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Work-life Balance & plus one more

In today’s podcast, let’s give some thought to the concept of balance. Just like harmony in nature or grace in gymnastics, balance is something worth fighting for in all aspects of life. It’s not just about our job, our professional life or how we get by in our business environment. It’s about us as a whole, would you agree? What we are as managers or entrepreneurs, is not just what we do from nine to five (well, when we start our business these hours look a bit more hectic, right?). The way we are at work is influenced by everything around us, our pastime activities, our living arrangements and life priorities.

All these things have a powerful impact on what we are as persons in a broader sense.

How would you feel if you were stuck only with one thing all your life? Only work or only family? No hobbies?

In my life, I try to follow the “tripod principle”, that is, I always seek to rest it on three “legs”. To me, these three “legs” are a must have to maintain stability in nearly all situations.

One of these “legs” is family. My wife, Ania, is a doctor. As some of you know, our family is pretty large. We have four sons and a daughter. This very situation – such a number and variety of personalities – keeps me and Ania on our toes facing a full range of parenting challenges – from moments of impatience and fatigue to incredible fulfilment watching our children grow and develop.

The second “leg” is professional life. This part tends to evolve over time, and so has my career. As I have recently calculated for a presentation, over the last 20 years I have been involved in 14 different companies, often in a few of them simultaneously. I can tell you these engagements alone ensured enough diversity in my life. Yet that, complemented with the family commitments, surely did give me the proper sense of completeness.

In all that, I found out that, different as they may seem, the skills acquired while tackling professional and family challenges can be mutually useful. In other words, raising children can easier with the help of some corporate solutions and, on the other hand, parenting can offer strategies useful at work.

Regarding these two “legs” – family and work – I have learnt, watching my friends or business partners that, until they take up family commitments – husbands, wives and kids – their work tends to dominate their lives. This life stage can prolong, as it is not easy to choose the right partner, nor it is always easy to have children when we wish to have them. Anyway, invested exclusively in our work, we can do impressively well for a certain period of time. In a longer run, however, it is tiring and very risky. Do you know anyone around you that got lost in that lifestyle?

Just like it’s unheard of for investment funds to allocate all resources in one company or project, we should avoid putting all eggs in one basket; we should diversify our commitments.
Yet, even knowing all that, for some people work remains all there is to life.

There is also the third “leg”, as necessary as family and work – the leisure time. While there are lots of hobbies and ways to develop them, it is commonly believed that it’s better to have them separated from family life, so it has no direct link to professional life. Well, in my case the last point didn’t exactly work out, and some of you regular listeners know what I mean. Still, I believe I am able to keep these three life aspects – leisure, work and family – separate. They act as independent stabilizers of my personal happiness. Should anything happen to one of these “legs”, there are still two others I can stand on as a person. Standing on one leg like a stork might temporarily work. In a longer run, it doesn’t ensure the stability and safety that you or I personally seek. How do you like this concept? Think about it for a while.

Concerning my hobbies, I certainly have a few. The one I especially cherish, though, is the sauna life. I have been a sauna goer for over a decade. However, not until was the concept of SaunaGrow born, that I started to link part of my work life with sauna. I obtained the sauna master’s certificate and entered the world of sauna masters’ contests, sauna trips and events.

There are other leisure activities I do less often, such as modelling photography, mountain trekking or sailing. However, it’s the sauna that definitely counterbalances that daily struggle Ania and I have with our bunch at home. On one hand, in the sauna I get moments to calm down, gather my thoughts, reflect and think what to do. It’s also a place where I can meet friends and talk. On the other hand, the SaunaGrow aspect of the sauna involves business mentoring, typical business appointments held… in a sauna. So one can say the sauna connects two aspects of my life. I like to think it gives these two legs – leisure and work – the floor to dance in harmony. Linked as they seem, though, I suppose I’m pretty good at distinguishing my hobby-sauna from my work-sauna.

I strongly encourage you to reflect on whether your life rests on these three legs. Think if it’s the three legs that you need, as this is not necessarily the only lifestyle solution. Personally, I think you might find the three legs helpful. Relying on one leg is surely risky, whereas the whole tripod provides a comfort zone worth taking care of – once you find it useful.

There are two important things we should bear in mind regarding balance. It is not only about diversifying your self-development pursuits to find a tripod’s balance. It also concerns the ability to mix diverse activities so that each one gets a reasonable amount of our daytime.

For instance, one of important elements of my life is charity, particularly the hospice movement support. It takes time, as any other activity. Yet, if we find a way to combine it with other spheres, our professional life can be employed to benefit charitable causes. Hence the idea of SaunaGrow where all of the new client’s first mentoring session fee, goes to the hospices. Also, in AirHelp, for each claim sent to an airline that exceeds the daily target there is money that goes to charity. These are examples of a combination of business operation incentives with generosity. The time-efficient and synergic one. Can you think of other situations where charity is mixed into business?

Another factor that contributes to my concept of balance is, as odd as it seems, the diversity of my pursuits. As venture partners in the Venture Capital Fund (not only Black Pearls VC, but all venture capital funds), we are approached by hundreds of projects, start-ups and firms asking us for funding. Within the SaunaGrow format, we also deal with dozens of projects who don’t ask for money, but need our support in facing company growth – related challenges. As a result, in a month I talk to as many as 20 different entrepreneurs. The diversity of the projects I have the opportunity to help out, somehow reinforces my feeling of balance. That’s because it creates the opportunity for my own personal development, the feeling that I’m not stuck in one place coping with one process. It is my personal growth, exploring various business sectors, meeting lots of people, learning about possible circumstances. That’s where we go back to the diversification of life quests, to putting eggs into different baskets. I do not invest all my time or professional energy in one firm, where I would spend many years among the same people, in the same market and the same business model. With that approach I get a strong feeling of self-actualization and reinforcement in various aspects of my personal balance. How does this look in your case? Do you like the idea of diversity as a path to your own balance?

This diversity of activities happens to go well with the recently popular concept of diversity of cultures, skills, experiences, nationalities, genders, broadly understood in the context of start-up and corporate teams. Actually, diversity is important enough to deserve a separate podcast.

Concluding, I encourage you to find your balance through being diversity-friendly. Avoid betting on one horse and take care of all the three “legs” of your personal tripod. Your “private leg”, your “work leg” and your “leisure & personal growth leg”. Think how to use the opportunities that lie ahead. Start with listing the potential areas that can support your personal balance. What would these be?

Remember, that nobody can make you end up working dozens of years in one trade, one company, one environment. Nobody

can expect you to devote all your time to just one path in life – work or any other. Going to such extremes never pays off in a longer run, so set off on a personal quest for your own life balance.

Are you ready for a change?

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