I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend lately amongst many entrepreneurs. They want to work the hours of a successful person without yet attaining actual business success. I think all this talk of work-life balance has people a bit confused. It you want to run a business that supports a flexible lifestyle, you can certainly choose working for yourself as an option, but financial success usually requires very hard work especially at the beginning. You can’t enjoy the experience of having climbed the mountain without having done the hard work to climb it in the first place. You can’t be all things to all people including yourself; you must make some tough choices about how you spend your time.
I feel fortunate to have made it this far in life. Not everyone gets to have this much time. As we age it becomes more obvious that time is finite. I wish you well on your own journey and that the time you have left is well spent.
There are only a few days a years when we are all encouraged to step back and reflect on our life and its many blessings. I find this time of year to be especially important for this very reason. Of course it’s easy to get caught up in the commercialism and challenging logistics of the holidays, but I encourage you to avoid this temptation.
You can’t operate at top gear all the time. Even “Type A” people need some downtime or they will eventually burn out. I watch people all the time push themselves to the limit. You can see it in their eyes and read it in their body language when they are exhausted. And, tired people tend to underperform, make less than optimal decisions, allow their people skills to slip and if they are not careful begin to resent heir work. It’s very important for leaders to learn to pace themselves and set a good example for others to follow.
You get to decide what you focus on. You can spend your time and energy on things that bring you down or lift you up. I know people who are pretty blessed who can find something wrong with just about every situation. On the contrary, I’ve been amazed by others confronting great difficulties who manage to keep their spirits up through positive thinking and proper perspective. Life isn’t what happens to you, but what you think about it and how you end up responding to whatever has transpired. You can go through life accumulating personal baggage because things haven’t always turned out as you had planned or you can accept the ups and downs as part of the journey – easier said than done I know.
It’s amazing how many of us stress over little things. It’s almost as if we believe the world exists to make us happy and every small obstacle becomes a major annoyance. We lose our sense of proportion and forget how fortunate we truly are that petty issues can even occupy our attention. It’s important not to forget that a large percentage of the world still struggles with basic life/survival issues.
I would have to say that I tend to be an impatient person (although I’m working on it). I’m sure everyone who knows me wouldn’t argue with this point. I prefer taking action to waiting. Once I make up my mind about something, I just want to move forward and make progress. In addition, I get frustrated with others who don’t operate with the same sense of urgency that I do. It literally boggles my mind how slow and uninspired many people seem on a daily basis. However, with time and some maturity, I’ve begun to realize that the problem isn’t always them and maybe sometimes it’s me.
So much about life comes down to your attitude about it. I know privileged people who are regularly misanthropic and others with less economic advantages that seem to be mostly happy even though their lot in life seems comparatively difficult. Every day we wake up we get to make a choice about how we approach our life. We can see our existence as an amazing gift full of unlimited possibilities or a burden full of work, obligations and limitations. We can appreciate what we have or yearn for what’s beyond our reach. We can make a positive difference in the lives other people or focus exclusively on ourselves. We can build bridges to solidify positive relationships or forget to tend to the basic maintenance of effective human interaction.
Another year has come full circle and I find myself celebrating my 46th birthday. Wow! Sometimes the passing of time is hard to believe. My dad once told me that “the days can be long but the years will grow shorter as you age.” As usual he is right. It seems like yesterday I was wide eyed kid playing with my friends and day dreaming about my future. While I never did become President or Secretary of State (there’s still time), soar through the universe as an astronaut, solve major crimes for Interpol, play either professional baseball or football, or lead troops as a great general, I’ve had a rich full life. Today is a day to count my many blessings:
Whenever I encounter someone who is failing or struggling inevitably they have convinced themselves that this is their lot in life. They spend a considerable amount of time thinking about worst case scenarios and everything that is going wrong. Sometimes they even start to believe they deserve their misfortune and/or easily fall into the role of victim. More and more energy is taken up by negative thoughts and this only deepens their woes and solidifies self-doubt. When this mindset takes hold for any prolonged period of time they actually begin to sabotage their own success and happiness. It is a vicious cycle. People don’t have black clouds over their heads they just become consumed by dark thoughts. My own observation of others is that depression doesn’t happen to someone all at once instead it happens gradually over time…
Sometimes life is heavy. There is just no way around it. We lose people we love; our own bodies break down; and other personal or professional challenges appear unexpectedly. When this happens it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the adversity of the moment(s) and wallow in despair. You can sometimes feel like the famous statue of Atlas who carries around the weight of the world on his shoulders. When this happens you need to count your many blessings and seek out opportunities for joy, love and support.
