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David and Goliath
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Will's books

The Silent Man
5 of 5 stars
Another great John Wells book. I previously compared Alex Berenson and his hero, John Wells, with Vince Flynn and his troubled CIA agent/assassin, Mitch Rapp. Towards the end of Flynn's short life and in his final Rapp books, Flynn got a...
tagged: fiction and troubled-assassin
Getting Started with Hobby Quadcopters and Drones
2 of 5 stars
When I was looking up reviews of drones on the web, I found several mentions of this "book" (a pamphlet,really). It's OK,but all the information can be easily found elsewhere online. The repeated warning about crashing your drone and sta...
tagged: non-fiction
The Martian
5 of 5 stars
Wow. Just . . . wow. This was one of the most entertaining books I have read in a long time. The story is fabulous and the execution wonderful. Basically a diary of an astronaut left behind in an escape from a failed Mars mission (though...
tagged: fiction
The Target
2 of 5 stars
I can't even begin to imagine why this book has gotten good reviews. I have read and enjoyed Baldacci's books before, but this is the first book in the Will Robie series that I've read. Probably the last as well. It's the third one of t...
tagged: fiction and troubled-assassin
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
3 of 5 stars
I didn't love this book. While I generally like Gladwell's style and analysis, he seems to be running out of interesting observations or topics to cover. There are a few good tidbits and the book is short. If you love Gladwell, it's wor...
tagged: non-fiction
Anthem
4 of 5 stars
I love Ayn Rand's thought-provoking books and stories. I'm fundamentally aligned with her libertarian way of thinking so, for the most part, her stories are just one's that drive home a point that I already agree with or, at least, under...
tagged: fiction
Thinking, Fast and Slow
5 of 5 stars
This is simply a fabulous book about how the mind works and how our behavior is driven by our levels of thought. It's not a terribly difficult book to get through, although it does require a lot of System 2 thinking - Kahneman's term for...
tagged: non-fiction
Killing Jesus: A History
4 of 5 stars
As with the other "killing" books by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, I really don't like the positioning that the book is based entirely on fact - insinuating the other crappy books I've read are made up. In the documenting of Jesus' li...
tagged: non-fiction
Wooden: A Coach's Life
4 of 5 stars
How can one not like a book about John Wooden? The man is a sports icon. Most of all, of course, he's a teacher, which is exactly what he wanted to be and prided himself on. He based his entire life on teaching basketball fundamentals an...
tagged: non-fiction and sports
Dead Eye
5 of 5 stars
Wow. Just. Wow. This is a great book. In the ex-CIA-troubled-assassin genre, this may be my favorite book ever. Greaney does a fabulous job of balancing action with storyline. Never gets boring, but the reader is overwhelmed by ridiculou...
tagged: fiction and troubled-assassin

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Work:Life Balance II – A Story

A while back, I did a post titled Work:Life Balance – It’s a Perspective Thing in which I talked about my belief that everyone needs to find their own version of balance and that biasing that balance to the work end of the spectrum is not a bad thing.  That post turned out to be one of the most widely read posts that I have ever written (thanks to both my readers for reading it) and I got a load of email asking more questions.  I’m afraid I’m just now getting back to it.

I suppose that this topic is more personal than most, so people are less comfortable spilling their guts in the comment section of someone else’s blog.  Understandable, of course.  Since it’s my blog, though, let’s see if I can address the questions I received by sharing some aspects of my own situation.  Keep in mind that I’m certainly no expert at this.  I can just call ‘em as I see ‘em and tell you what worked for me.

For most of my career, I was sure I hadn’t figured it out and I was screwing it up.  I loved my work and I sacrificed most other aspects of my life to excel at it (or, at least, to try to excel at it).  Sure, there were times that I longed for a life outside of work and even dabbled at it once in a while.  Although, infrequently and mostly when my wife made me.  My relationship with my kids is what really hung over my head.  My dad wasn’t around much when I was growing up and as my kids got older, I saw that they were getting the same experience (or lack thereof) that I had.  That thought haunted me constantly.

