What Would Elon Do? Rethinking Work-Life Balance for Entrepreneurs
“Work like hell. I mean, you have to put in 80 to 100-hour weeks every week.” - Musk
“Would you have been as successful as you had had a work-life balance?” I was asked.
“I am still processing that question,” I answered.
And I didn’t just give this answer to get rid of the guy. No. I am still processing this question. I’ve been thinking about work-life balance my entire career and am still not settled. I want to be successful as a businessman, a husband, a father, and a friend. I want this reputation. I want it all.
But is it possible?
The other day, I went out for coffee with my oldest daughter, Julia. I can’t remember the context of the conversation, but I remember her telling me, “You are the textbook definition of a workaholic.”
This hit me hard. I didn’t tell her the impact her statement made on me because I was too busy thinking to myself:
“Is she right?
“Yes. She’s right.
“Oh my God, she’s right.
“I hate that she is right.
“I am a workaholic.
“I’ve been a workaholic all my life, even today.
“I love to work.
“I love her. I love my family.”
All this dialogue happened in an instant. Truth hits hard and fast. But those last two thoughts are the tension of work-life balance.
Back to the opening question.
The short answer to this question is, “Would you have been as successful as you have been if you’d had a work-life balance?”
I don’t believe I would have achieved the success I’ve achieved with how I think she defines work-life balance. I don’t believe there is balance in achieving anything significant.
It takes an enormous commitment of all one’s resources to change the world.
To make a difference.
To achieve potential.
The question needs to be corrected. There is just no way to have a work-life balance, as most of us define it.
We are not trying to balance work on one side of the scale and life on the other. It is all one life, and you and your family are together.
Proper balance is a three-way scale.
You and your family together are on one point of the scale.
Your time (both yours and your spouses) devoted to working is another point of the scale.
The third point of the scale represents the family’s desired lifestyle.
If the family can agree on a lifestyle, there should be balance. If you can’t agree or one of you changes your lifestyle, you’ll be out of balance. But change happens. Our lives and desires change. We learn as we live life and work. That’s why we need to occasionally revisit these three points on the scale.
Finding proper balance together.
If the family, on one side of the scale, agrees to the desired lifestyle as another point, then we must all be willing to devote ourselves to spending the required time working to achieve it. We will then have balance.
If we can’t agree on lifestyle or one of our desires for lifestyle changes, then…no balance.