Several years ago, I delivered a speech to a group of senior executives from a Fortune 50 company. When I opened the floor for questions, a woman from the audience asked me, “How do you become a senior executive in a global company and still have time to watch your kids play soccer, be involved in your community, pursue your faith, put a healthy dinner on the table and be a great wife?”. I smiled broadly and replied to her, “You don’t! And if anyone told you that you could, they lied to you. You can have one or the other, but not both. She looked up at me with a stunned expression on her face and said, “Finally, someone tells us the truth; that’s exactly what I thought, but no one ever came right out and just bluntly said it couldn’t be done. I agree with you — thank you, John.”
I then said, “suppose you, or any man for that matter wants to be a successful high-level executive in a multinational company. In that case, it requires that you dedicate pretty much all of your time and attention to your career. I have never met someone who runs a large part of a multi-billion-dollar company that had even the slightest level of work-life balance”.
So, the truth is that there is no such thing as work-life balance — it simply does not exist.
However, there is an entirely different way to look at this that does make sense.
To quote Sir Richard Branson, “I’ve never really thought of work and life as separate. My work is my life, and vice versa. If you can find a career you are passionate about, working hard doesn’t have to be a chore. We spend roughly 80 percent of our lives at work, so we must find jobs that we love. If you think of work as a chore and dread turning up every day, maybe it’s time that you consider a career change.”
I could not possibly agree more. I have spent the last 21 years traveling upward of 200 days a year doing what other people would consider a massive amount of work and what I consider a complete and utter joy. Every morning, I get up excited to “go to work” and cannot believe that I get paid to have fun, travel the world, and help people. I certainly do not have what most people would consider “work-life balance,” but I do have an excellent “life-work purpose” that fulfills me greatly.
You should ask yourself these three questions:
- What are you really, really good at?
- What are you passionate about and love to do?
- What is very highly valued in the marketplace?
If you’re really good at something and it’s highly valuable in the marketplace, but you don’t enjoy doing it; that is called work.
If you’re really good at something and you’re deeply passionate about it, but nobody in the marketplace values it; that is called a hobby.
And, if you’re deeply passionate about something and it’s highly valuable in the marketplace, but you’re not any good at it; that’s called unemployment.
It’s only when you have all three that you can create a life-work balance of doing something meaningful, fun, and highly rewarding both personally and financially. It sounds like it’s a lot of work to figure this out, but actually, it’s a lot of work if you don’t!
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