For most people I know with successful and driven businesses, work-life balance is nonexistent. It’s not because they don’t have the desire to spend time with their family, operate a killer business, and do things that personally fire them up. It’s because balance doesn’t exist in the way most people think about it.
Take a moment and imagine yourself doing something you love to do. Does it involve your imagination wandering to something else other than that one thing? Of course it doesn’t! In personal development books, authors talk all the time about how the day before vacation you are so much more productive knowing you’re leaving the next day. Why? Because it’s not a balanced effort. It’s a full-out sprint toward the objective.
Each of these three areas—family, personal, business—are all interconnected. They live and breath through each other. But they are not the same. They do different things for your life, for your desires, and for the ultimate outcome of achievement; were you successful with ______ , or not? This is not balance.
When I used to hear “work-life balance,” I’d feel like I was failing—basically at everything. And the truth is, I was failing (and still do) at certain things. Whether I wasn’t focusing enough time on my children, having date nights with my wife, leading my team as CEO at work, or being a great business partner. The possibilities of failures are endless. That’s why work-life balance is not only a false pretense, I almost think it’s dangerous.
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Any given week, you can find me training MMA with my pro-fighter coach, learning to fly an airplane with my 80-year-old instructor, or playing bass guitar and keys in front of hundreds or thousands of people at a worship service. Each of these are different exercises in a specific discipline. They require focus and specific skills within that disciple.
You think it’s good to be thinking about (or even making the mental space for) anything other than kick boxing when you’re sparring with your trainer? Have you ever been leg kicked and not checked it?–or punched in the face with a well-timed one-two combination you didn’t see coming? It hurts! There isn’t any balance here (other than your physical body in motion and movement within the mind); this is an all-out mental and physical effort.
Our family recently bought a home on some acreage, and one of my kids loves to get into our ATV and roll around the property. We roll in and out of trees, around tight corners, up and down hills. It is so much fun. But do you think this is balanced time? I’m making sure my kids are safe, and the ATV still has all 4 wheels on the ground. I’m checking that the kids are buckled up and no branches are dangling too close to faces or eye balls.
We enjoy time in the house playing games, and my son could build legos everyday. If I am in the moment with my kids, I am not bringing anything else to the table other than a desire to be 100 percent all in with them. This is not balance! I’m not thinking about other things in life or “balancing them” in that moment. If I were, I would not be giving my kids and my wife my full attention.
I remember distinctly a few weeks ago I sat with our main acquisitions guy from around 7 p.m. to well-past midnight working through dozens of potential deals. We had only 24 hours to work through everything, and the one and only thing that was important was working through the opportunities, quickly understanding them, dissecting them, and making decisions.
These were million-dollar decisions! It’s not a game; we don’t get a do-over. If you buy a house that’s a dud, you get to deal with it afterward (and I’ve been there, and it’s not fun paying to sell a house).
On our team, as a leader (or as a person in a specific position in an organization), you still don’t want balance. You want someone with a specific job who is at work to be supremely focused, clear on the objective, dialed in, and executing the activity. This goes for leadership specifically. You can’t have balance doing a bunch of different stuff in your business at the same time. Now, there are different personality types who do different things (and some more than others) pretty well. But, this is not an excuse to be all over the place. It’s not an excuse not to get everything done.
I journal almost every morning before my day starts and often at the end of the day as well. Some days I am all about my family. Other days I’m all about the number of houses we need to buy, projections for our business that month, or what we need to do to execute that result. Sometimes it’s literally a task-oriented to-do list. Each of these take a specific focus and a specific discipline.
When I finally let go of the idea of work-life balance, I found something interesting in my life. Everything I got into during my day, whether it was buying houses, leading my team as CEO, flying an airplane, training in MMA, driving the ATV, date night with my wife, anything—the more I was interested and all in in that moment, the more engaged and more enjoyment I got from it.
It’s time to stop trying to balance everything and realize you can’t. Instead, be focused in the moment on what’s in front of you. Put your phone down. Look people in the eyes. Be present. Be in the moment, and be all in.
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I want to hear your thoughts! Do you agree or disagree about work-life balance? How do you separate the different aspects of your life?