I had a tape of Harry Chapin’s Cat’s In a Cradle running in my head for years:

“… when you coming home dad, I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, son, I know we’ll have a good time then.”

Shit.

Fortunately, I’m married to a wonderful woman that I met after already finding my heavily biased balance.  She knew what she was getting into and, for the most part, made her balance fit with mine – she, being the better person, made more concessions than me.  She is a fabulous mom and did everything she could to fill in for my parental absence.  My kids were born into a world with limited access to their dad so they thought dinner without him was the way all kids lived their lives.  For sure, I still coached soccer and baseball teams once in a while, attended plays and recitals (frequently running into the auditorium late) and attempted to help with homework, but these activities were secondary.  When you’re on the road 100+ nights a year for business and working until double-digit hours every night, there’s just not much time for anything other than sleep.  None of that rationalization relieved the guilt or anxiety about not being around though.

OK, I think you get the idea.  Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation . . .

So, here’s how I now see things.  Keep in mind that I’m a 47 year old guy who has been “retired” for more than four years now.  My kids are thinking about college and my wife has gone back to school.  Funny, it turns out that I’m the only one at home any more.  Strange how things change.

As I see it, kids and marriages are both pretty resilient, to a point.  There are no absolutes and there’s no rule book or even a guide book for relationships at any level.  For the most part, though, people want to make things work.  Even kids.  I think there is some point with every relationship that is sorta like a point of no return.  If you cross that line, or cross it frequently enough, you can’t recoup what you had before.  At the very least, it’s fairly difficult.  If you’re going to burn the candle at both ends (and maybe in the middle at the same time), you need to have a total understanding of where that point lies.  You can push the accelerator until the needle almost hits it, but the cost of the ticket for exceeding it is more than you can afford.

That was my governor for balance.  I thought I knew what was important to my wife in terms of showing up at home and I felt comfortable, as naive as it sounds, reading my kids emotions and body language about my choices.  And then one day about five years ago it hit me.  I had run out of runway.  I had used up all the slack in my family relationships.  It became time to make a major change before my kids moved out of the house without knowing me.  As much as I had thought I had known about where everything stood, I really didn’t (isn’t that a shock) and I went into a sort of panic about it.

At the time, I was running a public company, Innoveda (Nasdaq: INOV), and jumping ship out of the blue almost never goes over well (unless you’re Ken Lay, I suppose).  I worked to transfer a bunch of my responsibilities to others, but it didn’t really help.  It’s just not in me to make a Fred Flintstone-like departure from work when the virtual whistle sounds at 5:00.  Within the next year, and mostly unrelated to my desire to spend time with my family, we stoked the fires of some potential acquisitions and one ignited, resulting in the sale of the company.  When I half-heartedly offered to stay through the transition, I was given my leave 6 days after the deal closed.  I was really lucky – all around.

I knew I wanted to be with my family, but that didn’t mean I was comfortably in applying the brakes after traveling at full speed for so long.  I was worried that I’d be lost and drift right back into something intensely entrepreneurial within a few months.  Surprisingly, I discovered that I actually liked other stuff.  It’s not that I could relax, which I can’t, but I like doing lots of other stuff – some geeky, some mentoring, some physical, but all pretty fun.  Of course, I have to be the best at everything (yeah, I know, I should see someone about it).  Most of all, I do a lot of math homework with my kids.  I’m pretty sure that they don’t like it, but I’m lovin’ it.

I realize, of course, that not everyone has the opportunity to make such a black-and-white move like I did.  Most people can make changes that accomplish much of the same goal, though.  I don’t want to make it sound like anything I did was part of a plan or was thought through in any sense.  I slammed into a brick wall and was fortunate enough to get out of the burning wreck before it exploded.  For most healthy people (I’m not among them), life is more analog than digital.  The 2-Speed moniker on this blog is indicative of the digital way I run my life and, therefore, is indicative of how unqualified I am to make any real determination between the right and wrong ways of doing things.  There are actually shades of gray that can be modulated over time so that a desperate change doesn’t have to happen at mid-life.

