Life Is All There Is

Last week (or maybe two weeks ago, I am losing track), I participated in a round table-esq discussion about some pertinent topics regarding HR called “Raging Debates in HR” by Halogen Software (Halogen is a former sponsor). Jason Seiden actually brought up some good points about the question regarding “weisure.” Have you heard of this term? It is a bastardization of combining “work” and “leisure” together.

I hate the work/life balance discussion. Unless you are in a position where you can control or ditch a poorly balanced job, there is no control over balance and no choice to make. I know some will argue that you may have more control than you think but for many others, a job is a means of survival. That means if the boss asks you to come in on Saturday and you miss Billy’s soccer game, there aren’t very many people who can correct that in short order.

There is a reason why so many talking heads feel so confident talking about it: talking heads have had control over their balance for a long time. When Jack Welch talked about work/life being a choice at SHRM, it is because it has been a choice for him for more than two decades. And guess what? For the most part, he has chosen work when he could have easily chosen a life of leisure all of these days.

Then we have people who love what they do and never want to take a day away from it. They have found balance and control through another technique and believe the key to balance and choice is to choose something you love. We all know it is just that easy too. I love basketball so I should play basketball. I could shoot hoops all day but nothing in life is going to overcome being 5’11” and slow.

Most of us realize at some point that being independently wealthy is probably not going to happen and doing something you are truly passionate about is unlikely or unrealistic given that many of our passions are unprofitable. So what are the masses to do when confronted with work/life balance nonsense?

Just Live

Most of the people who know me closely don’t know me because of my work. They know me because of who I am. Certainly work factors into that but so do a lot of other things. Your job may be a necessity but so is sleeping. It can be inconsequential to who you are as well.

I am not saying it is good or bad to be career obsessed either. I could really care less. What I am saying is that the only thing you have absolute control over is whether or not your career defines you. You may have variable control over everything else (balance, choice…) but you do have control over what defines you.

Have you watched an episode or two of Dirty Jobs? I love the show for several reasons but watch the show closely next time you get the chance. You’ll see people who typically like what they do but probably don’t take it home. There is some satisfaction in enjoying their work but they are probably known for hunting or baking or volunteering or whatever.

These people are living. They have taken this bogus work/life balance/choice advice and thrown it in the garbage. Nobody is passionate about scraping shit off of a sewer filter and nobody is getting independently wealthy doing it. They are living their lives, spending time with their family and friends and doing things they love to do.

I don’t see a problem with this. Do you?

9 thoughts on “Life Is All There Is

  1. I wanted to chastize you for saying we can’t all become independently wealthy and love what we do….because for those who want that its there for the taking….but I agree so strongly with your overall message that I’ll focus on that instead.

    I remember my first eye-opening moment when I met someone whose work did not define him. I was fresh out of college and working a job at a video leasing company while I waited to find my first “real” job.

    At this company, Rediffusion Video Leasing, there was a particular video installer whose name has long faded from my memory. What hasn’t faded was his absolute contentment with his low wage, low opportunity position. He was happy about his life, his family and the things he did with his time off.

    At the time I had a really hard time comprehending that. We would have long conversations about it. I was a naive, job snob and I made the terrible mistake that people’s jobs are a measure of their worth.

    It was a great life lesson to learn and I have remembered it always. I think about it often when we talk about what motivates and retains employees. We shouldn’t assume that all employees want growth opportunity. A large portion of our excellent workers simply want a nice place to work without too many irritations and annoyances. They find their fulfillment off the job not on it.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic, Lance.

    Now we just have to work on the part about you becoming independently wealthy…..

  2. Love your thoughts on this Lance! I agree with your point that our choice is really whether or not your career defines you. Nicely put. And it’s true that some people are quite happy with their choices.

    Some of the most content folks I’ve ever met are ski instructors in the winter who take off to spend the summer living on the beach or being Dive Masters. When I’ve talked with them, I always say “I wish I could do that!”. Truth is, I could if my mind didn’t quickly go to – “but what would I do about health insurance” and “what about 401k’s and planning for retirement?”. The only difference between them and me is the choices we’re making about priorities. And the fact that I’m not a great skier who sunburns easily…

  3. Such a great post Lance! Other than my love for Mike Rowe, the reason I love Dirty Jobs so much is because everyone they feature has a great attitude towards work. It helps put things into perspective.

  4. Lance, this is a terrific post, and very timely. Life is indeed all there is, and it’s short. Death is long. No one, on their death bed, ever regretted not having spent more time working, but most regret not having spent more time living. Even for those of us, those very fortunate few of us, for whom our work is our passion, there are never going to be enough hours in the day/week/month/year for all the other important aspects of life. I spoke of some on my Thanksgiving blessings blog post; you’ve made the same point here beautifully.

  5. As usual, you cut to the chase. Agree with your point- just live life. I will say that I personally benefit from hearing how others handle making it work. As my life changes, children grow, etc I need to hear tips on how to make it all fit. Sure, part of the day may be scraping shit off a sewer, but how can I make it to the soccer game once in awhile? I don’t think we have to just do everything the job asks. It’s ok to push back some and live life, right? The economy may not be at a place where people can ditch jobs- maybe not for several years. But, the day will come where they can. Until then, keep scraping and living.

  6. Amen. I’ve never bought much of the ‘work / life balance’ debate, as just about everyone doesn’t attach anything regarding weight to it. Different things take priority for different folks, and that’s just how it is. For myself, a job / career has always simply been a method of financing my life. It doesn’t define me, nor does it determine the overall direction in my life. It’s a damn job.

  7. First, we must stop bastardizing words. ;)

    Second, we must live – live beyond our employed meaning and embrace each moment. Couldn’t agree with you more. There are some who can truly wield the work/life balance bullshit, but most of us just dream about the things we’d like to be. I live a little bit of both.

    But I’ll tell you what – I’d rather joust windmills every day than never try to play basketball. And I don’t really like basketball. Football, yes. Because I could play that. Basketball not so much. Not even really good at “horse”.

    Transcend implied definitions and define each day as our own. Right on, Lance. I’ve got plenty of dirty jobs with diapers and the like anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>