Striking the right balance is important for everyone. I came across this quote by one Brian Dyson, former vice chairman and COO of Coca Cola, the other day, and I have not stopped thinking about it.
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them — work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls — family, health, friends, and spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”
What Dyson says about life applies to all of us particularly entrepreneurs who are in the process of building up or growing their businesses. From a very tender age, our families, schools, universities, communities and society instil in us the virtue of working hard in order to achieve any form of success. This virtue is very necessary. Sadly once we venture into business, we adopt this unwritten law that says working hard is only applicable to the work situation. We then restrict the virtue of working hard to our businesses, while neglecting the other life balls – family, health, friends and spiritual that also need hard work. Then we wonder why we are not happy even though we are doing relatively well in our businesses.
Some entrepreneurs have argued that the long hours at work and total neglect of the other aspects of life are necessary especially at the start-up of a business. They further say that once the business is up and running well, they will then begin to pay attention to the other key elements of life. Now what is wrong with that approach you might ask? Firstly, that type of approach while reasonable, assumes that the other elements of life that wen all have to juggle, will wait in the air for their turn once everything is in place on the business side. Unfortunately life doesn’t happen like that. Like Dyson said, those elements you have neglected in the air are made of glass. They break, shatter, get scarred, traumatised, and generally become very unhealthy, sometimes tragically beyond repair. By the time our hard working entrepreneur thinks it is time to focus on them, it might be too late.
Secondly that approach is more of a wish than reality. Business owners who think that they can afford to neglect family, health, friends and spiritual for a season, and then correct this later, are selling themselves a big lie. Once this habit of only focussing on your work sets in, it becomes the norm for most people. In addition, the business never gets to a point when all is running well on a continuous basis. So, the business owner gets caught up in a futile spiral like a hamster on a wheel. The result is that they end up postponing the date when they will give time to their families, health, friends and spiritual wellbeing.
So, the only way to escape this trap is to strive for balance right from the word go. This is not to say that you will get everything in perfect balance, but this has to be the goal of every entrepreneur who seeks wholesome success. It was Heather Schuck from the Working Mom Manifesto, who said: “you will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life”