I used to believe I couldn’t be excellent, extraordinary, or utterly-fucking-amazing unless I gave myself completely to my work.
Everything that suffered or fell to the wayside? Collateral damage to be expected and worth the sacrifice.
When I was in college,
I only wanted to get A’s.
Missing out on extracurricular activities, friends, and the full college experience?
When I got my first job out of college,
I only wanted to be THE top performer.
Missing out on having fun in my twenties?
When I started my business,
I only wanted to build my business.
Missing out on weekend fun and other aspects of life?
I got energy and satisfaction from doing the hard work and making the sacrifice. From doing what most others were not willing to do.
But my identity was so cemented in being a workhorse that I had no idea the extent I’d committed myself to one very big rule:
I could only gauge my success by my suffering.
By showing up earlier than anyone.
By the number of hours I was staring at a screen.
By eating meals at my desk.
By thinking about work while I was doing anything else.
By staying later than anyone.
And admittedly at times, I also judged others for not working as hard or prioritizing leisure. They didn’t want it bad enough. They weren’t as devoted.
And then we had the pandemic.
And it seems like our entire culture got a reckoning. The idea of balance, of not using every hour to work, was everywhere.
This gospel (attributed to the younger millennials) was promoting a more holistic and sustainable lifestyle, a life where weight was more evenly distributed.
Arguably, this was the driver behind the great resignation and the quiet quitting trend of the past few years.
But this focus on living a well-balanced life isn’t entirely new.
I recall reading “Let My People Go Surfing” by Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard a few years ago and I was in awe. Here was a guy who knew his definition of success and it wasn’t chasing profits or goals. He offered up an intentional and purposeful approach to business and life.
Listening to Chelsea Fagan’s (of The Financial Diet) interview last week, speaking about her philosophy of NOT growing her business, but maintaining an environment and culture where everyone gets to work hard and have plenty of time for fun brought this subject to the forefront again.
Clearly, there is something to this.
As I reflect on this, I can see the side of my younger clients and their very genuine desire to get more out of their lives than just a job and find more meaning than making money (or letting a job title define them). They aren’t slacking off or delivering bare minimum – they’re simply searching for more.
Maybe we (the older generation) also wanted more, but we didn’t have a choice.
Or we didn’t know that we had one!
I’m definitely guilty of pre-judging people for not wanting to put everything they had in the pursuit of a career but even I can recognize the importance and even the need to recalibrate to the center.
So if you’re still stuck in the “go hard or go home” or “all work and no play” mantras, perhaps it’s time to loosen the rubber band a bit. Perhaps it’s time to find your own oxygen mask and start to have fun, have hobbies, and have time for more than work.
Finding more balance doesn’t mean you’re flying off the ladder and no longer seeking success.
It means you’re finally defining it for yourself.