Success has many traits. It also has many counterfeits. It’s not too hard to find stories about “successful” businessmen that hardly see their kids. The stories are often accompanied by lines like, “No one ever went to their grave wishing they spent more time at the office,” as though that was some kind of sage warning to the wise and unwise.
There are two problems with that warning.
One, some people will actually go to their graves wishing they spent more time in the office. The problem with these people isn’t their regrets. It’s their lack of regrets.
Two, the wording is way too soft. Here’s how it should read.
Hey, business boy. If you don’t prioritize your family over money you’re a fool and less than a man.
Yep, that’s about right.
In a sentence, here’s how balance, goals and being Old School intersect.
Life often punishes failure more than it rewards work. That’s just the way it is. Let’s say you’ve paid a house painter to paint four rooms of your house. Three he does perfectly. One he screws up big time and paints the wrong color. Instead of a pale blue he paints it a bright red. When you think of this painter’s work, will you walk away thinking, “Wow! He did a great job on those three rooms”? Or will you think, “That putz painted the guest room the wrong color”? Like it or not, we are often remembered and punished more for our failings than we are rewarded for our hard work.
That’s the way life works. Is it fair? Fair, schmair. Whether is fair or not it is what it is.
Elvis Presley had tons of hits. But he’s often remembered for being a fat guy in a tight white sequined jumpsuit. He didn’t have a goal and work to achieve it in one area of responsibility, health, and he’s remembered for that as much for his successes.
What do you think when you hear the name Vincent Van Gogh? Not that he created some of the most beautiful and valuable paintings in art history. I’m betting the first thing you thought was he cut off part of an ear and gave it to a prostitute. The veracity of this story aside, it illustrates the principal just like the Elvis example, albeit in an odder manner.
I call this the Elvis Van Gogh Principle: We are often remembered and punished more for our failings than we are rewarded for our hard work.
Where’s your tight white sequined jumpsuit or severed ear?
- Be a good father.
- Be a loving husband.
- Provide for your family.
- Grow your business.
- Stay (or get) healthy.
- Help your friends when needed.
- Maintain your home.
- Pay your taxes.
- And while you’re at it, you need a haircut, don’t you?
Don’t take care of one of these and you could be in for a world of hurt. Take care of all nine except #8 and you lose your house or go to jail. Take care of all nine except #1 and you and your kids are in for that world of hurt. You’ll be a metaphorical Van Gogh, remembered not for cutting off your ear but cutting of your kids.
And this is a very short and incomplete list. Break these down some and then add some more and we all have dozens of responsibilities that if only ONE is left unattended can cause pain.
This Old School Rule is true in smaller pictures as well as the big. If a business has a great product or service, but can’t market it well, they’ll be in the poorhouse. If a sales pro gives great presentations but when needed won’t cold call, a.k.a. smile & dial, to suspects and prospects for new business, how much of a pro is he to begin with? If a small business doesn’t keep good accounting practices, they might not get in trouble with the IRS, but they are throwing away money via unclaimed deductions.
What causes all the trouble?
Immaturity. Denial. Selfishness. Ignorance. Laziness. Any character trait that can keep a man from doing what he should be doing.
This rule applies over the long term, meaning months and years, not each day or week. There will always be seasons of life when things are necessarily out of balance to focus on urgent tasks. This is as true when an entrepreneur pulls an eighty hour week as it is when he goes on a ten day vacation with the family. In these times to be out of balance in the small picture is to be balanced in the big picture.
How balanced are you?
Make a life list like the one above. Make a business list. Make a family list. Make sure you’re covering all your bases. I did it and do it frequently and it helps keep at bay “white jumpsuits and severed ears” in life.
Keep it Old School, my friend
The Old Man, Chris Dixon
PS#1: While you’re here, like us on Facebook & check out the BIG CONTEST page.
PS#2: This is one of those posts where my day job intersects with my blogging life. To see how, go here and click on “The Old School Way” clipboard link and learn about Old School meets Business.