Work/Life Balance? Please …
As a fat man, I’ve decided I want to be a skinny man, and so I diet and exercise. The hardest part is not knowing what to eat or what not to eat, but not getting whiplashed by all the information that is out there.
“Eat within 30min of waking up.”
“Workout before you eat.”
“Eat a bit of protein before you workout.”
The discussion around work/life balance is similar.
“If you have passion, it’s not work”
“If you don’t balance your life, you will fail.”
“It’s okay to take time for yourself in order to be more effective.”
“I leave work everyday at 5pm. Work/Life balance, man.”
I honestly don’t get the hubbub behind the discussion around work/life balance. It seems such a simple concept:
Make sure you are not overdoing any one thing, you will burn yourself out, and just not enjoy living.
But, for some unknown reason, it has evolved into:
Stop working so much, asshole. Clearly, you are an idiot.
Balance is really the difficulty here, and in some ways, its unfortunate that the concept has evolved around the word. Things don’t have to be in balance to be in balance. You can work 16 hours a day and be in balance.
Yes, I said it. You can be in balance and still work 16 hours a day.
The key is to find a way to not overdo any one thing.
Dave McClure travels. He is constantly fund raising and investing. He plays ultimate frisbee (now and again) and hangs out with his family. If you looked at his life through the traditional lens of “work/life balance” you would say, “Dave, dude. You work too hard. You need to learn balance. Come, lets go on a hike. Do some yoga. Maybe a vacation where you disconnect from the world.” And you would miss the point.
What you don’t realize is how Dave lives his life. Seeing his travels through social media, or by spending moments with him doesn’t reveal that he is living his passion, and that passion is bringing balance to his life right now.
We forget that our lives are constantly changing and evolving. That what we need today may be completely different tomorrow. To create a definition of what work/life balance is, and apply that across the board is just innane. Its why, even though its probably not popular, I dislike FullContact’s Paid Paid Vacation policy. Institutionalizing a definition of work/life balance is disrespectful to the individual choices of the members of the team.
If some asked me if I felt that I was a balanced person (yes, we can joke about my mental imbalances if you like) I would say I am. But here is my day - 14 hours spent on my startup or talking to other folks about theirs. An hour around lunch time away from the office, and an hour for exercise. I always try and sleep 8 hours, because it makes the 14 at least 1.5 times as effective.
I don’t hike. I don’t go to conferences. I don’t to wine tastings or pick daisies while skipping through the park. I don’t do work/life balance.
But, I like my life. I like the output. I like what I have accomplished and how I have helped others accomplish. I like the balance in my life.
And that’s the rub, isn’t it? When you are truly passionate about something (or somethings – In my case its entrepreneurship and story-telling) the line between the traditional definition of work and life blur. It becomes impossible to stop one and start the other.
Balance is achieved by balancing yourself emotionally, not by balancing your time. Work/Life balance is about clarity of action and purpose, and if to achieve that you can’t take time to pee then it is ok.
You define what balance is. Just like you define if your activities are work.
Just stop defining it for me.