“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.”
That’s Robert Louis Stevenson.
I love that quote for two reasons. Not only is it good life advice, but it’s also a word of warning.
To be perpetually devoted to something does require perpetual neglect of many other things. This is one of the huge themes throughout The Focus Course: finding clarity about what to focus and also what to let alone. (In the words of David Allen, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.)
Stevenson’s quote is also a cautionary one. Among the most common regrets of the dying is having worked too hard and, in turn, neglecting relationships, values, and even their own happiness.
May devotion to our business not be sustained by neglect of our health, relationships, values, and even our own happiness.
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I’ve got an “all in” type of personality.
When I’m working on a project or an idea Iget very single minded. I focus in on that project and I can hardly think about anything else.
It’s why I spent an inordinate amount of time trying out clickey keyboards.
It’s why I took 10 days off of work to move my family into a new home.
And, since building a business is a project in an of itself, I discovered early on that because of my “all in” personality my business had the potential to take over every other area of my life.
I want my business to add to the quality of my life. Not only is it something I’m building with long-term goals in mind, but it’s also something I enjoy working on today — right now.
While I’m a firm believer in the importance of showing up every day to do the work, after so many hours worked in the day there is a point where time spent at work is pretty much just wasted time.
How pitiful and ironic would it be if our creative work took over our time and attention so much that it suffocated the creativity right out of us?
* * *
For the past few years on my birthday, I have been writing down a retrospective of sorts into my Day One journal.
I write down what highlights I remember from the past year, what projects and events I was proud of, what things I regret having done (or regret having not done), and more. I also write down what I want to do more of in the future.
Examples of things from the past year I’m glad I did:
- Building and launching The Focus Course
- Putting energy into building a thoughtful approach to content “marketing” and “strategy” through my email newsletter. (Something I plan to write much more about.)
- Taking a week-long vacation in Steamboat Springs with my wife to celebrate our 10-year anniversary.
- A last-minute trip to Atlanta to connect with a new friend.
- Attending and speaking at Circles Conference.
- Attending game 6 of the ALCS before the Royals went on to win the World Series.
- Reading more books
These are just a few things. And they remind me that the day-to-day minutia of running a business is necessary, but it’s not nearly as urgent as it often feels. And that I’m happiest when I’m on a memorable trip or event or else creating something of substance with a long-term shelf life.
Choosing something until it chooses you back
Last July, on my birthday, I wrote this in my Day One:
Life is almost entirely a series of small, nearly-inconsequential choices and moments. All the little things that I do (and don’t do) are what paint the picture of my life. If I want a different life, make a small change to sone thing and stick with it.
It’s a choice to live a life with healthy boundaries. It’s a choice to give our time and attention to the things that matter most.
And, probably the best way to learn how you best balance work and life is through trial and error.
Life will zig and zag. It will ebb and flow.
Something I can’t unpack right now is the idea that margin in your work schedule can actually give you the strength to take risks and have fun in the process.
Don’t let the boundaries between your work and family life be dictated by social expectations. Rather by authenticity to your goals, visions, and values.
P.S. The podcast interview I did with Havilah Cunnington was awesome. We discussed balancing family with creative entrepreneurship.