This visualization represents my work/life story over the past 30 years. I imagine many of you can relate. To me work equaled independence. I started work early. From the age of nine, I had a paper route which I had until I was sixteen. It was hard work; I got up before school to deliver those papers but I learned I could make money through my hard work and I liked that.
Over the years I had many jobs. I begged my parents to sign work papers when I was fourteen so I could work at a local pizza joint. I worked through college doing whatever I could. I parked cars. I worked in various roles at restaurants and caterers. I worked in landscaping. I even worked as an on-campus mailman.
I thrived on hard work. I wanted more. More experiences, more knowledge, more responsibility. And, of course, more money to have the independence I craved.
My parents became so concerned about my willingness to take any available job they decided they’d “help me” get a very demanding job as a mover. They wanted me to experience hard labor and, in the process, learn the value of higher education. Their plan backfired because I loved it. I was excited about making good money and the power of overtime. So, I continued to work.
Fast forward, I did go to college and graduated. After a brief stint working in an outdoor retailer, I went to work in the family business. My dad, Alan, who has been a frequent guest of my podcast, made working hard look like a lifestyle that I wanted to emulate. We worked early, we worked late, we worked on weekends. Eight-hour days turned into 14-hour “workouts”. I was never told to work this way, I simply did it because I wanted to.
Of course, the harder I worked the more I got rewarded. I was given more responsibility. I was tasked with hard projects. I was given bigger problems to solve. And, I gained the confidence that comes from those experiences. I had more work achievements under my belt than most of the other young people I knew.
All of this helped me start my own business in 2001. So, I worked some more! I worked days, nights, weekends, holidays from early to late. My young kids would come to the office for dinner so they could see Dad.
I felt, at times, that it was hard to breathe because of the pressure of starting a business with a young family. They needed me to succeed, so I worked some more.
Until one day, I was at an event and saw a video of myself speaking and didn’t like what I saw. I was 38 and I looked tired, and puffy, and basically unwell. Thank goodness for that pivotal moment.
I had sacrificed a lot for fear of failing in my business. I hadn’t been working out. I hadn’t been spending enough time with my family. I gave up weekends, and hobbies, and friends. I didn’t think that I had the time for anything that wasn’t work.
It was easy to fall into this pattern. I had seen my father do it, and his father before him. They literally worked their way into sickness.
Was it worth it? Was there another way?
I reached a tipping point. I could no longer pour from an empty cup. I pushed through years of depleted energy, creativity, and perspective. Leaning into the wind wasn’t working for me any longer. Simply working hard and ignoring myself was no longer an option.
Today I am a more balanced human. I work out, a lot. I meditate. I backpack with friends. I walk at least 10K steps every day. I love to sleep. Thanks to my wife, I am more careful about what I eat. I take time off and love to travel. I have found the balance between work and life that I thought I never could. You can find tips for quickly reducing your daily stress here.
Don’t misunderstand, I still work hard. I just don’t work all the time. I could, because there is always something to do in a business that is working to thrive in this crazy world. I get into the flow of a workday and before I know it the day is over.
I have learned, but must constantly remind myself, that leaders must be whole themselves to be effective in serving others. Leaders must also know themselves to be effective. We, ourselves, must be “ok” to help others be “ok”.
I feel very lucky to be able to share this message. To have lived through it and to understand that work is better when it is tied to a life plan. And, that a life well lived makes work more important and vice versa.
We strive to create a Placers community where our people are encouraged to understand this balance and to live their best life.
We do this through company-sponsored wellness programs such as meditation and yoga.
We do this through our Better Book Club where we encourage people to increase their knowledge on topics that interest them.
We do this through flex time allowing our team to take the time for self-exploration or travel.
We do this through access to our Dreammaker portal where our employees have access to support for finances, budgeting, or their big life goals.
We do this, because we are all at our most productive when we take care of ourselves and find the balance that we need in life.
When I finally understood that pausing to take care of me was critical in my journey towards success, I felt unstoppable.
How do you measure success? Is it by the dollar signs, the property owned, the title, how fulfilled you feel, your family? There is no right or wrong answer – and it could be a combination of all of the above. Reply and let me know. I’d like to discuss this more specifically in a future Outside Insights.
Until next time, friends.
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