A few years ago, well before I joined RoseRyan, I met a recruiter who was trying to fill a CFO opening in a fast-moving start-up. The role sounded interesting, until the recruiter said the CEO was looking for a young candidate as they were less likely to want a “work-life balance.”
Immediately, I knew the discussion had just hit a fatal roadblock, because I am a strong believer in work-life balance. Someone once said you should work to live, not live to work. That is so true.
When I first started working, I did not have that balance. I would work long hours, and I definitely put work above most other activities. After a few years, I began to realize I was going down the wrong track. My social life was suffering, and I was beginning to see that some perceived benefits were not there. For example, I met people who had dedicated themselves to their companies for years, only to lose their jobs in times of recession or streamlining operations without an ounce of thanks from their former employers. Because their jobs had been their life, they were left with nothing. I felt really bad for them, and began to realize the same thing could happen to me if I wasn’t careful.
So I started to change my ways. I banished my cell phone from social events and Little League baseball matches, and made efforts to get home to be with my family at mealtimes and in the evening. I took steps to avoid my laptop on one full day out of the weekend, and instead to go do something interesting. I can honestly say my work did not suffer from these changes. If anything it got better, as I was now much sharper, healthier and less stressed.
The final vindication of my actions came to me on September 11, 2001. I was one of the people at the World Trade Center that morning, and I was fortunate to get out of there with my life. I had plenty of time that week to reflect on that Tuesday’s events. They cemented in me the need for a proper work-life balance, as you never know what’s coming next.
You only live once. Make the most of it and work to live—don’t live to work.