Monday, January 3, 2011

Life Matters

This is the eighth blog post regarding the 10 Things I Accidentally Learned on the Path to Growth. Without a doubt this is the most important of the ten items - that success without balance in your life is empty. Some of the most successful people alive are also the most unhappy. The reality is that success does not equal happiness. Success does not equal fulfillment. Success by itself, and certainly alone, means nothing. So before you go chasing success - having the biggest company or the most profitable EBITDA or the most customers or employees - know why you are doing it and how you will make it meaningful so it brings happiness along with it. Otherwise you are wasting your time, and ultimately your life, pursuing a dream to nowhere!

The Problem
The world is full of the results of folks who fail to keep balance in their lives. Here is a short list of things I see every day:
  • Marriages crumble
  • Families are destroyed
  • Friendships become distant
  • Businesses crash and burn
  • People self destruct
As small business owners we seem to think that working hard will cover a multitude of sins. It doesn't - it might take care of the bills and put some money into the retirement account - but money never buys happiness. It will not ever make up for the lost hours with your spouse, kids, family or friends. Money can't buy the important things in life - it bandaids the real problem most of us have - how we use and prioritize our time. Working hard is not the answer. Being intentional and disciplined is.

Hard Reality
Here are the cold hard facts. Every human being on this planet gets 168 hours every week. No more, no less. The biggest responsibility we have is how we will use those precious hours to make the most significant impact. There are some jobs that only you can do. No one can really replace you as spouse and father. Oh we certainly try to do that a lot - but divorce is messy and painful and not a solution to failure to put people first. The facts are that you are not indispensible at work. There are plenty of people capable of filling the roles at the office. Maybe not exactly the way you would do it. But those tasks will get done. But no one can truly fill your role as husband/wife or dad/mom. We try to offload it - but it doesn't work. Figure out the things that only you can do - and do them first.

Why we work all the time
I know what drives most of you to work too many hours. You get validated more easily there than at home. Let's be honest - it is pretty easy to be validated by people who don't really know you. You can become the hero pretty quickly at work. There are a lot less messy things to deal with - and you normally have help to deal with a lot of areas at work that fall only on your shoulders at home. It is tough to sometimes recieve validation from our spouse and kids. We can get into a negative cycle and just want to run to work to avoid feeling incompetent. But we have to understand the dynamics of home life. Living with people 24/7/365 is a whole lot different than the 8-10 hours or so we are together at work. We don't do holidays with our co-workers. We don't go on vacations together. It isn't a fair comparison so we just need to realize that it often "feels better" at work than home. BUT that is no excuse to spend every waking hour there or run back to the office if things at home get a bit tough. Nothing is more important than taking care of business at home first. That is where our first use of the 168 hours we are blessed with each week need to be spent.

Balance is a hard thing
Balance is a challenging target to aim for. There are so many things pulling us in so many ways that it is difficult to achieve. But I know no one in their retirement or on their death bed who ever said they wished they had worked more hours. I have heard many people say they wish they had spent more time with those they loved. We only get to use our precious 168 hours once - we can't bank them - we get no do-overs - we have to do it right the first time. It is critical we truly spend time planning how we do that.

Do it well
It is important to know what success really is so we don't get to the end of our career and decide we totally missed it. Have you defined success? Do you know what it means to truly achieve? Life matters far more that success by itself. If we blend success with a solid plan for what matters in life - which always involves people - we can have the best of both worlds. If we don't - we will miss one or the other and end up frustrated and unfulfilled. Don't miss the mark. Get some balance and a plan for what it means to truly be successful in your life. It is much more than work. A life plan is a critical part of that process. Don't wait another year - get started now!

1 comment:

Gator said...

It's been said "A man always has time for those things he considers important". At times we all loose sight of what is really important. Family needs to come first everytime. Work will alsways be there. As a business owner, I have always allowed employees to take off for family events. Most employees give back to me and the company many times over for this.