In this go, go, go, crazy, competitive and driven world it is easy to get sucked in by all that is called “being successful”. I certainly fit into that category. I was a highly driven executive, working for an amazing company, and getting fantastic results. And I was miserable. Absolutely miserable. I hid it from everyone. I led my team well and I created some amazing opportunities for others. Then on one spring day in Little Rock in 2012 I just ran out of gas. That was it. I had nothing left in the tank for my family, or my career.
For almost 10 years I kept my eye on the ball, almost never fumbling it at work, but I consistently dropped the ball at home. I did it all innocently enough, justifying that I needed to check that email one more time at 9 PM after the kids were in bed, or getting up at 4 AM to get a head start on my email, or booking travel, or finishing up some analysis on some report that didn’t really matter. Then there was the not really being home when I was home. My mind was almost always thinking about a problem, my next meeting, an upcoming conference call, or my next trip. Through it all my wife was supportive, and did her best to keep the family running while I traveled through 10 states.
I struggled to make it all work and to keep all the balls in the air. I read books, went to seminars, listened to Podcasts and tried to find this elusive work/life balance. In the end I realize there is no work/life balance. It does not exist. Not really. There are seasons of life that are busier than others and you have to constantly adjust, re-prioritize, and make decisions to make sure you are living the life you want to live. That was they key. I was trying to live my life like other people did. I couldn’t understand why some people at work with families could seem to make it all work. I wondered what was wrong with me. Why could they do it and I couldn’t? It was because I was not made to do that, nor did I want to.
That really is the heart of the whole matter. They were living the life they wanted to live. What type of life did I want to live? I chose and choose not to live a life of constant work, of filling my days with so much that I had nothing left for my family. I choose to be there for my kids more than I ever have been before. I choose not to miss as many baseball games, dance recitals, plays, and school functions. I choose to do date nights with my girls, date nights with my wife, and spend time with my sons. I choose to see my brothers as much as I am able too. I choose to cultivate strong friendships and reignite ones I have let go dormant over the years because I was too busy.
It is so easy to rationalize sacrifice short term memories for long term “success”. I know. I did it. I was that guy. But as I look back I realize I don’t have as many memories as I would like to before this last year. I realized I was living vicariously through the memories of my wife and my kids. And that’s no way to live. Success is fleeting. Money comes and money goes. We all get 168 hours a week. That’s it. Whether you are a top level CEO or waiting on the next big opportunity, that’s all we get. And I have chosen to spend my hours differently for the rest of my life, no matter what the future holds.
This isn’t a popular point of view. I understand that well. Upon my decision to walk away from a successful career last year many people publicly smiled and wished me well and behind closed doors said “What is that guy thinking?! He has it all and he’s throwing it all away!” Many people still say I am crazy, and that is perfectly fine with me. I can live with that. What I can’t live with is how my life was before.
I did what I did for me, my wife, and my kids. Even during this past year of introspection, down time, and re-engaging with my family I have struggled with feelings of “getting back out there” and making an impact. There’s nothing wrong with that. I know that is what I am ultimately called to do. When the time is right, I will be ready for the right opportunity.
While the future is unclear, I know that whatever opportunities are afforded me in the future I will have my priorities straight and will always make sure that my life outweighs my work. No matter what the cost.
What kind of life do you want to live?
Manifesto: The Best Decision I Ever Made. Or Work-Life Balance is a Myth. Or the Post that May Kill My Career.
Published August 14, 2013