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Hit The Ground Running

3 Different Approaches To The Work-Life Balance Struggle

The work-life balance debate continues. While notable entrepreneurs live to work, other trailblazers are choosing work to live. Who's right?

3 Different Approaches To The  Work-Life Balance Struggle
[Photo: Flickr use Poonam Agarwal]

When you look at the legacies of transformative entrepreneurs and historical figures, do you ever wonder how they had time to sleep? These epic figures seemed to do nothing beyond work.

But as much as I want to change my industry, I also want my legacy to be my children remembering their father had a successful business and enjoyed time with them every day. It's a holistic life philosophy.

Census data from March 2015 shows that 62.7% of people in the United States now live in cities, so they desire to be physically closer to the things that matter most in their lives—just like me.

Can you achieve greatness in your work and still have time for family, friends, exercise, and leisure? I argued this with two business innovators—Dan Faggella, an entrepreneur, author, and TEDx speaker and Tony Tovar, founder of Local Reach Pros—to see how their positions compare to my own, and how young people can figure it out for themselves.

Legacy Builders Only Work

Faggella says he believes in a "work first" mentality. His views are completely divergent from mine, which means you can get both sides of the coin when it comes to figuring out your own philosophy.

"The biographies of Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, Margaret Thatcher, Napoleon Bonaparte—these are not the lives of people who struck a balance," Faggella says. Unlike some moguls, Elon Musk frankly states he's often absent from family life and neglects sleep for his cause—not to mention he sacrifices happiness and his well-being.

"Working 110-hour weeks is not about bulletproof coffee or genetics," Faggella adds. "None of this means anything without will, and the will required is nearly insane. It's about whether or not your motives and will are strong enough. Our grandparents leapt from planes in World War II, yet people today have nervous breakdowns before job interviews. If your grand mission and vision is important enough, [then] work is like breathing."

People who work at infinite lengths have reasons, Faggella says. "'Motivation' is not genetics; it is the will motivated by values—and with enough terror to run from or wonder to run toward, your legs don't get tired. And when they do, you crawl and pull yourself by your fingernails. I was not always able to do nothing but work, to turn down weddings, to neglect sleep and formal meals, but I consciously constructed my obsession for my purpose."

Creative Recharge Requires Shutting Your Brain Off

Tovar's position parallels mine. We're both 100% focused on business productivity during the slots in our calendars that we've booked for business.

"Balance is a bad way to look at it from the start," Tovar says. "To me it’s about working hard and then playing hard. You give 100% on both fronts when the time you scheduled for each is at hand. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs get so wrapped up in the day-to-day that they never give themselves any time to personally develop."

"I’m talking about doing things way outside your norm, really exotic—not just watching Game Of Thrones on TV to 'veg out,'" he continues. "I had always wanted to ride motorcycles but put it off. I bought my Harley Davidson motorcycle in May and now ride it to clear my head. This boosts my creativity. Find your own escape activity and book it in your schedule for a least a few minutes weekly. I ride for at least one hour per week."

You Need to Find a Life Balance

Personally, I work with many young entrepreneurs who agree with Faggella, and time after time I’ve seen them burn out. I believe we’re losing out on great talent and innovation because of this mentality.

I don’t believe you have work-life balance: You have a life balance, where everything you do complements your life’s work. My family is the major reason I’ve designed my business in a way that allows me to spend time with them. When I cook dinner for my family, cooking switches me from my left brain to my right brain, as I use my left brain most in my business. This allows me space to think creatively, and often I get jolts of inspiration while doing something right-brained like cooking. I then jot down these ideas for the projects I’m working on.

My life as a whole is managed on one calendar where I book family, health, recreation, and work commitments. I don't let my business take away from what's important to me personally, and I give all aspects of my life equal weight. People can see I lead by example: I tell them that if a calendar slot is already booked—even with family time—a business meeting won’t trump that commitment.

What work-life balance does come down to are your own priorities:

  • What are you ultimately living and working for?
  • What is your big "why?"
  • Is having fulfillment in all four pillars of life—vision, health, relationships, business—your priority?
  • Is striving to leave a legacy like Edison, Lincoln, and Bonaparte your goal?

I would not presume to decide for you. Determine where your priorities lie, and you know which approach is your best way forward.

Joshua Lee is the cofounder of Stand Out Authority, as well as founder and president of the advertising agency LF Media, Inc.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.

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