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Finding Balance in a Full Speed Life

January 14, 2011

My daughter went on her first professional interview earlier this week.

I had made arrangements for her to meet with a friend of mine who owns a smallish but very successful advertising agency in the outskirts of town. As a freshman in college studying communications, it seemed like an advertising agency would be the perfect place to get her started with some work experience next summer.

I dropped her off at the office building and headed for the café next door, where I ordered a decaf cappuccino complemented by an excellent peppermint biscotti, and waited.  

After what seemed like an hour, but actually really was an hour, I saw her slip into the café, all proud and professional-looking, clutching a borrowed leather portfolio at her side. Just like a real, grown up advertising executive! Once she spotted me, she widened her eyes and worked hard at holding back an enormous grin as she greeted me with a hug.

“It went well?” I asked. She nodded hard.

Driving back home, I grilled her for details.

She reviewed the conversation blow by blow: the different functions of the ad agency; a typical day for the owner; the type of clients they work with. Then she paused, and said something that would normally fall completely out of the realm of an internship interview.

“I really want to be like him when I’m older.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I like that he integrates his whole life with his work.”

Now, how the heck did that come up?

It turns out they had spoken at length about the importance of balancing a career with life, and how he, as a business owner, manages to blend together work, family, church, and fun. He refuses to compartmentalize, and views life as one infinite, vibrating continuum, blurring back and forth between various roles as needed or desired.

He went on to describe to my daughter how he goes home for dinner almost every evening, even if it means he has to go back to working after spending time with his kids. He told her about his extensive travels to South America three times a year, where he sponsors a village mission program; how he plays guitar in the worship band at church; how he takes his daughters to the mall to buy them make-up at Sephora. Oh, I know that story all too well. Yes sir, he’s blended, all right.

My prototypical Gen Y daughter liked hearing all of this, of course. Except that it was in stark contrast to what she has been hearing from the visiting career professionals who come to speak at her college. These are the TV Producers, Madison-Avenue advertising executives, and publishers from New York and LA, big-name guest-speakers who show up in lecture halls to give the students a taste of the large life.

“Every one of them tells the students that you can’t expect to have both a personal life and a career,” she lamented. Here she is, 18 years old, worrying about her life getting sucked up entirely by a job.

We spoke a little bit more about making choices, seasons in a career, and the sheer drive and ambition that must accompany those high-powered positions in New York and LA.

We decided it all came down to this: the act of Balance.

On February 17, my friends at A New Equilibrium will be hosting a dinner-discussion with professionals, executives and leaders on this very topic of Balance. It will be held at the Lambertville Station Inn in Lambertville, NJ, starting at 6:30 pm. A great meal, a great topic, and some great friends to meet and hang out with.

For more information, click here.  

If you’re in the area, please drop by. My daughter won’t be there, but I will.

Thanks to Nance Marie for the perfect photo.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2011 6:35 pm

    What a great life lesson to learn so early in her career. You just never know when God when put someone into our path, or our child’s, to teach them a great lesson by example.

    • January 17, 2011 6:32 am

      It’s interesting, because I think I have always done a good job of promoting this idea of balance, but it has never come up in our own conversations. This interview was a great prompt!

  2. January 14, 2011 6:35 pm

    that guy sounds a lot like you 🙂
    and so does your daughter.
    i will also be at the discussion in NJ…
    not physically ,
    but in spirit.
    it sounds like a good one.

  3. January 14, 2011 7:58 pm

    Great post, Bradley, and so important. It’s been a big challenge for me through my career. I think I’ve done OK at making employees go home to their families, insisting on vacations, encouraging extra-curricular activities etc. Not so sure I’ve modeled it very well though! It is quite a big topic when I mentor younger colleagues and friends though. A key concept your daughter picked up on is the idea of integration of all of life, rather than compartmentalization. I have mixed feelings about it, in the sense that you don’t necessarily want the stresses of one to bleed over into another. But the fact is that all of it is owned by God, all of it is Kingdom activity, and all of it is to be ruled by Christ and empowered by the Spirit. With that in mind, balance is an absolute requirement of good stewardship – otherwise we will be failing God in one or more area of our lives.

  4. Bob G permalink
    January 14, 2011 10:27 pm

    Another great post Bradley.

    “…you can’t expect to have both a personal life and a career.”

    Are they really telling them this? Yeah, I’m sure that’s highly fulfilling (eyeballs rolling in sarcasm).

    It seems to me that most of those who are completely owned by their career and employers who expect it that way – they at least pretend that balance is important.

  5. January 16, 2011 10:28 pm

    Great story. I kid you not, but I just started an article (blog post, whatever!) about balance. And I just concluded the same thing. The juggling act is out. Forget separation. Integration (I call it the “blended life”) is in. It’s impossible to separate everything. To turn switches on and off and pretend like we’re something we’re not. It also gives me a headache. So keep me posted on this discussion.

    Now, what’s this about decaf?

    • January 17, 2011 6:36 am

      I like the idea of “blended”. It admits that it gets all swirled up sometimes. Which is okay.

      And the decaf.. well, it all started with some heart palpatations…(Caffeinated makes my heartbeat flip out!)

  6. January 17, 2011 6:55 am

    My daughter heads to college in August….wow….how did that happen? I had the all consuming job and didn’t have the appropriate balance or blending, so finally the scales tipped and I learned balance the hard way.

    But, God is good and he brought me to a calling that integrates my whole life and it is such a blessing. I hope your post helps many young people get on the right track to start. Obviously, your friend is already making an impact.

  7. January 17, 2011 9:08 am

    The longer I live (I’m nearly 50 now), the more passionate I become about this. We have so many more opportunities to live abundant lives and impact the world around us when we live in anticipation of them and open to them.

    But it takes more: we must arrange for this kind of living with our choices. I doesn’t just happen. It will always be a challenge, but worth the effort.

  8. January 19, 2011 4:44 pm

    I wonder if it’s easier for him to find that balance and have more control over his schedule due to the fact that he owns the agency?

    I’d love for my husband to be able to create that integrated life, as well, but he works for a large corporation as a project manager–he is expected to stay as late and arrive as early as his Type A supervisor. It’s harder to find balance when you’re stuck following someone else’s schedule.

    The boss knows my husband is more of a family man than the boss is, but the pressure is intense.

  9. January 21, 2011 6:27 am

    You are absolutely right – It is true that because he owns his own firm he is able to make his own rules about how he spends his time. That kind of intense pressure can put a wrench into any plans of finding balance. I think this is a reality of many mid-managers in the corporate world. Wish I had an easy answer here, but the truth is that he has got to live up to the boss’s expectations (within reason?). There’s nothing worse than a situation where the boss thinks you are not willing to give your best effort to the job.

    Does he enjoy what he does? I bet that would make a difference, too.

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