I disagree with the notion, you can’t have it all and that you have to choose. Make money, or do meaningful work. Great body, or spend time with the family. I actually think you can have it all.
Now before you roll your eyes and your skepticism takes over, give me a moment to explain.
I grew up in a very practical, middle-class home. My father was an educator, rising from the throes of poverty to become a superintendent of schools in central Iowa. My mom was a homemaker, and, as income was needed, also worked in various administrative capacities to help make ends meet. We were fine, but there was no surplus. No back-up for me financially. This reality formed my thinking early on and motivated me to orient toward making money. I realized I was going to be the back-up/back-stop for my family.
My Grandfather on my Mom’s side was a business owner. He owned High Rocky Mountain Supply which was a company that supplied the local mines with equipment. Entrepreneurism was in my blood and that showed itself first when I was 13 and decided to launch a lawn mowing/leaf raking business in the trailer court we were living in just outside of Ames, Iowa while my Dad pursued his doctorate at Iowa State University. I loved making my own money.
I graduated from high school in 1995 and by 1999 I was fresh off the road having traveled with an international musical youth organization called Up With People for two years, whose mission is to change the world through music, and cultural exchange. It was life changing visiting 6 countries staying in more than 100 host families, performing countless acts of community service and making friends for life. But now I was conflicted. I seemingly had two masters – one was a deeply rooted desire to impact the world in a meaningful, lasting way. The other – was to survive, make money and build a life for myself that would require financial means. And adding to the complication, I had just come out as gay and was now dealing with what it meant to love and be loved. By 22, I had three conflicts that seemed unreconcilable – love, money, and impact. How could I have them all?
Initially, I abandoned impact all together and focused on financial survival. I started in a sales capacity at an IT staffing firm, later, after the dot.com bust in 2000, launching a real estate business flipping homes and brokering deals. I loved it. But I was lonely and so I was also looking for love. I spent years toggling between the two. Falling in love, losing site of my business. Then falling out of love, and growing the business once again. It seemed impossible to me to have both love and money because I was always all in on one or the other. The world seems to validate the idea I could ultimately only have one master. That seemed unsatisfying to me. And what about great health, or spirituality, or friendships – was there time for those too?
In 2004 I hired my first assistant and within 3 months we started dating. By luck or by fate now my business and my love life were intertwined, and I was forced to start to figure out how to have both succeed. For years I was not very successful at that and in 2009/2010, after having a catastrophic business experience and faced with 7 figure debt as a result, I knew I needed another approach. I was 5 years into a relationship and we were struggling. I wasn’t winning there. And I certainly wasn’t winning with money. And my health was suffering, I was doubled over with stomach pains almost daily. My life and business was a mess. I was resigned to the fact I couldn’t have everything I wanted and needed to start making some tough choices.
But then something happened, and I’m not necessarily sure what. Somehow that break down lead to a break-through. Or more appropriately said, a series of break-throughs where I started to learn I didn’t have all the answers and I could start to let down my ego, look around at others, model their success and deploy some patience. For years it seemed like time was my enemy – there simply wasn’t enough of it to do everything I wanted. Maybe through time was my friend and if I learned when to be patient and when to be impatient, and to view things with a longer arc, I could get some traction.
It started first financially when I learned about the power of compound interest in investments and in people. Deploying patience it seemed, in playing the long game in investments and relationships leads to great wealth over time. That was interesting. At the same time being very impatient with losing money or treating people poorly became important and I needed to better understand what was really happening to my business and relationships.
With some great coaching, in my relationship, I noticed that all conditions existed simultaneously and it was up to me to choose which one I would observe. The things Christian did that annoyed me and the things Christian did that I loved – are always there. And usually, those were the same things. The fulcrum point it turns out was me. Not him.
With my health, I learned to both be patient and fastidious. It’s about the long game here by playing a great short game. Daily and weekly nutrition and activity matters and determines the long term outlook.
But how do you have all of this and more you might still be asking? To solve this I turned to some great productivity truths and applied them broadly to my business and personal life. One of my first big breakthroughs was in thinking about the use of time and effort. Focused work in chunks, often called time blocks is the way to be very efficient. I began time blocking like activities together into chunks of time. And I would take it one step further and match that with my energy cycle. For example, for me, pro-active work to move the business forward, be that prospecting, writing, selling, or whatever is the primary activity for your business, requires large amounts of discipline, creativity, and thoughtfulness, all at the same time. I do this in the morning and for 2-4 hours. Morning is when I’m the most focused and have the fewest number of other thoughts and distractions and so I group activities together in buckets to make sure I’m performing similar tasks in similar chunks and putting the hard stuff in the front of the day.
I apply this principle to seasons as well. For example, the fall is great planning time for me and so I’ll block out large chunks of time to reflect and plan, in alignment with the season of fall.
Same in my relationships. It wasn’t about the quantity of time it was the quality and when I figured out exactly how to spend “quality time” together I got a huge lift. For us, that’s 2-3 nights a week watching a show, and taking 3 amazing trips per year.
Perhaps one of the biggest success keys here is I do this with a focus on the micro and the macro – meaning in addition to focusing in on daily, or weekly priorities I also always have my eye on the annual priority and the 5-year goal. Or, another way to say it, I’m very focused on the short, medium, and long term and constantly working to align everything short term toward the long term view of where I’m going. In all areas of my life that are important to me.
Let me go back to my initial statement that – you can have it all. Yes, you can, the caveat being, not all at once. With careful planning, clear prioritization, and a plan to execute, and an eye on the short and long term, within a 5-year time frame, you can have everything you can possibly imagine. You must set up your priorities in sequence though, give them the daily and weekly time they deserve, keep them within the context of the time, and make sure everything is grounded in why you’re doing it, to begin with, it. With those elements in place, the only thing left is to get to work.