When I was younger, I saw the 1938 movie, Holiday in which Cary Grant “retires” right after graduating from college with the goal of working only later in life.  His philosophy was something like: why should I wait until I’m too old to have fun to retire?  I’ll “retire” now and have a blast while I’m young and take a job later when I’m too old to really enjoy myself.  That fantasy was attractive to me on and off through my career, but having done it my way, it isn’t so much any more.  Sure, it’s an interesting idea and might work for some, but my way has been worked out for me . . . so far.

I told my wife I was writing this post and she suggested that it might be fair if I included a rebuttal from my kids.  As she insinuates, I’m sure my kids look back on the ride and sometimes wonder if life wouldn’t have been better if dad stuck with the whole 24/7 work thing.  My view is that they have more years than me to address their issues in therapy.  In the mean time, I no longer have that 8-track tape of Harry Chapin running through my head and I’m way happier for it.

Disclaimer:  I’m just ahead of Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson in the qualified-to-give-advice queue.  You shouldn’t listen to me – it’s just one very lucky guy’s story.  I only know what I know.  Good luck with your adventure.

  • D

    I used to have Cat’s in the Cradle running through my head. Then I made a major life change and actually tried staying home for a while. Turns out no one wanted me around! Workaholics listen up: “at the office” may very well be where your family wants you. Don’t give up anything that’s important to you without checking your assumptions first.

  • D

    I used to have Cat’s in the Cradle running through my head. Then I made a major life change and actually tried staying home for a while. Turns out no one wanted me around! Workaholics listen up: “at the office” may very well be where your family wants you. Don’t give up anything that’s important to you without checking your assumptions first.

  • http://www.jobsite.co.uk/ Cheryl Morgan

    I found this post really interesting & thought that you might like to see some research that we did which completely ties in with your thoughts.

    It was compiled in October 2006 to look at what work life balance meant to different people. The term was, and still is, such a hot buzz word but on most occasions it’s used as an alternative term for flexible working. Those sitting on the 6am commuter trains with the broadsheet papers, laptop, mobile & BlackBerry are viewed with eyes of pity but what if this is their choice and they’re happy with it?

    We believe that everyone should be allowed to work how they choose and not have to conform to other people’s preferences. The research also showed us that switched on employers are realising that different people want different things and are tailoring their benefits packages to match e.g. flexible hours and creche’s for some, BlackBerry’s and subsidised dry-cleaning for others.

    Enjoy your free time!

  • http://www.jobsite.co.uk Cheryl Morgan

    I found this post really interesting & thought that you might like to see some research that we did which completely ties in with your thoughts.

    It was compiled in October 2006 to look at what work life balance meant to different people. The term was, and still is, such a hot buzz word but on most occasions it’s used as an alternative term for flexible working. Those sitting on the 6am commuter trains with the broadsheet papers, laptop, mobile & BlackBerry are viewed with eyes of pity but what if this is their choice and they’re happy with it?

    We believe that everyone should be allowed to work how they choose and not have to conform to other people’s preferences. The research also showed us that switched on employers are realising that different people want different things and are tailoring their benefits packages to match e.g. flexible hours and creche’s for some, BlackBerry’s and subsidised dry-cleaning for others.

    Enjoy your free time!

  • http://www.2-speed.com/ Will

    Both comments from Dave and Cheryl are really important. The right work/life balance is an individual thing and almost everyone has different needs, desires and situations that determine what is best for them. The important thing is to achieve the balance that’s right for you.

    If you’re like me, though, it’s nice to find out how others have accomplished there goals. Sometimes, I don’t know all the levers I have to play with and other people do a better job at figuring them out.

  • http://www.2-speed.com Will

    Both comments from Dave and Cheryl are really important. The right work/life balance is an individual thing and almost everyone has different needs, desires and situations that determine what is best for them. The important thing is to achieve the balance that’s right for you.

