After evaluating my own quarterly business review recently, I decided to reach out to two of my most respected colleagues to listen to their counsel and feedback. Below is a synopsis of our discussions.
All the World’s A Stage
My friend, a world-renown author, and speaker shared with me her vision of the “next leg of the journey.” What became clear to her as she took a mature and honest look at her life and work was this, “…business is f-ing awesome, but I’m not great. I’m burnt to a crisp. I feel socially isolated, and the travel is slowly killing my spirit…” While I listened to her stories of crossing time zones and missing her family, it dawned on me she’s not working on deeper, more meaningful work she wants to be doing. We talked about the need to change the how and where of her work and what comes next.
I could sense some hesitation in her voice admitting that because it means major changes. It means a new evolution from what’s been so successfully built to make room for something new. It means rethinking priorities and how life’s next chapter and work is structured.
In The Culture Whisperer, we’ve discussed getting it good enough and then fine-tuning along the way. Many of us tend to hold onto things that are “good enough” because it’s what we know never taking the time to fine-tune because our overall life is okay, but it’s not great. Maybe it’s a relationship that you stay in because it beats being alone. Or it’s a job that’s good enough because it pays the bills but doesn’t make you feel fulfilled. Maybe, like me, you know there’s something greater in store for you…just around the corner. And that brings me to the quote I’ve shared with my friend:
“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life” – Alain de Botton
It’s all about relationship and it’s all about rhythm. The way to replenish your soul is through rhythm. It’s riding the waves. It’s being flexible, adapting and overcoming the daily grind, stress, and pressures of life’s successes and failures. We concluded our talk on the thing that’s “worth fighting for” in life – is having more downtime with family and making time to work on building the next phase of her company. It will likely require a major renovation. And as she teaches from stage, the transition stings where fear, uncertainty, and doubt begin to creep in. “Everything is unbalanced right now, but I can see great things starting to emerge as I’m facing the hard truth even though things are good, I need a change.”
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
My next conversation happened over several texts, emails, and Twitter messages with the author and speaker on advocacy of positivity and happiness in organizations due to an intense travel schedule. In one of his recent books, he demonstrates how setting goals for his book were dependent on external validation: sales figures, bestseller lists, and page views – all external accolades. Each time he achieved his goals, some which were quite lofty, he didn’t feel fulfilled in the way he’d hoped.
How do you measure your success as an author these days, or what does literary success look like to you? “Yeah. [expletive] goals. They kill me. Hit one mole with a hammer and the next one pops right up.” In his book, he talks about three types of success: Sales – pageviews, copies shipped; Social – critical reviews, awards; and Self – I like what I did.
These days he’s trying to focus more on that third S – Self. His focus is inspired where he reminds us after the commercial success you are always tempted to chase it again. We are to rediscover whatever we found fun in the first place. Of course, he puts it much better than I can.
I asked him how he would characterize the impetus to his success, what was his tipping point. He shared with me three dimensions:
1)Perspective. I wake up to one of my two little roosters crowing around 5am and head downstairs to make a giant, messy elaborate breakfast with them involving fried mushrooms, egg sandwiches, and green smoothies before going on a meandering, robin-and-rabbit-hole-spotting, stick-and-leaf-collecting walk to school. Tender little hands sneaking swirls of butter on stools beside me… grounds me. Writing doesn’t matter with this zoom out and I feel riskier and looser with my words later.
2) Energy. I do a silent heavy weights workout at the gym. Nothing fancy. Maybe Push, Pull, Legs or 5×5. Why silent? I found I was lifting 10-20% less when listening to podcasts. I now leave my phone in my locker because even carrying it in Airplane Mode distracts me. The workout zaps swirling seas of stress in my stomach for about 48 hours. So a good week has three workouts, a great one has four.
3) Creativity. If I’m working on something very creative I sometimes zone into my work with a couple squares of Lindt 90% dark chocolate. Combined with headphones at a coffee shop and disabled Wifi this helps me zone into my writing while remaining fun and playful with my words.
In both instances, these public figures are wildly successful in terms of revenue, income, notoriety, and popularity. Yet, both of them, while enjoying great social and economic success, are less than fulfilled. Regardless of where you are in your journey, money, and status cannot buy joy and fulfillment. Their vision is to influence and impact as many people in a positive way around the world – certainly a noble cause. Their higher purpose or their ‘why’ must be realigned to fit within the important things in their lives – their relationships.
At the end of the day, what truly matters is the relationships you’ve collected along the way. Elegant Leadership with Voltage fills in the gaps with real, actionable principles, tools and techniques for better job performance, greater communication and engagement with your team and living in a healthier work-life rhythm. When the rhythm between your ego, results, and relationships is favorable the net effect is joy and fulfillment in your work. If you’re looking to make a difference in the lives of people you lead, then joining the Elegant Leader movement is your next best move. Read more…
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