Work-Life Balance?

If you know me, you know that I love my life. I have an incredible family and a fantastic job(s). Other than a little debt (ok, a lot of debt) from my college years, I really can’t complain.

And yet to those people who still ascribe to the “normal” 9-5 work day, I couldn’t possibly be happy. In their eyes, I work way to much and I can’t draw the line between my work time and my play time. In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve been accused of being a workaholic. Perhaps this accusation is true but in the age of constant connectivity, it’s hard not to be a workaholic if you’re passionate about life. Let’s explore this a little bit.

Here’s a section from Seth Godin’s latest book Tribes:

How Was Your Day?
It’s four a.m. and I can’t sleep. So I’m sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Jamaica, checking my e-mail. A couple walks by, obviously on their way to bed, having pushed the idea of vacation a little too hard. The woman looks over to me and, in a harsh whisper a little quieter than a yell, says to her friend, “Isn’t that sad? That guy comes here on vacation and he’s stuck checking his e-mail. he can’t even enjoy his two weeks off.”
I think the real question-the one they probably wouldn’t want to answer-was, “Isn’t it sad that we have a job where we spend two weeks avoiding the stuff we have to do fifty weeks a year?”
It took me a long time to figure out why I was so happy to be checking my e-mail in the middle of the night. It had to do with passion. Other than sleeping, there was nothing I’d rather have been doing in that moment-because I’m lucky enough to have a job where I get to make change happen. Even though I don’t have many people working for me, I’m in the business of leading people, taking them somewhere we want to go.

Admittedly, I am in constant conflict with myself about the breakdown between my work life and my family life. This isn’t an easy task. The reality is that these two worlds are so blended together that, to me, there really isn’t a separation anymore. This doesn’t mean that my 8 month old daughter has been showing up to conferences with me or that I’ve been giving bassoon recitals to my wife on a weekly basis. What this really means is that, from a time prospective, I have been intertwining my work and play in a way that—I hope—provides a seamless transition between my two lives.

Why? Because, my work isn’t work at all. It’s not even close. My work teaching bassoon, my work with Arts Enterprise and my work performing bassoon are three areas so intrinsically valuable to me that I actually look forward to tackling these jobs every day.

The reality here is that my family does, and always will, come first. If tomorrow I stopped teaching at BGSU, I left Arts Enterprise and I put my bassoon away forever, there would be someone filling my shoes in each case who would do the job twice as well. My family, however, is a different story. They are my first priority and striking that balance between the family I love and the work I love is the key to success.

So, what does this have to do with Arts Enterprise? In short, those of us who embody the AE spirit can be the poster children for figuring out this new work/play continuum. As artists, we constantly toe the line between work and play. This never-ending battle is imperative for ultimate success in our world and it can shed a lot of light onto how non-artistically minded individuals could achieve success in this world. For business people, this way of thinking is especially exciting in the high-paced, start-up, world of entrepreneurship where the lines are easily blurred between work and play.

So, how does this post resonate with your life? Do you see similarities in the work style I’ve set out to achieve? It would be great to hear from you.

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

3 thoughts on “Work-Life Balance?

  1. Hi Nate,
    I agree that the best work in life isn’t work at all – it’s just part of your life and gives energy back to you. However if resentment enters the picture, either because you realize that you are doing way too much, or others important to you become resentful because they are not getting the attention they deserve, then it’s time to to reassess your priorities and work style. Everyone is different – if I worked as many hours as you, I would be (and have been known to be) a royal pain in the arse. I know that if I push myself too hard, I break down in ways that others might be able to handle. However, I know that when I’m at my best, I can be a little sharper, a little more aware, a little more compassionate than the average Joe. I live by the mantra – give from where your cup is overflowing. Too many people (especially women) give when there is nothing left to give. I’m glad your cup is always overflowing, but us mere mortals must learn to live by the boundaries of energy we were given!

  2. As an employee I know that if I were to be made redundant tomorrow, I would still have my relationship with my partner, my family and my friends. I would continue to enjoy my photography, my writing and my guitar. Life experience has taught me to stop being a workaholic and give up trying to be a perfectionist.

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