I spoke at the annual Youth Employment Services Entrepreneurial Conference over the weekend, and as usually happens at these type of events where the young and the ambitious gather, the question of "Work-Life Balance" came into play.
The answer everyone wants to hear is that all good entrepreneurs ensure time for their family, never miss one of their children's recitals or hockey games, and manage to truly "understand what's REALLY important" from the get-go.
Unfortunately, that answer is a lie.
And I said so, much to the shock of the crowd. (Hey, you ask me to speak at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday, you ain't getting someone rational toeing the line!)
What I said was the following:
"The truth is, there is no
"There are two sides of the
scale; on one--the work side--
sits a 40-ton brass weight.
"On the other--
family side--sits a feather.
I concluded by telling the hopefuls to
"Say 'see ya' to your wife
(or husband) and tell your
kids not to grow up too fast."
I remember being at a Top 40 Under 40 conference, an award I won uh, well, just a couple of years ago ;) At that event, one of the panels was about Work-Life Balance, and sitting on it were four of the most vicious Alpha-Male dogs you could ever round up. And they spun fables of their idyllic family life when anyone who actually knew them also knew that the last time they saw their kids was in between trips to the Orient, the bank and their masseuse.
Cynical? Not really. Just the cold, hard truth. And I know, because I've been there.
But despite what seems to be a nasty tale of woe, I did learn something this week, and that indeed, a Work-Life Balance most definitely does exist.
It's just that it does so on an extended, stretched timeline.
Here's the way it goes:
As a young entrepreneur, you work your ass off. You start early, you finish late in the day--if you do at all--and then there's the weekends, which aren't much different. You're faced with all kinds of unexpected stress, chances are you'll be on the brink of total outright failure at least once or twice...and that's the good news.
But if you can get through all this, there's a payoff. And depending on the size and extent of your payoff, that's when Work-Life Balance kicks in.
As a young entrepreneur, work controls you. But it's the other way around once you've "made it." Once you've "made it," you call the shots, and can start making decisions about how you choose to spend your life and your time. There's was a big deal recently about Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg leaving the office at 5:30, but at this stage in her life, not only has she earned the right, but it's a testament to her ambition that she actually works at all.
So yes, young entrepreneurs, there is such thing as a Work-Life Balance.
You just have to be patient and wait a few years for the equilibrium to set in.