Sunday, February 10, 2019

Balance



"Balance is not something you find, it's something you create." - Jana Kingsford

A mentee once asked me: "What is the right work/life balance? How do you find it and how do you maintain it?"

These types of questions seem more pressing these days. Perhaps it's because we hear that millennials value work/life balance very highly (presumably after seeing the sacrifices their parents made). Balance is a great and important topic indeed. There are no straightforward answers to these questions. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

We all have our passions, our limits, our frustrations and our ambitions. What are you willing to trade to get what you need? What are you willing to trade to get what you want?

My belief is that the right work/life balance is a very individual and very personal mix. I'm certain we'll find an entrepreneur's perspective of work/life balance is quite different from an actor's or from a police officer's or from a single mom of 3, etc.

As the quote at the beginning states - it's more about creating the right balance for yourself rather than finding it. This is a crucial difference in the way of thinking about the answer to the question because creating it implies you have to take action. It is not some magical equilibrium point you're supposed to discover. You have the power and the responsibility to figure out what it means in your life. Whether you are intentional about it or not, you are at some mix of work/life activity right now. This mix is impacting your career trajectory, your income and your personal relationships. And even when you are intentional and do define it, that point will evolve over time.

So how do you know that you've achieved the 'right' balance? By honestly answering this question to yourself: Are you happy?

It is as simple as that. You will know the answer. What you need to do is to pay attention to that answer, and if it's not the result you desire then take action to re-balance.

Amazon's immensely successful CEO Jeff Bezos said:  "I get asked about work/life balance all the time. And my view is, that's a debilitating phrase because it implies there's a strict trade-off. It actually is a circle. It's not a balance."

That may be the right framing for him. But he makes it sound like he's not making any tradeoffs. I doubt that. I disagree that his advice is widely applicable or that one can avoid making tough choices.

In the end, it's a prioritization exercise. As we evolve throughout our lives, those choices we make will likely evolve with us. It's critical to check in with yourself and challenge the path you are on. Periodically ask yourself if you're happy. Don't fall asleep with choices a younger version of yourself made.

Because if you're asleep, it's impossible to keep your balance.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy New Year - The Magic of Beginnings



It’s been quite a while since I’ve authored any postings. I’m grateful to have received a number of queries as to when my next article would be published here or on my blog and why it’s been on a long pause. Put simply, I only want to put something out there if I have something unique to say or something to say in a unique way. There’s certainly so much content floating around on our newsfeeds – it seems most everyone is in the business of sharing advice. And that’s great. For me, I don’t want to publish just to publish. In my case I’m glad that posting articles is done as my passion and not the way I earn my living. Being a champion for mentoring and helping out with thoughts about career development is one of the ways I feel I can give back to the world.

Sometimes I’ll have a topic in mind or someone suggests something they’d like my perspective on and within a day or two I’ll see it covered in my LinkedIn feed. I may ‘like’ or share that article if I feel strongly about it. Couple my avoiding 'duplication' with the fact that I am an active mentor and mentee myself and I’m dissuaded from adding to all that’s out there.

There are still compelling things to write about and articles that are in the process of being crafted. Over the years my conversations with my amazing mentees and mentors have offered me many ideas. I’d like to generalize/anonymize those and share them with you. So stay tuned…

In the meantime as we approach the end of 2018 I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your readership and feedback. Your feedback is very important to me and helps to guide me on what to write about and how to present it. I wish you and your families and friends the most joyous and peaceful of holiday seasons.

And may you be surrounded by the magic of new beginnings in this New Year!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sorkin Screenwriting

Photo from: Dominick D

"Whether it's 'The West Wing' or anything else, my first thought is always, 'What's a good story?'"- Aaron Sorkin

A few months ago I stumbled on a set of online class offerings from a company called Masterclass. These courses cover a variety of subjects and are taught by recognized 'masters' in their respective fields. Steve Martin teaches comedy, Frank Gehry teaches architecture, Kevin Spacey teaches acting and so on.

Then I saw one on screenwriting by Aaron Sorkin - a supremely accomplished, award-winning writer and storyteller - and was instantly drawn to it.

Screenwriting is the act of writing a screenplay or script. A script includes dialog, actions and directions for telling a story in an entertainment medium such as film, tv or plays.

Human beings love to hear and tell stories. This is not a revelation. In fact there may even be scientific proof behind how and why humans are optimized for storytelling (and 'storylistening' I suppose) as this Harvard Business Review article discusses. It's just neurobiology...

There are many quotes on this subject too: "People don't remember statistics (data), they remember stories." Maya Angelou said “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”  Story is an impactful way to communicate meaning and feeling to our fellow humans.

Even successful blog posts, ones that have gone 'viral', are the ones that tell a story - usually a very personal one. On my OnMentoring blog I've written that when interviewing for your next role you need to be ready to tell your stories. Don't just list out your accomplishments. It's vital to have a narrative for your achievements. What did you struggle with and how did you overcome? What did you learn in those struggles on your way to achieving your successes? Those tales will most certainly increase the chances for a successful outcome.

So when I saw Aaron Sorkin's class on screenwriting pop up I immediately registered. Aaron Sorkin has written some of the most powerful and moving scripts the world has seen - from movies such as "A Few Good Men" to TV shows such as "The West Wing".

Sorkin teaches that the core of any story must have two things: Intention and Obstacle. Intention is simply about your protagonist wanting something. An Obstacle (or two or three) is the barrier he/she encounters along the way to obtaining that something. The more intense the Intention, the more pressure to get to the something and the more imposing the Obstacle the better the story you'll tell. Not a single one of us escapes each day without having something we desire and obstacles that attempt to prevent us from achieving those desires.

I cannot convey in a single posting all that I've been absorbing watching this master describe concepts and techniques. I can say without equivocation that this course is fantastic and recommended.

I have zero plans to write any movies, plays or TV scripts in the near future....but stories...I tell them every day. We all need stories as they help us to partner with customers, inspire our teams, teach our friends/relatives/loved ones and, frankly, to make life that much more interesting. Even the mundane can be made intriguing in the hands of an eloquent storyteller. So any way to increase one's skills in this area is worth the journey.


"Stories, more even than stars or spectacle, are still the currency of life." - Adam Gopnik