18Feb
image of gold weight scales

Life and Work- Why I Get It Wrong Sometimes

image of gold weight scales

When I think of the word “balance,” I visualize a set of scales with my family, friends, religion and hobbies sitting on the left plate and my business interests sitting on the right plate. Just writing it shows that there isn’t much balance; many more items on one side than the other.

It teeter-totters back and forth as the weight from either side increases or decreases. A good friend of mine, who is extremely successful in his personal and professional life, told me there is NO SUCH SCALE.

It’s really a basket – with all of the pieces of your personal and family life interwoven with your business dealings – crisscrossing often, hopefully tight enough to keep any water from escaping.

Over the past ten years of my life the basket has started to leak – I think I need more baskets or a bigger one.


I would imagine that most entrepreneurs face similar challenges, so I don’t think I have an unusual problem based on the career path I have chosen. Having said that, I do feel like there is way too much emphasis placed on being a successful business owner and not enough placed on being a successful person.

With that in mind, I decided to re-read a speech I gave at the Commencement for my MBA graduation at the business school I attended. I hate it when people don’t practice what they preach and I am particularly upset when I am guilty of it. Anyhow, below is my speech.

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It is great to be here with you today. I consider it an extraordinary honor to have been given the chance to address you as well as graduate with you this morning. In my remarks, you will be pleased to know, particularly at this early hour, that I plan to adhere to the three “B’s” of a good commencement address. They are:

  1. Be Honest
  2. Be Brief
  3. Be Seated

So what is our plan after today? I would imagine that as graduating business students – most of us have ambitions, goals and ideas of what we hope to achieve.

Each of us want to be successful, right? Wanting it is the easy part. The hard part is knowing what it really means to be successful. There are really only two parts of our life, for the most part, that we can find success:

  1. At home
  2. At the office

How do we, as the future business leaders of our respective communities, keep these two from becoming mutually exclusive? That is what I hope to get across to us today.

One of the most successful entrepreneurs in Utah’s long history is Larry H. Miller. Without question, Mr. Miller is an entrepreneur of the highest order. However, when asked in an interview a few years ago what he would change if he had it to do over again, Mr. Miller had nothing to say of his many business ventures.

In fact, it was his mistakes as a Father that he most regretted.

He stated, “…if there is one thing I’d do different – only one – it’s to have been there at the Little League games and for the scraped knees and the dance recitals and the back-to-school nights…instead of working 90-hour weeks and missing all that stuff, I’d work a more balanced schedule, 55 or 60 hours, and the important things would still have gotten done.”

As we pursue our careers, each of us will have many opportunities in our lives to choose between either going home to our loved ones or staying late at the office.  In every case, with every boss, and in every position, each of us must have a level of job demand and, perhaps, exploitation – beyond which we will not go!

I say this because – as Larry Miller clearly stated when looking at his life in a rear-view mirror…

  • Memories matter more than money
  • Spouses and significant others matter more than titles
  • Making your children feel more important than your work means more than nice cars and fancy houses

I have seen – first hand – too many who love things and use people, when they should love people and use things. Without question . . . much of the blame for the erosion of the American family can be traced directly to…

  • Too many hours spent at the office
  • Too many days away from home on business trips
  • And, too much time and attention serving business demands at the cost of family responsibilities

If Mr. Miller is right – and I think he is – the more we are away from our loved ones – the less of a success we will ultimately be in life. In short, each of us must find a way to succeed professionally without failing personally. I am not saying we shouldn’t try to attain professional success. Of course we should.

Certainly there will be many work weeks that will last longer than 40 hours. That is understandable and a part of what we all will be expected to do. However, if your end goal is to keep up the healthy integration that a happy household requires, the result of this awareness will give greater satisfaction than any paycheck will offer.

There is nothing wrong with being a name in your own household . . . instead of a household name.

In today’s busy world, it seems as though we typically have only enough time for ourselves while we try to get ahead in the business world. With our eye focused sharply on achievement, most of us find that our efforts are best spent advancing . . .

  • Our own careers
  • Our own education
  • Our own agendas

The problem with focusing simply on ourselves is that we don’t give much thought to those that toil along side of us or whom we may pass along the way. My Father introduced me to a great quote a few years ago, and I have been drawn to it ever since. The unknown author of the quote states:

“On your way to the top, the more people you take with you, the quicker you will get there and the longer you will stay”.

So, let me ask each of you: how many truly successful people do you know who have made it to the top, and more importantly, stayed at the top, without the help of others? This my fellow graduates, in my opinion, is a critical factor in finding success in your work

Remember:

  • For every lead singer, there is a guitarist
  • For every star, there is a supporting cast
  • For every quarterback, there is a lineman

Not only will we ultimately find long-term prosperity, but if we help others rise up, we will have more people to enjoy what awaits us at the top. Despite the popular saying, it doesn’t have to be lonely up there. Not if you take others with you. Not if you share your success! Not if you encourage others to succeed and grow as you do.

My final thoughts to you are these. Enjoy today my fellow graduates, for Monday we must return to the trenches. However, I hope that after today, and certainly after Monday, we will all find the courage and the foresight to search for the full definition of success and when given the chance:

Choose our families over our 401k’s,

And choose our friendships over our fortunes.

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So after re-reading this before posting, I realized I am totally hypocritical. I need to do more of what I described years ago. I’ll bookmark my blog post! Let me know how you are doing. It’s hard, isn’t it?

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • http://www.facebook.com/TheTylers AnDrew Tyler

    Alex, Impressive speech! I’ve always thought of you as someone who had the balance. I love to read your updates and tweets regarding your family. It’s a perfect reminder  for me to check on my ‘basket’. I need that. Thanks for being that catalyst!

    • alex_lawrence

      AnDrew – thanks a lot.  I remember giving it like it was yesterday (instead of 2005, I think).  Always good to remind myself, glad it was helpful to you as well.  Family first, work second or third.  Hard to do but the right thing to do (often the right thing to do is hard though, eh?).  Thanks again.  

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