Work Life Imbalance

This one might touch a nerve.  

I spend my life around emerging, start-up & early-stage people. In our own firm, with my co-founder James Goodman, we’re pivoting, taking risk, making mistakes, enjoying wins and making decisions 7 days a week. It’s a privilege & fantastic fun to live this life.  

It’s not a job or a career. It’s a way of life.  

But for the last 20 years of starting & running businesses, I couldn’t claim to have gotten close to achieving what social media types describe as a work life balance. Not even close.

Perhaps you, like me, get anxious about this from time to time. I’ve learned to accept I am what I am even though I admit it often creates tensions with my loved ones. I admit to having missed numerous school plays & events. It grates as I write, but I’ve also taken my beloved kids all around the world with me, shown them things & introduced them to a diverse world in a way that I could only have dreamed of as a kid.  

Health allowing, I’ll never retire, I’ll never give up, you’ll continue to find me in airports on Sundays and public holidays.

And so, when I meet a brand-new fund management firm or founder group in another sector, if I see signs of a work life balance, I worry. A lot. Competition is intense, clients are hard to win and even harder to keep. If you’re a founder, devoting just 5 of 7 days to the cause almost certainly won’t be enough. So often I’ve seen promising businesses fail because the founders weren’t over-committed, they were just committed.              

I now realise my introduction to this way of living was much earlier than I thought. Growing up in the 1970’s, I saw immigrant communities entering the UK work 7 days, 52 weeks a year and it left an indelible mark on me.

By the 1980’s, their kids were in the best schools and by 2000 they were dominant forces in business, tech & the professions. Now, many of these communities lead governments, public companies and invent the future. When I arrived in the Gulf, I saw the very same communities forge a path and lay the ground here for generations to come. Immensely impressive.      

But let me be clear, for me it’s just not about the money. If it was, I’d have stayed in investment banking a long while ago.

To have a profession that enables curiosity, travel, learning, emotional challenge & laughter whilst still being able to put my kids through school is life affirming & sustains my soul.   

So, if it’s OK with you, I’ll continue to swipe past those purporting to hold the keys to the perfect work life balance with shiny photos to match. But I’ll move heaven and earth for those with distinctly messy and complicated lives who give it everything every day.