Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 29, 2011 8:09 AM

A True Story About Work/Life Balance

Do you believe there is such a thing as work/life balance?

I think that work/life balance is a myth (for me). I've Blogged about it before (you can read it right here: The Myth Of Work Life Balance). This past week, the fine folks from Google invited me to a private event for their Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Pichette. During the cocktails, someone asked Patrick what his life is like at Google and whether or not he has good work/life balance? I thought the question was interesting considering all of the amenities that Google provides (free gourmet food, exercise facilities, laundry service, medical and more). On top of the amazingly generous employee benefits, Google also has an initiative where twenty percent of the employees time can be committed to their own pet projects. As hard as Google employees work, it seems like the company is doing everything it can to ensure that there is a healthy sense of work/life balance. What was Patrick's answer to this question?

"You don't take a job like this if you want balance."

His answer stopped me dead in my tracks. We like to think that we can have it all, but it turns out that the real superstars in our world are working themselves to the bone. The difference here that they're doing it knowingly and willingly. They take these hard assignments with a timeframe and plan pre-set in their mind. You could tell by Patrick's direct answer that he not only knew what he was getting into, but he accepted it as a part of what his life would become. He also seems very happy and proud of this choice.

You don't start your own business for balance either.

Patrick's comment summed it all up for me, personally. I didn't start my own business to have work/life balance. I don't Blog or Podcast or speak or write articles or business books to achieve work/life balance. I do all of this (and more) because it's what I was meant to do. While you may see this as unhealthy, I took my opportunity to dig deeper into Patrick's comment over dinner. He went on to say that while he can't have any semblance of work/life balance with this type of work, he has what he calls a "healthy blend."

A healthy blend.

What does a healthy blend look like? While Patrick is running around the world managing the finances for one of the biggest and most valuable companies, he often finds himself starting early, working through lunch and meeting clients in the evening. On a recent trip, he was working in Europe and invited his wife to meet him at the end of the week in London. He spent a long weekend there. This is blend... finding the opportunities to blend your life so it's not all focused on either work or play. They all blend together. I've done similar things. I was once invited to speak in Singapore and took my spouse along with me and we extended the trip with a visit to Bangkok and Phuket. Or, when I'm on a family vacation, I'll often take an hour (here and there) to quickly check emails or to catch up on some reading. Blend.

This is probably a bad thing. 

I'm sure there are a handful of health practitioners who will shake their finger and say that finding the blend is not enough and that people like Patrick and myself are headed towards burn out because we don't have work/life balance. I'm not sure that I would agree. The reason? I truly love what I do and I don't consider it work. Whether it's answering emails, helping a client out with a business challenge or writing this Blog, it's not a chore. It's not something that I ever feel that I need a break from and - between us - work doesn't stress me out. You know what does stress me out? Trying to forget, shut down, put aside or stop doing what I love to do.

How's that whole work/life balance thing working out for you?

By Mitch Joel