Who You Are At Work Is Who You Are In Life

You’ve heard it ad nauseum. “Find Work-Life Balance”, it’s the holy grail of being a professional. Or perhaps you’ve read about version two, “Work-Life integration”, in more recent articles that encourage the breaking down of barriers between work and life in our hyper-connected world.

Unfortunately, we’ve been sold a big fat lie. Both the concepts of balance and integration fail to reveal to us what is really happening in our lives. The entire concept assumes that there’s separation between work and life. Let’s examine both a little more closely. Work is how 8 or 10 hours a day passes. Life is there when you wake up, when you slack off, when you work hard and when you go to bed.

The Work/Life dichotomy can’t exist because by definition, one contains the other. You cannot take a city out of a state any more than you can try to remove yourself from your family tree. There’s no “work you” and “rest of life you”. You may project some version of yourself for eight hours a day – it’s still just you and your life. Whether you leave work at the office right at 5pm or have blended the lines with creative scheduling and work email on your personal phone, it’s your life before you started working, throughout the day and when you finally call it quits. So what’s really going on?

Every single minute you are working, life is happening. Every single minute you’re it giving it your all, life is happening. Every single moment you are reacting, deciding, operating, expressing, etc… life is happening! At every moment of your work day, it is you in your real life. There’s no distinction between work and life. In fact, it’s totally unnecessary to put energy towards balance or integration – what a relief!

In each moment of our job or career, we have the opportunity through our words, actions and thoughts to define who we are in life. Greatness cannot be achieved from 5pm to 8am. Hustle doesn’t take a break from 9a to 5p. To become your possibility, you have the option to realize that in every moment, who you are choosing to be only reinforces who you are – or aren’t. What an opportunity! If you decide to take advantage of it…

  • To be a loving family member, exhibit care and compassion for others at work rather than spread negativity.
  • To be a person who gets really great at a hobby, practice excellence at work by accepting nothing but your best work rather than “mailing it in”.
  • To be a person who triumphs and perseveres in life, book the extra hours and always get the job done well rather than punching the clock and thinking it’s not your problem.
  • To be a member of the community, take action when you see something that affects another department even if devoting your attention to it has no direct benefit to you.
  • To be a person who gets the most of their time, figure out how you can get 15 to 30 minutes more work done each day rather than squander your time.
  • To be a person who takes care of their health, learn how hard to push and when to call it quits rather than working yourself sick.
  • To be a trustworthy person, honor and fulfill all of the commitments you make rather than making empty promises that diminish the power of your word.
  • To be a punctual person, be on time everyday and acknowledge your tardiness.
  • To be a cool, calm and collected person, practice being calm and organized under deadlines rather than working in a chaotic fluster.

Who we are at work is who we are in life. When you step into this paradigm, you realize that in each moment you are defining what it means to be you. Nothing is an action unto itself. Rather, how you think about work and at work reinforces yourself as a [insert adjective here] person. The actions you take and the way you go about your work creates habits that extend far beyond work hours. The higher your awareness about who you are being and the outcomes of those states, the greater your ability to consciously choose who you want to be.

Tearing down the fabricated narrative that work and life are separate is an opening to realize how powerful we are in creating our own success and our lives. It is easy to get lost in the busyness of modernity and go into auto-pilot. As you go on, now, browsing LinkedIn or getting back to work, know that you are defining who you are as a professional – and as a person. Maybe you’re at work. Or maybe you’re at play. Either way, your life is now. What are you making of it?

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing.”        ~L.P. Jacks~

The Best Feeling in the World

The Chair

You never second guess yourself for the early wakeup. Not at that moment when you’re one of the first riders up the lift making good on the mountains promise of a 9am open. By mid-morning, several successful runs have failed to quell the cycle of anticipation as you once again slide into position and plop down in another chair ready to dart you to the top.

This triple chair’s ride offers the intrigue of a father and son joining you for the ride. Perhaps conversation will emerge as we sit trapped in this moment of time together. A quick “how’s it going?” reveals the bloodline to be less than conversational.
No matter – I think about the two ladies I rode up with last time – a teacher, Robyn, from Wisconsin, and her friend, Kelly, or Kylie, something like that. I shared with Robyn how my mother taught high school from more than three decades – there’s something about the lift that makes people prone to open up. Soon we were laughing and the conversation branches out to include the weather, occupation and our core philosophies.

Regardless of where the father and son fall on the chattiness spectrum we still share the moment’s scenery as the wind begins to pry at our outerwear. From our vantage point, you can see how the runs have been carved out of the mountain, swaths of clearings among the trees look like veins carrying little human platelets throughout the whole system.

From the chair we watch as everyone goes down the mountain, our bird’s eye view granting us front row seats to the grace (or calamity) below. Each lift typically serves terrain with different difficulty levels so depending on which lift you’re going up, you’ll see different skills levels tackling the terrain. The is the expert life and skiers outnumber snowboarders two-to-one on the runs below on account of the moguls and steep verticals.

As our chair undulates up the mountain like a bobber floating on top of a pond, the sun shines through the pine trees like a strobe light. You crack a wry smile observing the beads strewn about one of the trees, the result of a coordinated and repetitive effort to share the spirit of festivity and fun with all who pass. The ungroomed areas below beckon you from the chair, “ride me! ride me!” they scream as their untouched surface of fresh powder twinkles in your eyes.

As you reach the top of a mountain, the wind whistles in your ear announcing your imminent arrival. You gaze at the approaching hut where the lift attendant huddles in warmth. A clock in the window indicates you’ve been at it for hours, yet the exhilaration of being at the top again demands being unphased by the passage of time. You quickly stand up from the chair and slide down to position at the top of the run.

