While standing in line at Starbucks, I noticed Leslie (not her real name), the wife of an old friend. Tony is a financial advisor at my former firm…top performer, hard worker and all-around good guy.
As soon as Leslie recognized me, a distraught look overcame her face. (I can have that effect on people.) She quickly walked over and offered to buy me a cup of coffee.
As we sat down, she blurted, “I think Tony is going to have a nervous breakdown. And quite frankly, as much as I love him, our marriage really stinks right now. Our kids hardly see him.”
That was a mouthful. I hadn’t even downed my first sip of coffee.
So I sat for a minute and just looked in her eyes. Was Leslie simply upset because Tony was spending too much time in the office? Or was she truly concerned about his well-being?
Recognizing my hesitation, she challenged me: “You of all people won’t stick up for Tony, will you?”
“What do you mean ‘of all people’?” I shot back.
She was ready: “Tony was jealous of the way you ran your practice. You always encouraged Tony to slow down. You ticked him off because you managed more money than he did. And you seemed to work half as much. ”
“Well, you’re right,” I agreed. (How could I NOT agree with this backhanded compliment?) “But I hear through the grapevine that Tony just had his best year ever. Didn’t he just get a promotion? How could I possibly help?”
“Talk some sense into him. He doesn’t need to be so stressed out,” she resolved. “Isn’t that what you do for a living now, anyway?”
“That’s one way to put it,” I said with a wry grin. “Should I tell him it was your idea?”
“As long as you help him take himself a bit less seriously, spend more time with me and the kids and hire a new assistant, you can tell him whatever you want,” she instructed with the look of a doctor stroking a prescription on her pad.
“So let me get this straight,” I responded. “He’s too worried about his business, he’s spending too many hours in his office and he’s too busy to hire a new assistant. So he’s not really enjoying his success.”
“I knew you’d get it,” she laughed.
As Leslie excused herself from the table, I quickly recalled similar conversations with the spouses of other advisors. They understand the stress that can come with success. They feel the strains that come from keeping your business turned on 24/7.
Let’s face it, lost marriages, heart attacks and addictions have become an all too common occurrence.
What’s the solution?
You need to understand your true purpose. And purpose can’t just be about making more money.
You also need to gain control over the way you spend your time. Time management is nice. But time mastery gets real results.
Ask yourself this question…
Where do you get the greatest return on your time?
You can measure it in dollars and cents when you’re talking about your business. Some of the work you do is worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars per hour. Yet sometimes you choose to do $10 per hour work that’s best suited for someone else on your team
And when you talk about prioritizing family time, you can’t just pay lip service. Good intentions carry little value if you regularly miss those events you promise to attend. You may not be able to measure that time financially, but a life well-lived with good health, a happy family and close friends is priceless.
When it comes to the way you choose to spend your days, you have important choices…choose wisely.
[I initially wrote this post in 2014, but was reminded of this “coffee” during a recent conversation with one of my clients. He’s struggling to find time to do the things he really cares about. And he wonders about the damage he’s doing to his family relationships. So I sent him this story and decided to repost it here on my blog.]