In business, the work/life balance is a conversation that is frequently had. Many CEOs of medium-sized companies tend to ignore the work/life balance because the only way to get ahead is to plug on. Even though I don’t adhere to it specifically, I think there is something to the idea behind finding a work/life balance. You can be successful at what you do, and balance your family life.
This is for those business owners who have families with children still at home. I have children spanning from a soon to be 10-year-old to an almost three-year-old. There is a constant struggle between providing for your family and neglecting your family. You can hardly use the excuse “I’m providing for my family,” to justify ignoring them. In the end, you're going to sacrifice what's most important in life for a short term gain. Having a family, being present and taking care of them, while continuing to be an entrepreneur and grow your business is not an easy task. I certainly don’t have it all together, but I do know it’s important always to be striving to be better. I am much better today than I was two years ago at adding priority to my family life in spite of work.
The Almighty Buck
In my past life in the coffee industry, I put in a lot of time and focus on future promises of money for the sake of my family. I believed that the sacrifices I was making would lead to money which would justify the family time I was missing. If things had played out that way, maybe I would be singing a different tune, having accomplished the ends that justified the means. But I know I would have regretted missing out on some of the best years of my children’s lives.
You should think carefully, then, before sacrificing something meaningful like your family in chase of the “Almighty Buck.”
People incorrectly place too much value on something that is fleeting: money. Money has value only to the extent that people assign value to it. We are currently experiencing this in the stock market with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In my younger years, I was mentored by someone who owned a successful business in the 80s. The common mindset of the times was one of sacrificing to get ahead, and in the end, you’ll be financially happy you sacrificed. I wrestled with that mindset and came away not able to personally agree with that, but I realize others may disagree and I am not trying to offend that way of thinking. I have four children and the idea of me working so much that I don’t see them very much just to have future financial security is not an idea I like. Of course, I do like the idea of future financial security, but in my opinion, it is not found in sacrificing my family. I think a lot of people can agree with that.
The 50/50 Work-Life Balance Myth
Some say that you should have 50% of your life be work and the other 50% play/relationships. I do not hold to this belief. I believe that work can be a part of life as well. I have friends that are friends only because I've worked with them. I probably wouldn't have ever gotten to know them if it wasn't for that. Also, I don’t mind bringing work home. I get to be present with my family but still be able to accomplish something important, like working to provide for my family. I like that my kids see me working on my laptop on a project; it shows my kids that working is important and can sometimes be kind of fun.
You can work a lot, but relationships are also important. Whether you have a spouse and kids, or friends or family, it is important to nurture those and put your time and energy into more than just business relationships. Relationships help round you out as a person. I am naturally introverted, so relationships are something I have to work at. If it’s not a work relationship, I have to remind myself of the value of continuing to work at that relationship. I don’t want to get to the point when my children are moving out of the house and I realize I’ve missed so much with them. It makes me sad to think that back when I was too engrossed in my job and trying to chase riches, I missed a few years of my eldest’s life and a year of my second child’s.
My hope would be that for other business people out there, this helps put your struggle in perspective. It’s not about creating the perfect percentage of work and life or simply giving up trying to find any balance. It is more about being present with those you love and call friends. It is about nurturing relationships rather than ignoring them to continue making money.