Ready To Start Over?

It's as simple as losing a number

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Got a new mobile phone, a Motorola V180, the other day. Nice, basic, entry-level model. Some cool features, including a speakerphone and ring tones, to boot. Too bad my old model didn't have a SIM card. With a SIM card, all I would have had to do is pop it out of the old unit and drop it into the new one. Voila! I'd have my data. But some cost-conscious administrator in my company decided last time around not to spring for units with SIM cards. And that's forcing a decision here that's leading me to some new thinking.

I wonder: Do I hand-transfer data out of my old unit and into the new, or just start from scratch?

Can you imagine starting over? I mean, seriously. All those great contacts, connections, etc., gone in a poof? Frightening, right? Maybe not.

Think about your colleague Angela who lost her phone while eating chili in Cincinnati. She survived, right? (Losing the phone, anyway.) And then there is Phil from accounting. His bag, with phone inside, was swiped on the Metro-North line to Scarsdale, N.Y. Nobody fired him.

What I am getting at is that we might just be able to live on, and possibly function even better, if we simply started over. Everything new again, everyone full of possibility. Before you get hung up on that thought, try this: Scroll through your mobile phone directory and ask yourself, "How many of these people do I really have to have in my life?" Start with the As and go all the way to W. (I don't have anyone past W in my phone, though it's perfectly all right if you do.)

So, start with your accountant: Keep. Bank: Keep. Child care: Keep. But, c'mon, you have these numbers memorized. Same for hairdresser, home, HQ and that entry simply known as "hoosiers." (Who knew that the letter "H" would turn out to be so strategic?)

By the time you get past limo--everyone should have at least one limo service in one city in his or her life--and blast your way past Mom and Dad, you're left with, what, maybe a dozen or so critical, must-have, gotta-keep numbers? That includes the guy at the Venetian in Vegas who promised to "take care of you" the next time you were in town. (His number, for the record, is (702) 414-3999. But don't ask me for his name.)

Now go back through the directory and ask yourself another question: When was the last time you dialed some of the other numbers that didn't make your critical list? If the answer is, "I can't remember" or, "More than a year ago," then purge those people from your life, or at least from your phone-contact list. Really. Besides, if you truly need them and can remember where they work, then that's all you need. The time I used to spend laboriously keeping a contact database full and up-to-date, I now apply to getting work done.

As for all those numbers, I look at it this way: People I work with, I can reach. And people who are tougher to reach, I can still track them down. And people who mean something, I can never forget. (My parents, for example, have had the same phone number since 1978.) It's what to do with the people in my life who seemed wonderful when I met them and whose numbers I dutifully entered into my phone and planned on connecting with I fret about most. What, frankly, if they really were destined to be the must-know people who I thought they were when I first made their acquaintances?

So, I did a little experiment. I started calling them, one at a time. And I'll be damned--most could barely remember meeting me. And that's if the few who could were telling the truth. Others didn't see the reason for keeping up appearances, and a rare few said, "Yes, glad you called." One even said, "I was thinking about you just the other day." (He turned out to be broke.)

With fewer numbers in my life, both my head and phone are free and uncluttered to meet people anew who can shape my thinking and inspire me to new heights. I'm all tingly just thinking about the wonderful contacts I'm expecting to meet in the weeks and months to come. Funny thing is, some will no doubt be people I have already met once before, given how small this business of ours seems sometimes.

A few may even be people whose numbers I once entered into my phone. Will I add their numbers to my phone again? Sure. Hopefully, this time around, we'll connect. We have to, I figure, because I have a SIM card now. And once you're on a SIM card, you're somebody's for life unless, of course, you have Phil's luck on the MTA. In that case, you're free to start again once more.

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