The Run

It’s the best feeling in the world. Sliding off the lift after minutes of waiting eagerly in anticipation. Strapping in your back foot as your adrenaline rushes makes the biting cold totally imperceptible. Standing, peering out from the top of the mountain at the blank white canvas that lays before your feet. Gravity! Your often forgot ally whose steady force propels both the novice and experienced down the mountain at different speeds.

You skip to your favorite track as your being your descent. The snow begins to crunch as you pick up speed and begin chart your course ahead. Immediately, you’re freed by the feeling of total mobility – darting left and right – and your complete being feels present in the moment. Everywhere you look, a feeling of total control arises, knowing you tackles the trees, bumps and terrains that lay before you.

Perfection in every turn! The snow obediently sings its song – The Carve – and each precise curve is accompanied by the sweet sound of edge slicing the snow. You let out a big breath – sometimes you’re having so much fun you forget to breathe. The mountain is now an obstacle course riddled with slow movers who disappear from your perception with a whoosh as you careen past them.

As you push more onto your edge, you gain speed. You’re at your edge, knees beginning to buckle ever so slightly as you approach 25 mph. The hours spent making as many descents as possible create an immense muscle fatigue that burns your thighs. Yet as you near the bottom at top speed that tiredness immediately surrenders to the sheer excitement of pushing to you limit.

Panting, you reach the bottom bringing awareness to the level of exertion you just demanded of your body. Incredible heat bubbles inside your jacket seeming to melt winter and the cold that surrounds you. The line is long but that’s fine, a little rest is great as you unzip your jacket to cool down; an action that garners a few surprised looks. The beats are still banging in your ears and only one thought now prevails, “How quickly can I get back to the top?”

The Lifestyle

It’s a great life. Cars whose AWD make the mountain ascents possible save for the small amount of drag created by the ski rack and the boards it secures. Baileys and hot chocolate greet you at every respite, whether at the lodge or nestled next to warm fire at the end of the day. Gloves and boots adorn the baseboard where the fire and heat ducts dry the tools of your trade for the next day on the mountain.

There’s the locals, most of which recognize each other and many of which ride together and party together. There are the out-of-staters, joyed to see the snow, regardless of the conditions. People from foreign lands dodge in and out of the town, here to marvel at nature’s grandeur and the quaintness of each little ski town. No matter where you are, the big city or the small ski town, peaks dot the mountain range that beautifies your landscape.

Your heart’s in the mountains, stuck mesmerized by the force of creation that drove such mass so high into the sky and then decorated it with ancient conifers. The snow-capped peaks ever reminding you that your passion awaits – another ascent up the mountain…

How to Fail Your Interview in the First Five Minutes

We’re barely 3 minutes beyond pleasantries and already the panic is setting in. The hopeful’s eyes dart back and forth, searching the bare wall behind me for any semblance of a clue or perhaps a phone-a-friend. You can invariably see the light bulb go off and the look of panic quickly fade underneath a confident smirk of “I got this.” Then – commence the spewing!

Utter nonsense! Syllables mix-and-matched as carelessly as a first grader’s string art. It probably sounds good at one point as it rattles around up there. But THAT answer should never be spoken. The question?

“So, tell me what you know about [Company Name]?”

Seems simple. Yet interview after interview, I’m astonished at the pitiful answers to this question. I am a Sales Development Manager at AppFolio, a SaaS solution for the property management industry. One candidate told me “you do IT for school districts and banks.” Uh-huh. Riiiiiight. Then there’s my favorite “AppFolio does software.” Absolutely brilliant!

I previously assumed that because the candidate has taken the time out of their life to apply, go through the screening process and travel to meet with me in person, they surely know about the company. How wrong I was…

If a candidate doesn’t know, AT MINIMUM, about the products/services we deliver and who our customers are, I cannot take the candidate seriously. In the digital age that we enjoy, there is no excuse for not doing your research. I could care less that Indeed or LinkedIn allows a candidate to click one button to apply. Or that in a binge of applying for jobs a candidate forgets where they applied. By the time an interviewee walks through the door, it’s reasonable to expect a basic understanding of the business.

It’s certainly not recruiting’s fault – over 95% of the candidates I interview have Bachelor’s degrees from accredited institutions (I’ll forgo the education system commentary – for now). It’s no secret that acquiring talent is often like the sales team getting a bluebird whale on December 29. Great people are hard to find.

By minute five of an interview, I can almost guarantee whether someone has a non-zero chance of being hired. I’ve found this question to be the quickest way to determine quality when hiring for an entry-level position. It quickly separates those competent enough to survive the most basic of questions.

Good answers indicate thorough research and an understanding of the company’s value proposition. Ideally, a candidate can describe both the product/service and how that impacts the customer. The best answers preemptively tie in the role being interviewed for and how that fits into the big picture for the company.

Bad answers lack specificity and are sometimes even plain wrong. If they are not wrong, it’s obvious nothing concrete is willing to be wagered on. The more vague the answer, the shorter I will cut the interview. A bad answer is also “I’m not too sure.” While I appreciate the honesty, now I question the candidates judgement in a.) not preparing properly and b.) being willing to admit it.

Though I have never hired someone who has tanked this question, I don’t rule them out completely. In each interview, I try and prove myself wrong. If the candidate is great right off the bat, I try to find the red flags. If they tank this question, I try to cess out that maybe it was nerves or maybe there are some other qualities that will absolutely blow me away and make their lack of preparation and/or judgement okay.

It hasn’t happened yet.