I know a guy who claims that his family is the most important thing in his life.
He also brags about spending 300 days a year on the road as a speaker.
I don’t know how many hours one needs to spend with one’s loved ones to register as “enough,” but by my calculations, the math here doesn’t add up.
Why is the person who works 60-hour weeks, spends 200 days on the road, and sits on three charitable boards applauded when they say that family is the most important thing, but another person who quits the rat race to stay home and spend more time with their family is seen as an underachiever not living up to potential?
These are questions I wrestle with often. I want to make a gigantic impact on the world. I literally want to make a positive difference in the lives of one billion people. It is what has driven me since the first day I started this company. I want it more than anything.
Well, almost more than anything, it turns out.
A few years back, Kim and I were set to scale our business to the next level. We discussed plans for adding more people and initiating new projects, all with the goal of broadening our reach. Business was good, but we were set on making it bigger.
After an exceptionally busy stretch when I was away from home, we nearly hit a breaking point. The combined effort of running a household, managing a business, taking care of three young kids, homeschooling, AND trying to take on new initiatives designed to grow our business proved to be just. Too. Much.
We were hit with the reality that we were not superhuman, after all.
And so we had to make some tough choices. It became clear that our kids were not getting our best. They were getting sloppy seconds…or even thirds. In the end, we decided that quality time with our family was actually more important to us than changing the world. We reminded ourselves that we are in a unique season of life, and although it seems like it when the days are long, our kids will in fact NOT be this young and dependent forever.
We ultimately decided that even if we made an impact in the lives of one billion people, but our kids turned out to be dillholes, we will have failed.
We didn’t abandon the business. We scaled back how much time we gave it, by working smarter, postponing some projects, and ditching the parts that took too much time for too little a return. Interestingly, since we made that decision, our business exploded, as has the time we spend together as a family.
This isn’t always easy. Like I said, the inner drive to reach more people is strong in me. I am in constant fear that I am not living up to my potential. That I should be doing more. That the work we do is great, and that more people should know about it. Some days, putting my hours where my mouth is in order to spend more time with my family feels a lot like giving up on a dream.
But I only have 24 hours a day, just like you. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t do it all. Not well, at least.
And saying that family is my number one priority is not the same as proving it with my actions.
In our society, this choice is not as commonplace, sexy, exciting, lucrative, or socially acceptable as sticking to our original plan of pushing, striving, and growing, while maintaining the facade that we’re balancing it all.
Kids don’t give us standing ovations, raises, or fancy gold-plated plaques.
I spent last Friday – a day I could have been working on the next big thing – with my kids at the library, reading Chronicles of Narnia, and learning how to make bowtie pasta.
When all is said and done, maybe I’ll regret prioritizing time with my kids over striving for a bigger impact with my work.
I have come to the conclusion that I will regret it more if I don’t.
The world is all stocked up on dillholes.