Is there a work life balance?

Fading Team

I recently started reading yet another of those books that seeks to tell you how to get the most out of life, how to tap in to your best inner talents.

How to get to the end of your days with no regrets.

It’s called Die Empty.

I’ve always been a fan of personal productivity books. They help me to think and re-think about how I am approaching my life and work. Many of them are written with a very personal perspective, as if their primary purpose is to lead to great life fulfillment for the individual.

But our best professional work comes when there is a lot of consistency and synergy between both our personal goals and our professional goals. For the most successful among us, there always seems to be little or no separation between the two. Top-tier politicians, executives of small and large companies, movie stars – all of these folks always seem to live and breathe their best work in every facet of their life.

But for the “lower levels” – the folks at middle management, in entry-level positions, etc… these folks tend to fall into two camps.

  • Either they seek to maintain as much distance as possible between their work and personal lives – always leaving the office promptly at 5pm.
  • Or, they dive so deeply into their work that it completely replaces their personal life.

Neither of these are healthy attitudes toward work.

Yeah, there are gradients in between. But what I’m really trying to focus on here is that wide gap between folks who work because they have to vs. folks who have found ways to work professionally that complement and enhance in magical ways their own personal goals and achievements.

I haven’t gotten very far yet into Die Empty. I know so far that the overall message intends to be that you should let your best self out onto the world every day and in every way. But I wonder whether it will also talk much about how this relates to businesses.

Not only is it a good thing when employees and managers can find a lot of personal fulfillment in their work (i.e., their best self that they are supposed to be emptying onto the world can be expressed to achieve their professional goals as well as their personal goals), but also the fundamental principle of “die empty” is a great one for the business itself to embrace.

Not that you ever actually want your business to die – in the best case it will last longer than any of its original founders. But wouldn’t it be great if a business could approach each work day as if it were its last? Not meaning to take risks that will drive it off a cliff, but simply to ensure that the company embraces boldness, does not imagine greater risk than there really is, and empties its best self onto the world during every day of commerce.

I’ve got a lot of books on my shelf right now (well, actually – on my Kindle app). So it may take me a while to get through this book. But I’ll try to spend some time on this blog in the near future talking more about this topic.

The best lessons we learn for ourselves about achieving our dreams and goals are surely important lessons also for our businesses and professional selves to learn!

The Learning Spiral

Prototype Of Man

[Tweet “… you are now working at a higher level.”]

I’ve worked in a lot of types of offices and technical environments over the years.

Something I’ve always tuned into is whether it is a “big” environment – one where I am a fairly small cog in the machine and have a lot of folks around me to depend on for working on hard problems together – or, whether it is a “small” environment – one where I’m basically responsible for everything that plugs into a wall socket. (Yes, including the coffee maker. :-))

Both types of environments have their advantages, as far as career development.

In the big places you can seek out and learn from the best technologists in the organization. But you don’t get to branch out much.

In the small places you get more challenges to push yourself into new areas of learning, because you’re sort of on your own. And you have a chance to go wherever your motivations take you.

But common to both sorts of environments is something I call the “learning spiral.”

This is that process through which you see a problem, don’t quite know how to solve it (but you make a dent in it somehow), you move on to other problems (with the benefit of what you learned from that previous really hard problem), and eventually you come back to that first hard problem.

But when you get back there, you are now working at a higher level.

You have more experience, you’ve seen more, and you get a crack at solving that hard problem with better tools at your disposal. Sometimes it works out this time around, sometimes it takes a few more turns around the spiral before you quite get it.

The great thing is, all along the way you are learning…

… solving…

… growing…

… going higher…

… moving, and…

… seeing all there is to see. 🙂