If you study the most successful people in any industry, you’ll notice that they are incredibly driven, and work exceedingly hard. But one common trait in these entrepreneurs seems to get glossed over. I’ve noticed that these top performers also know when to step away from work and spend time building their relationships.
The most successful people (at least the ones I admire) define their success not only by their career accomplishments, but define their success primarily by their relationships with their family.
It’s got to be hard for a younger person to fully absorb what this means. No disrespect intended — I only speak from experience. I’ve walked that path before, where work becomes everything, and succeeding at work becomes all-encompassing. It took a lot of painful life experiences for me to realize that no matter what your profession is, the work is always going to be there, and there are only so many hours in the day. I didn’t realize it until I was a bit older, but family is the real foundation of your success. No job, no position, no startup, no company will ever stand by you the way your family will.
I think it’s especially hard for men to grapple with this. So much of our identities are wrapped up in our careers and our work. When we meet someone, and they ask “What do you do?” or “Tell me about yourself —”, naturally we state what our profession is and who our employer is. We judge each other (as men) by how well we provide for our families. Purchasing status symbols is a sign that we are successful at our work.
As men, we rarely identify ourselves by our relationships first. It’s usually work first.
The High Cost of Workaholism
Study after study shows that working more than 8 hours a day leads to diminishing returns. The longer you work past this point, the less productive you become.
All this relentless pushing through 10 to 14 hour days is actually bad for business. It’s bad for our personal health. You can be damn sure that our spouses aren’t going to be keen on our long hours for very long.
To paraphrase Mule Design’s Mike Monteiro, we shouldn’t be giving out medals for people who work long hours, we should be asking why the work isn’t getting done during the normal eight hours. If long hours are the norm, it’s time to ask ourselves if there’s a better way to do things.
Family First, Work Second
Best-selling author and marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk has an intelligent motto. He lives by the creed of family first, and work second. He tries to be present in every moment, so that means no email or phone calls during the weekend. But when the work week rolls around again, he hustles his ass off and plays to win.
There’s so much admirable about this on a personal level, but it makes me wonder why we ever got away from this as a society. Work is very satisfying, and we all need something to work at to reach self-actualization. But jobs will come and jobs will go. At the end of the day, we have to ask who are we trying to satisfy? What are we trying to accomplish? What does it profit us to be successful at our profession, if no one is there to share it with us in our time off? Our family is our one constant, that is always there for us, if we treat them right.
Our family is our source of strength, in good times and bad. The reason we undertake any work at all is for their benefit. It cannot be for our own ego.
What If You Have No Family?
I’m an only child and my parents are no longer of this world, so I can help you answer this. You have more leeway to pull insane all-nighters when you’re young and single, but it still isn’t healthy long-term. Know when to say when. You still have yourself to worry about. And if you don’t develop good habits and look out for yourself now, it will be harder to break those bad habits when you do have a family of your own.
Work is awesome. I love work and the satisfaction it brings me. But I know that at the end of the day, I have people who I love and who love me waiting there. We show how much we love each other by spending time sharing what happened in our day, our dreams, our thoughts, our insights, our philosophies. It feels good to just be and replenish our strength for the next day. We make each other stronger as families because we hold each other up, just like a solid foundation.