    If you’re like me, though, it’s nice to find out how others have accomplished there goals. Sometimes, I don’t know all the levers I have to play with and other people do a better job at figuring them out.

  • http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com/ Chris Yeh

    An interesting question is whether you would be willing to trade some of the financial/business success that you achieved for more time with your kids when you were younger.

    One of my perennial posts is the question of whether it’s possible for an entrepreneur/CEO to be a good leader and a good father:

    http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com/2006/06/can-global-business-leader-balance.html

    What would you choose?

  • http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com Chris Yeh

    An interesting question is whether you would be willing to trade some of the financial/business success that you achieved for more time with your kids when you were younger.

    One of my perennial posts is the question of whether it’s possible for an entrepreneur/CEO to be a good leader and a good father:

    http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com/2006/06/can-global-business-leader-balance.html

    What would you choose?

  • http://www.2-speed.com/ Will

    Man Chris, you ask the tough questions . . . great post, BTW.

    I think that the answer to the question of whether or not I would do it the same way again is, for me, yes.

    There are two important factors at play here, 1) it’s who I am – I believe I can outwork almost anyone (and, in fact, need to to keep up) and that’s a big part of my very being and, 2) I am fortunate to have a wife and kids that were accepting of the path and method I chose.

    Number one is pretty basic and many people share the same ambition and drive. As a result, number two becomes a bigger factor in making a decision on whether it’s the right way to do things. With a family that’s aligned, you can make both work. If they’re not, and I imagine that most are not, you simply can’t make both sides work and you have to make a choice.

    Ray Lane’s comment about it being worth the sacrifice is interesting. I don’t think I would have made the same sacrifice. I am fortunate enough that I never had to make that big choice though. All of my choices were rather small because of my accommodating family situation. Again, very lucky.

    Of course, after a while and assuming some level of success, one begins to consider if he/she has done enough; collected enough; made enough and if it’s *still* worth the sacrifices. Again, it depends. If you’re doing it for more toys, then it’s unlikely that you’ll ever find any “balance” because you never can have enough. If you’re doing it for ego and/or pure enjoyment, though, there are more questions about the tradeoffs the more success one achieves, I suppose.

    On your final point, can one be a good CEO/leader AND parent? Great question. I think the answer is that for most people, yes, as long as the judgment is made in the long run. If you’re working 80 hours a week when your kids are 4-6 years old, you can do no better than be an absentee mom or dad. I’m not making harsh value judgments here, just stating the fact. If you’re not there, you can’t be a good parent. IMO, parenting takes time.

    Of course, all this is my own opinion. Mileage may (and will) vary with better leadership and parental skill sets.

  • http://www.2-speed.com Will

    Man Chris, you ask the tough questions . . . great post, BTW.

    I think that the answer to the question of whether or not I would do it the same way again is, for me, yes.

    There are two important factors at play here, 1) it’s who I am – I believe I can outwork almost anyone (and, in fact, need to to keep up) and that’s a big part of my very being and, 2) I am fortunate to have a wife and kids that were accepting of the path and method I chose.

    Number one is pretty basic and many people share the same ambition and drive. As a result, number two becomes a bigger factor in making a decision on whether it’s the right way to do things. With a family that’s aligned, you can make both work. If they’re not, and I imagine that most are not, you simply can’t make both sides work and you have to make a choice.

    Ray Lane’s comment about it being worth the sacrifice is interesting. I don’t think I would have made the same sacrifice. I am fortunate enough that I never had to make that big choice though. All of my choices were rather small because of my accommodating family situation. Again, very lucky.

    Of course, after a while and assuming some level of success, one begins to consider if he/she has done enough; collected enough; made enough and if it’s *still* worth the sacrifices. Again, it depends. If you’re doing it for more toys, then it’s unlikely that you’ll ever find any “balance” because you never can have enough. If you’re doing it for ego and/or pure enjoyment, though, there are more questions about the tradeoffs the more success one achieves, I suppose.

