Post #2 in a series of 6 posts on work/life balance: Where to begin?

Business Person Questioning ChoicesWhen thinking about work/life balance, it’s also useful to consider where you are in your life. Young and unencumbered? Seems like the logical time to put every bit of your energy into building your career or business. Married with small kids at home? Maybe that’s the time to build more family time into your daily routine, even if that means some of your career goals need to go on the back burner for a while.

This sort of thinking seems like conventional wisdom. But what if your parents are elderly and need your help, even as you are in your prime career building years? What if you have a burning desire to spend a year in Africa building schools or helping a local community build desperately needed infrastructure? Or what if you’re a business owner trying to grow your fragile enterprise by squeezing every last ounce of productivity out of your people? Isn’t “balance” the enemy of growth and profit?

Obviously, when it comes to balance, there are no easy answers. That’s why I’m so intrigued with the framework developed by Eric Sinoway and Howard Stevenson, detailed in the October 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review (“No, You Can’t Have It All”). As noted in the article synopsis:

Many of us are struggling to chart a path toward success in our careers and a sense of fulfillment in all aspects of our lives. But we can’t excel simultaneously in every role. Instead, at various points in life we must choose what to emphasize and what to relinquish. The goal is to make the decision consciously instead of unwittingly letting go of the most important item.

All of the above resonates for me… the first two sentences, remind me of a conversation with my brother-in-law (thanks Jon).  It was one of those conversations; where you keep replaying it.  I shared, I felt guilty.  In the past two years, with the death of my dad, significant accident of a friend, two adoptions, and health issues with my wife, I’ve been involved but working less on the business.  In spite of this, Intertech has had its best two years ever.  I’ve been tremendously lucky in having business partners who’ve “stepped up” (thanks Ryan, Dan, Jim, and Dave).  Jon shared there will come a time when others will have similar issues and I’ll be more present in the business while they take care of their families.  Simply, it’s life.  It’s O.K.

Per the last sentence of the italicized paragraph above, when I was in the early stages of building Intertech, I put the most important relationship in my life—my marriage—at great risk, unwittingly of course.  I was younger, ambitious and determined to make my company successful. That meant a lot of long days and many nights working into the wee hours, ignoring my wife and doing less than my fair share around the house.  For my first wedding anniversary, I asked my wife to get herself a gift and get takeout… not good ideas!

My drive to succeed could have cost me dearly if my wife hadn’t insisted that I slow down a bit and take a look at my priorities. This is not to say that I lost my ambition or my work ethic, but I slowly began to realize that building the company could not be the only place I put my energy.

Next time I’ll tell you about the framework for making balanced decisions developed by Eric Sinoway and Howard Stevenson.