One of the questions I get asked often is how to maintain a balance between work and life. My short answer is – it is a continuum. There are no sharp boundaries between what we think of as work and what we call life, especially entrepreneurs. For me, work has been my life because I have loved what I do – even through the tough times. The mind cannot switch off if you are running your own business – the subconscious keeps thinking about the problems and solving them. At no stage does this mean that family is undermined – it is just that entrepreneurs look forward each day (weekday or weekend does not matter) to getting one step closer to success, or one step away from failure. The family needs to understand the entrepreneur’s life and passion. Without their support, a difficult job can become impossible.
It is for the entrepreneur to be able to work out the balance. Whether it is time with the spouse or the kids, sacrificing family for the sake of business success is not worth it. No amount of financial success can replace loved ones.
I was taught this by my wife, Bhavana, shortly after the birth of our son. Abhishek was born 12 years after marriage, after 5 years of IVF treatment. (I have written about this on my previous blog.) I was 38 years old when Abhishek was born. I had spent most of my life as an entrepreneur – and the long hours that came with it. Even after Abhishek’s birth, my office hours did not change – 9 am to 9 pm. One day, a few months after Abhishek’s birth, Bhavana sat me down and said, “I can raise Abhishek on my own; I don’t need you for that. Just because he is sleeping most of the day doesn’t mean that he cannot feel and understand. You can continue working the way you want. But one day when he grows up and you find that he doesn’t have the personal relationship with you, please do not blame him or me. These first years are very important to build that bond. Once he is older, you may have the time, but he will have moved on. It is the early years when that connection has to be forged. One touch at a time, one day at a time. The choice is yours.”
I changed from that day. I started coming home early. I stopped all discretionary travel till Abhishek was three years old. I created a new balance between work and family. Today, 15 years later, as I see the bond between Abhishek and me, I always remember Bhavana’s words that changed me and my approach to work.
Create time and space for family. They are not just another “meeting” to be scheduled in the calendar. They are the only ones who will also experience your highs and lows – perhaps even more than you. They are the ones whose unquestioned support will push you to greater heights. Make sure you are always there for them.
Tomorrow: Part 47