    On your final point, can one be a good CEO/leader AND parent? Great question. I think the answer is that for most people, yes, as long as the judgment is made in the long run. If you’re working 80 hours a week when your kids are 4-6 years old, you can do no better than be an absentee mom or dad. I’m not making harsh value judgments here, just stating the fact. If you’re not there, you can’t be a good parent. IMO, parenting takes time.

    Of course, all this is my own opinion. Mileage may (and will) vary with better leadership and parental skill sets.

  • http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com/ Chris Yeh

    Will,

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, great questions are the key to wisdom!

    http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com/2007/03/wisdom-asking-good-questions.html

    I think you’ve hit on the crux of the balance dilemma: You have to achieve alignment between your preferred balance and your family’s. As one fellow commenting on the Ray Lane dilemma noted, “Did his first wife and kids get a say when he made his choice?”

    The tough part is that even if your spouse buys into your concept of balance when you first marry, things may change once you have kids. And once you have those kids, the die is cast–you can’t give them back!

  • http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com Chris Yeh

    Will,

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, great questions are the key to wisdom!

    http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com/2007/03/wisdom-asking-good-questions.html

    I think you’ve hit on the crux of the balance dilemma: You have to achieve alignment between your preferred balance and your family’s. As one fellow commenting on the Ray Lane dilemma noted, “Did his first wife and kids get a say when he made his choice?”

    The tough part is that even if your spouse buys into your concept of balance when you first marry, things may change once you have kids. And once you have those kids, the die is cast–you can’t give them back!

  • http://www.2-speed.com/ Will

    Although I keep trying to give them back. How can I miss ‘em if they won’t go away.

    Just kidding. Really, hun . . . ;-)

  • http://www.2-speed.com Will

    Although I keep trying to give them back. How can I miss ‘em if they won’t go away.

    Just kidding. Really, hun . . . ;-)

  • http://www.hundreddollarbusiness.com/ Carolynn Duncan

    Interesting post. The part that hit me most was the “running out of runway” bit. I think that’s definitely something to be cautious of and know when that is happening.

    Another factor I think about is time-profit margin, which is probably the same thing. When we’re running a business, we’re constantly thinking of margins, and taking care not to slice too far into that, in order to maintain profitability.

    I think balance is similar– there’s definitely a cushion beyond the normal 40 hour week to work with, but does the amount of time spent– with a family or without– lead to a lack of “profitability” either at your project, your relationships with family & friends, or just in personal clarity? And that margin will be different for each person.

  • http://www.hundreddollarbusiness.com Carolynn Duncan

    Interesting post. The part that hit me most was the “running out of runway” bit. I think that’s definitely something to be cautious of and know when that is happening.

    Another factor I think about is time-profit margin, which is probably the same thing. When we’re running a business, we’re constantly thinking of margins, and taking care not to slice too far into that, in order to maintain profitability.

    I think balance is similar– there’s definitely a cushion beyond the normal 40 hour week to work with, but does the amount of time spent– with a family or without– lead to a lack of “profitability” either at your project, your relationships with family & friends, or just in personal clarity? And that margin will be different for each person.

  • http://www.2-speed.com/ Will

    Carolynn,

    I like your analogy and it’s a great way of thinking about it for most entrepreneurs who, as you say, already think in similar terms. As soon as I read your comment, I also started thinking about diminishing returns. As you balance your “profit margins,” you also need to take into account the value of each incremental hour over the 40 (or whatever). I know that I’ve never had a feel for it, other than that they diminish fairly rapidly. Well, maybe over 60 hours, anyway.

  • http://www.2-speed.com Will

    Carolynn,

    I like your analogy and it’s a great way of thinking about it for most entrepreneurs who, as you say, already think in similar terms. As soon as I read your comment, I also started thinking about diminishing returns. As you balance your “profit margins,” you also need to take into account the value of each incremental hour over the 40 (or whatever). I know that I’ve never had a feel for it, other than that they diminish fairly rapidly. Well, maybe over 60 hours, anyway.