A colleague recently brought up the relative youth of a fairly high-ranking executive in our company. I was mostly joking when I said I must have done it wrong to have not reached that level that early. This wise colleague then gave me a swift and awesome gift of perspective when he rebutted that no, I hadn’t done it wrong if I had balanced work with my family. His observation was that no one achieves meteoric success without significant sacrifices on the personal front. While there are always exceptions, I know in my heart of hearts he’s right.
I’ve been pretty reflective since my mid-career move last year. Leaving a company after nearly 15 years and starting over gets you thinking…about your values, what’s really important, the impact to your family, and the friends you leave behind. On one hand, I wish I had moved on earlier. It was time before it was time, but comfort zones and the status quo are powerful forces. Awhile back a bunch of factors had caused an apparent, temporary career stall. At least I hoped it was temporary. That’s the thing about being human – we can’t predict the future. But I stayed put, learning lessons I needed to learn. When the current opportunity finally came, we acted on it, but for the right reasons. I now know that if I’d have moved when I first thought about it, I’d have missed some cool experiences and awesome people. And I would have definitely missed some personal growth opportunities which have given me peace and made me a better person and employee. I’m sure it turned out the way it should have.
So did I do it wrong? I’d say yes, but only halfway. I experienced the most career growth during the first half of my career, but I also worked long hours and sacrificed much on the home front during that time. Since a health scare ten years ago, I’ve become a recovering workaholic. I’m doing better at balancing work and family, but that’s when I began to see my career plateau. While I don’t think my new balance explains quite all of it, there has been a strong correlation between my career growth and the choices I made between work and family. I think I did get it wrong–in the first part of my career. I sacrificed too much then. I’m happier now, more at peace. My colleague’s perspective only reinforced that as time goes on, maybe I’m starting to get it right.
“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” –Michael J. Fox