I went to a small dinner party where someone who is in the Fortune 10 most powerful women in business. She was warm, accessible and kind. But she didn’t have much to offer our conversation about life balance except her regrets that she has no time to golf or hang out or do any of the things she would really like to do. It’s as if she’s too busy to live.
I asked, “Why don’t you just do some of those things so you don’t burn out?”
She looked at me like I just didn’t get it. “I have the weight of the world on my shoulders,” she said. And, she meant it. Then she said, “When I accepted this job, I made a commitment to the company and the stockholders. I have no other option.”
Truth is, I didn’t get it. Why would anyone choose to give up life for work? Even a temporary sacrifice like that is too much because, living in one dimension, you will challenge your physical and mental health to the point where you stop living in a colorful world. We’ve all seen colleagues humbled by heart attacks and strokes, or even extended bouts of depression. The one thing I think we are all called upon to do is live in the moment. Live a vibrant, colorful life in the now.
I think of two veteran journalists who loved my newspaper so much that they had their ashes encased in the walls after they died. Instead of having their ashes spread in the glorious Rocky Mountain around them, they chose the newspaper lobby? It said everything about what the paper meant to them and, probably, what they thought they meant to the paper. But, theirs was a sad choice, because decades after their deaths, people didn’t care about who they were, what they’d done or what they meant to the history of the newspaper. It was a bit of a joke that there were ashes in the wall. And, aggravating the insult, when the paper was moved into a new building, the remains were removed and buried in a cemetery. Management didn’t even extend the courtesy of letting them make the move with everybody else.
You can give and give and give and give, and the business will take and take and take and take. In the end, who you are matters so much more than what you did.
The business won’t love you back.
Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courageous and creative leadership strategies.