfeited, its meaning destroyed. Reader response to that column was overwhelming.

Which brings to mind this snippet by Kurt Vonnegut published in the New Yorker magazine last May:

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"Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer (now dead) and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.

"I said, 'Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel Catch-22 has earned in its entire history?'

"And Joe said, 'I've got something he can never have.'

"And I said, 'What on earth could that be, Joe?' And Joe said, 'The knowledge that I've got enough.'"

Not bad! Rest in peace!

Harvey Mackay can be reached through his Web site: www.mackay.com; or Mackay Envelope Corp., 2100 Elm St., Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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