On a recent company-wide call, our Founder in Chief called me out to follow up with some additional thoughts on Work/Life Balance.
Sharing my (deeply held, but repeatedly proven) Personal Truths with a company of 550+ took some serious thought! We were a small Spartan crew of 44 when I started 7 years back.
What follows is 750 words, edited down from 1500. I’d love for you to read it, and share it with anyone you know who Battles for Balance. By all means please share your thoughts below as well!
This is an important dialogue in so many companies, and even with solopreneurs right now.
The Myth of Balance is a subject that’s close to my heart, as it has become my mission to live what I call an integrated life.
I define integration as when you’re attempting to fire equally on all cylinders, across all of the non-negotiable aspects of your life. For me those have been: meditation, vitality, family, art, and work.
Work may be last in the order, but it’s for good reason. Our work is where we create value for everyone and everything around us. Our work should benefit from the non-negotiables that come before it, not exist as a separate, tougher “obligation”.
The irony for many solopreneurs, or founders is that although their businesses may have began as a passion project, the intense workloads can make them go “Black Spidey”. Often when we’re buried beneath mountains we ourselves created, we can feel detached from the legacy we want to leave behind.
Sure, we’re paying the bills and taking the amazing vacations.
But what is our ultimate impact on the world?
Since there is only 1 of us, we need to bring the entirety of ourselves into everything we do… especially our work, which finances our impact.
What follows summarizes everything I’ve learned from working for a rapid-growth start-up over the last 7 years. Again, I’d love to hear how you approach your own Work/Live blend.
Where does Work End, and/or Life Begin?
Technically, our Founder in Chief was my direct manager when I started in May, 2007. In my interview he shared a story that I think of at least once every work week. He grew up Mennonite on a farm in Western Ohio. The echoing soundbite from his story that day is: “…farm work is only done when it’s done.”
I remember shuddering, and having two key takeaways:
1) “Holy smokes, this company has some SOUL!”
2) “This is going to take a ton of work.”
Since then, I’ve tried to reiterate those takeaways in all of the forty or so New Hire Orientation classes I’ve spoken to.
Why? Because they are true now more than ever before.
I can honestly say that life at Centro hasn’t become any less fun (ie. recent Catalina Wine Mixer Happy Hour), nor have the problems we solve become any less demanding. Centro solves a more ambitious business mission than most of the 1-point solutions in the digital media industry.
If anything, those two Facts of Work/Life keep expanding: more fun, more complexity.
Over the years I’ve realized our fun, soulful culture works in tandem with the workload, and the time lines we have to get it done.
Like many of our teammates, I feel like I’m a thousand times the digital media expert (and human being) than I was when I joined Centro. But it’s not because the company did a good job of babysitting me, or my family.
The perks have been great, but I attribute my own personal growth to the complexity of the work, the pace at which it needed to get done, and our culture, which always inspires me to keep showing up.
Working here also taught me that allocating my work time versus family, music, or meditation time was a lost cause.
As our Founder (Shawn) reminded us recently, there really is no work/life balance. It’s just a nice concept that denotes flexibility.
In my experience:
Believing in the myth of balance makes your life and your work mutually exclusive, which can make both your work, and/or your life uninteresting. (tweet that)
Our life should inform our work, and vice versa.
On my long days I’m meditating at 5:30 am and writing emails at 10 pm. Is it all work, or is it all life? If I know I’m happy more often than not, is there a problem? I’m by no means saying the expectation should be that we work 16 hour days.
As a yogi, I try to guide my life by Right Action, since anxious, or unconscious action can be as counterproductive as laziness.
Each of us have the responsibility to set, and enforce our own boundaries.
Every role I’ve played in my career has included its share of work. However, each role has also included moments of exhilaration, when I felt like I was truly living versus merely working.
Our goal should be to maximize feeling alive, especially while producing great work.
Often our most fulfilling periods of life are when we’re somehow, magically (even happily) working our asses off toward a common cause. This is something I witness daily throughout our Media Strategy & Operations teams, pulling crazy hours to rework a campaign, or justify a strategy.
When we interview here, we’re intrigued by the opening of our corporate manifesto, which states: “Lasting success can only be achieved through dedication to the growth and well-being of the individual, not the corporation.”
I can see how that can be misconstrued to mean “me first, company last”. I’ve always interpreted that line as an invitation to assume some pretty heavy responsibility. First, to myself in taking the company up on all development opportunities. Because when we do, we’re in a better position to create Raving Fans, who will take great care of the company.
The upward spiral continues.
Secondly, although it’s not explicitly stated, “dedication to the growth & wellbeing of the corporation” should be expected, and rewarded. That is how this whole funhouse/experiment not only stays open, but thrives.
Our culture has won awards (*4 Consecutive Best Places to Work nods from Crains Business in Chicago), but there really is no story without meeting and exceeding our business objectives.
My thinking is that you’ll be awake 16 hours a day anyway, so why not try to love what you’re doing?
We learn over and over that the absence of work isn’t necessarily happiness, but rather boredom, which is the trap door to misery.
My first 7 years at Centro have taught me that whenever I need to double down, either to ship a big project or create a surge of some sort, I’m always (always) happy that I did.
The fun almost always follows, along with a bigger opportunity for growth on its heels.
# # #
On 11/20/12 I launched “The Framework” manifesto which has been downloaded over 10,000 times. It included a free workbook to help people get started on aligning their lives. These were the same processes I used to “upgrade my lens” and “define my non-negotiables” before pivoting my career, becoming a kriyaban yogi, giving up drinkypoos, etc.
Over the last 2 years, I’ve been blessed to align my #WORK with the rest of my non-negotiables (soul practice / vitality / family / music). Whether launching meditation programs for rapid-growth start-ups, facilitating retreats all over the country (and in Costa Rica), or taking larger roles for our company Centro, or within Jonathan Fields’ “Good Life Project”, I’ve realized the power of working from my framework.
It has allowed me to get paid to do what I love, which is to write, speak, teach, and LIVE my Truth.
I’ve since simplified my mission:
I give myself, and everyone around me permission to glow in the dark. And I build tools that allow visionary leaders to do the same for others. (tweet that)
This is MY signature impact. It is one I intend to keep making on the world. In fact, I’m only getting started leaving my Impact Crater y’all. Lol.
Our event on 11/20/14 will give everyone a road map for figuring out their own. I’m eager to share everything I’ve learned over 2 years of applying my framework in my life, and work.
PS. If you feel inspired to help spread The Impact, please visit our Resource Page. Thanks in advance!
So, how’s your balance at the moment?