With a full plate at Accipiter Marlowe fears he has neglected his personal life to the point of no return, or is there still hope for a lonely innovation consultant?

I had promised myself I wouldn’t darken her door until I could do so without all the sturm und drang that had accompanied my last date.  With good momentum at Accipiter and a sunny forecast from Matt and Meredith, I felt I could finally work on my personal life.  All work and no play makes Sam a very dull boy, but then again, Sam had always been a rather dull and cynical boy to begin with.

I decided for the direct approach, and waited until I saw her car in the lot outside.  I gave her 15 minutes grace period, to allow her the chance to catch her breath and demonstrate that I wasn’t, exactly, stalking her.  I carried a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of Chardonnay, my acknowledgement that this meeting was more about her needs and desires than mine.

I knocked on her door and heard her say “just a minute” from within her condo.

In the moments before the door opened I ran through my list of reasons for being here, at her door, at this particular time.  Was I really interested in June?  Yes.  Did I have the psychic ability to make her important in my life?  Yes.  Could I make a long term commitment to her, and keep work from interfering?  I hope so.  But one other dogged me – what if I had already burned my bridges?  Would I have another chance with June?

The bolt went over with a click that resonated, and June pulled the door open and looked at me expectantly.

“It’s been quite a while since you’ve been down to see me” she said, not giving me a hint of her feelings.

I nodded and handed her the flowers.

“For me?” she said coyly.  I noticed that I had not yet been invited in.

“Look, I’ve come to see you to ask for a restart.  I haven’t been fair to you, or to any chance of a relationship between us.”

“Stop standing there on the threshold and come in.  I’ll pour you a drink.”

It couldn’t be that easy.

I stepped in and placed the wine on the counter in the kitchen.  “I’ll be happy to open this bottle if you’ll have some” I said.

“No, thanks, I want to be of sound mind and body while I hear what you have to say”.

The atmosphere in the kitchen was not quite frosty, not quite inviting.  It was like an awkward first date between two people who’ve known each other for years.  Perhaps I haven’t burned the bridge, but I definitely left it scorched.

“June, I’ve done a lot of thinking.  You see a man before you who isn’t great with words or relationships, but someone who needs more in his life than scotch, football and innovation.  My last serious relationship ended in divorce, and since then I’ve sort of buried my anger in my work.  You caught the short end of that stick over the last six months.  I’m here to say that I’d like to restart a relationship with you, if you’re open to it.  You told me to come back when I could commit, and while I’m not ready for marriage I am ready to commit more of my time to you.”

June looked thoughtfully at me as she sipped her Chardonnay.  She was leaning on the countertop next to her sink, and in the late day sun filtering in through the kitchen window she looked beautiful and pensive.  I couldn’t tell what was going on behind those lovely gray eyes, and her face didn’t give me a hint of what she was thinking.

“OK.  I’ve dumped it all out there, exposed my feelings more than I did in my divorce.  If you need time to think about what I’ve said, let me know.  Do you want me to go?”

June shook her head and refilled her wineglass, then motioned me to follow her.  We walked out to the couch and she sat down on one end, indicating that I should sit at the other end.  Well, this was something.  We were at least sharing the same furniture.

“Sam, when we last saw each other I was angry at you.  There’s nothing that says we owe each other anything – we’ve always been friendly but not serious.  I was angry because I felt you used me.  We were out, but you were somewhere else.  If you want to get serious, that’s possible – over time – but first I need to know that when we are together I get all of you.  Not just the physical presence but more importantly the mental part of you as well.  I don’t quite understand what you do for a living – dreaming up big ideas and creating new products – but I do know that you are attractive to me because you are smart, well-read and behind all of the tough guy exterior, there lurks a romantic at heart.”

She stopped and sipped her wine.  I wasn’t sure she wanted me to say anything, and in the absence of anything interesting or valuable to add, I kept my trap shut.  Better silent and thought a fool than proving it by speaking.

She nodded to herself, as if she’d made a decision, and addressed me.

“I also thought you had another woman in your life at that time.  That’s your prerogative, but I don’t want to play second fiddle, to be the fall back option. “

I shook my head.

“I’m not interesting enough to keep the attention of two women.  I struggle enough to keep up a relationship with you.  There’s no one else in my life, other than my work, which has been very distracting.”

“I don’t mind competing with your work.  I understand you have a real passion for what you do, but I do mind competing with it after hours.  I believe you when you say there’s no one else.  So the question is:  can we manage to build a relationship without your work interfering too much?”

Lord knows I’d screwed this up once before, but with age and experience comes wisdom, so I thought I had a much better chance the second time around, especially after all I’d learned from my work with Accipiter.

“June, I’m a bit used up, hard bitten and cynical, but I do have a romantic side.  I do want you in my life, and I need to learn to balance my past disappointments and my work to make room for someone like you.  I can’t promise that everything will be different, but I can promise that a lot will be different if you give me another chance.”

“OK.  Just let me make a call.”

“What, do I need a background check?”

“No.  I have to cancel my date for tonight if we are going to give this a go.”

By Jeffrey Phillips

About the author:

Jeffrey Phillips is VP Marketing and a lead consultant for OVO Innovation. Jeffrey has led innovation projects for Fortune 5000 firms, academic institutions and not-for=profits based on OVO Innovation’s Innovate on Purpose™ methodology. The Innovate on Purpose methodology encourages organizations to consider innovation as a sustainable, repeatable business process, rather than a discrete project. Jeffrey is the author of “Make Us More Innovative,” and blogs about innovation at Innovate On Purpose. He is a sought after speaker and has presented to corporations, innovation oriented conferences, and at a number of universities.