A grave concern
I couldn’t resist one more post with ‘balance’ in the title. A business mentor used to say, “it’s not repetition it’s reinforcement”. In this instance I don’t think balance gives the best image, the scales should be very firmly down on one side. To help people decide which side, when I give talks about health and work, I suggest they walk around the local graveyard and read the inscriptions on headstones. I can guarantee not one of them will say ‘Here lies a much-missed marketing manager’ or ‘here lies a great chief executive’. All the words are for loved and missed mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, grandparents and friends.
Of course, we want to provide for our families, carve out careers, build business empires and follow pursuits and passions; this should not be at the expense of others and ultimately to our detriment. I was lucky, or perhaps it was good choices, in that the accountancy firms I worked in put a great emphasis on family. For example, my last firm had a policy that when a partner was on holiday we were not to be contacted unless it was a family issue. It is amazing how well staff will cope with a crisis when they know they cannot turn to someone else to solve it for them. I think the firm adopted that policy due to a story about a partner in another firm who had an eye-watering chargeable hours record. All that money turned to dust (metaphorically) when his son was arrested for possession of Class A drugs. He realised that he had not seen his children growing up; had not been part of their lives and was probably the reason that his son was facing a prison sentence. Realised why his daughter had left home and was living in a squat. Realised that he and his wife no longer had anything in common. Realised that his life was empty. “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.” ― Patrick Meagher
It’s probably better to think in terms of equilibrium rather than balance, because work and life is fluid. The above example of things being out of kilter is probably quite extreme, however it does illustrate the point. Out of kilter can go the other way. Again, when I give talks about health, I often hear people, usually women, say I’d love to run more, exercise more, do more yoga, but with kids I just do not have time. I ask them what is the most important thing in their lives and they will answer with ‘my children’. I then say, “so you want to be the best mother you can”. They nod. If you have some me-time, time to exercise, stay healthy and been energised, that is not being selfish that is working on being the best mother you can be. Rather than being stressed shouting at the kids you will be playing with them. It is also being a great role model. Should you be taking some me-time, to be a better parent, a better partner or to run a better business?
When I look back on my work life there are some highs, but not a huge number, passing my professional exams, getting my practising certificate, being made a partner and becoming president of the Association of Friendly Societies is about the whole list, oh and being the first non-actuary invited to join the actuaries dining-club (heady days). Those memories don’t give me goose bumps; even little memories about my children do. During difficult family times there are always some wonderful little nuggets. During a typical dad/teenage daughter argument she said to me “Dad, you annoy the hell out of me, but I know it is because you care” and she gave me a big hug. I tried to raise her to be independent minded and not to swear. I succeeded in the former, failed in the later. It may seem silly to you, but I remember this conversation from several years ago with great fondness. Her, “It was shit” Me “I think you meant to say it wasn’t very good.” “No Dad it really was shit” and we laughed.
I am not religious, nor was my grandfather, even though he was a Church of England vicar. He had a big impact on my life and had a prestigious knowledge of the bible which he would use it to illustrate points he was making.
Timothy 6.17-19 is particularly useful if you substitute family for God.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their trust in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.