Posts tagged career
On Work/Life Balance

Over the years I've had the fantastic opportunity to participate in several panel discussions on career development -- both as a moderator and a panelist. One topic that pops up a lot is the question of how leaders maintain work/life balance. In today's fast-paced working world, where the lines between our personal and professional lives are increasingly blurred, a tempting answer is:

"Work/life balance is a myth."

With all due respect, that answer promotes a terrible compromise, at the personal and professional level. Sometimes compromise makes no sense, like putting a ski on one foot and a snowboard on the other.

Life is about finding balance and operating from a centered state of being. By balance I don’t mean a 50/50 split or a strictly 9 to 5 job.

We perform our best when we don't go to the extremes in any given area. Just as you can't work 80 hour weeks forever, you can't satisfy every personal priority 365 days a year. Like a pendulum, the further you swing in one direction, the further the pressure to eventually swing back. When we operate from a healthy center point, where all demands are being balanced, we have more energy, better results and less backlash.

So how do you accomplish this?

It's simple. Don't feed the extremes. If you give each area what it needs and don't get carried away, you will find you are happier, healthier and more effective. In order to do this, don't allow baggage from the past or anxiety for the future dictate your decisions. Instead, respond based on solely what is needed as each scenario arises. Your boss, your family, and your friends will notice the difference and you will have no regrets. So remember, work/life balance is not a myth. It's the path to living your best life.

Being a Hater Makes you a Loser Twice

Have you ever met someone who seemed to make up their own rules as they go along and you despised them for it? Maybe you were told no one could be promoted without x degree or before y years and you took this as gospel and along comes Mr. or Ms. Special and they get promoted without x degree and way before y years! Perhaps in other areas too they seem to be maddeningly effective, as if there was one set of rules for them, and another for everyone else, including yourself. And the thing that burns you up the most, is they are not unethical or undeserving - they just seem to be able to navigate better than everyone else.

When this happens, it can be easy for us to fall into the fairness trap and bemoan the special treatment that the Special is getting. We can even take it a step further and make it personal and start to despise everything about the Special. The problem with this approach is it makes you lose twice. First, you lose out when the Special got what you wanted. And second, you lose out because when you see the Special in a negative light, it makes it impossible to learn from them.

James Altucher put this best in his book, Choose Yourself, when he said,

"If you are envious, then you will distance yourself from success and make it that much harder to get there."

Choose Yourself!
By James Altucher

So what do you do instead? As much as it burns you inside, offer to take the Special out for lunch or coffee/tea. Get to know them. Try to understand and learn from them what it is that makes them so effective at getting what you want before you get it. In other words, what makes them Special. If you do this with humility and admiration, you may be surprised at how open and willing to share they are. You may find that the Special is not the jerk or diva that you thought they were when your perception was colored by your envy-tinted classes. And who knows, you may even make a friend or an ally for your own career advancement.

If you do this, let me know how it goes in the comments below.

What I Realized about Managing Your Own Career - Journal Entry

Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. Names, places and events are either the products of the author’s neurotic imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. That is, unless you find the main character to be wise, charming and likable. In that case, it's definitely me.

Journal entry: December 24

You know what I realized today? There is a huge difference between "getting a job" and "making money."

If you only know how to "make money" by "getting a job," you can feel like you are trapped in a box with very few other options.

Me, I always liked the security of a box. And if I'm honest with myself, given the, I would probably scramble right back into a box. It gives me borders. It gives me predictability. It serenades me…

"Don't worry . . . about a thing,

'Cause every little thing gonna be all right"

There I was, building a great life for myself. A life in part, made possible by the box. I had my family and health, lived in a great neighborhood, did interesting work, and could even afford some of the nicer things in life.

Until one day . . . I got inauspiciously chucked out of the box.

And to get a little meta for a moment, I'm escorted out of the box by Security with years of accumulated personal belongings stuffed into a box. How’s that for Christmas present? I’m told he rest to be shipped to me later. Free shipping, or course. They wouldn't be THAT cruel!

And guess what?

It's not that easy for me to get back into my box or any other box.

Why not?

O let me count the reasons!

1) My salary no longer fits reasonably inside the box

2) I’ve outgrown the box professionally and don’t really fix inside it anymore

3) I've never paid attention to what was outside the box so I am clueless about what other boxes really want

3) I've never had to fight, climb or sneak into another box so I'm terrible at it

4) Unbeknownst to me, my box was an endangered species and there just aren't that many other boxes like it out there

5) The process of getting accepted into a box is like preparing for the Olympics. Qualifier after qualifier and you can knocked out at any point. I hope it doesn't take 4 years!

So what's the lesson for today?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-box. I'm pro-options. I'm pro-awareness. And starting today, I'm PROACTIVE so I wrote the manifesto below as a reminder to myself.

Don't Get Boxed Manifesto

1. Starting today, I'll learn how to earn a living with or without a box.

2. If I ever go back into a box, I will make it a priority to pop my head out on a regular basis so I know what is going on.

3. I'll keep all my skills sharp and be open to opportunities to make money outside of the box.

4. If I start to outgrow the box, I will not allow myself to get trapped in the box by my own fears, inertia or lack of imagination.

Do you feel like you are trapped in a box? Have you every been chucked out of perfectly good box? How did you respond? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you…