Whether we like it or not, “all things must pass.” Everything has a beginning and an end. As far as we know, nothing besides space is infinite. Youth, careers, relationships, roles, responsibilities, health, and ultimately life itself, all transition and ultimately conclude at some point.
I often think many of us are under the misconception that life is supposed to be easier than it is. The “grass is greener” syndrome abounds and we believe that things should always be better than they are rather than counting our blessing and accepting what we have. It’s almost as if we strive to live in aHollywood movie where we are always the protagonist of the story, everything has a happy ending, all of our material needs are easily met, all major conflicts are quickly resolved and the perfect relationship is just around the corner. Well, this is fantasyland not reality.
2009-2011 has been a difficult period for many people I know and care about. It’s almost as if the heavens opened up and terrible storm decided to descend on a vast number of unsuspecting people. In many cases, the signs may have been there, but none of us expected the difficulty it to be so prolonged and discouraging. They say “what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.” I’m not sure I agree with this point of view. Not every challenge leads to strength; sometimes it just forces us to alter our perspective. Change doesn’t always mean growth or better, it often just means different. In addition, certain wounds don’t always heal as we would like them to, but they heal nonetheless – time will see to this.
More often than not, the biggest barrier to our success is ourself. I’ve noticed that people can talk themselves out of just about anything. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes it is not. When it comes to limiting your perspective on what’s possible for you in terms of your work life I find this to usually be a bad thing. Happiness and self-fulfillment in your career shouldn’t be viewed as optional. The history of the business landscape is full of ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things.
Bottom line is that we all have assets and liabilities as individuals. There is a school of thought that given this we should focus just on what we are good at (leveraging the assets) and minimize everything else. I believe this mindset has the danger of being short-sighted and self-limiting. Too much of anything is never a good thing. The only way we evolve is through learning and experience. Personal growth happens with time as we stretch our perspectives and challenge individual conceits and preconceptions. If we narrowly focus our growth opportunities, we aren’t fully living. Weaknesses also exist and must be dealt with, not just circumvented or fortified with self protective behaviors. Adversity and challenge are a regular part of life and require some level of personal vulnerability if they are to be successfully navigated
I come across a lot of books, magazines, TV shows these days that are selling simplicity and the quick fix to life. The main contention is that all of our lives are too busy and complicated and if we would just scale back and reprioritize what’s most important to us then everything would be better. The focus is squarely on the individual and what he /she feels they want or need. All we have to do put ourselves first and everything will go our way. Moreover, we shouldn’t settle for anything less than regular happiness and self-fulfillment which in my opinion is an unrealistic and often damaging perspective.
The problem is that life is complex not simple. There are many reasons why things do or do not happen. At some point we all are faced with difficult choices with no clear answers. Very often we make these decisions under some level of duress and/or with imperfect information or unclear guidelines. Life does just happen sometimes and navigating it can be as much of an art as a science.
Some people seem to handle just about anything life throws at them while others get beaten down by the smallest challenge. Why is this? Each and every day we get to make a choice. We get to decide what we focus on and our attitude about it. You can choose to focus on what is right with your life and use this as a launching pad to handle any ensuing difficulty OR you can obsess over what is not working and see a struggle around every corner.
It is impossible to be truly happy and successful in life without a strong sense of priorities. There will no shortage of distractions competing for your attention. It is easy to get out of balance and sidetracked by issues that are comparatively unimportant in the wide scheme of things. Sadly, we often taken for granted people we shouldn’t and have a tendency to lose our perspective when we need it most. Many people I meet struggle with guilt and regret over what they wish they would have done differently in certain areas of their life. More often than not they are unhappy with how they prioritized their time, energy and attention.
I’m often surprised by the number of professionals I meet who say they have no time to read. I can’t imagine a life where reading wasn’t a big part of my routine. It doesn’t matter if it’s for business or pleasure – reading expands the mind. It allows your imagination to wander and let’s your brain recharge. Reading often introduces you to information and perspectives you probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise. Your vocabulary grows when you read and it also improves your own ability to communicate. There is no downside to time spent reading, but you are at a disadvantage in life if you are not well read.