Choose your heroes carefully


Last year we lost an iconic product designer, marketing guru and powerful businessman in Steve Jobs. The day after he died I posted a brief tribute admiring him for his tenacity, creativity and accomplishments. But in the time since his death I’ve learned some more details about the man which has led me to recalibrate my admiration of his values and challenge myself as to which examples I will follow.

It seems Steve’s successes came at a great cost: his family. When asked by his biographer, Walter Isaacson, why he finally wanted to do a biography after turning down many publishers previously, Jobs’ answer was “So my children will know me.”

“I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did,” Jobs told Isaacson in their final interview at Jobs’ home in Palo Alto, California.

It’s the start of another New Year. Most of us are back to work after spending a week with the people we care about most in our lives. But now that we’re no longer in holiday mode, will our families still be getting the best of our attention and love? Not if we’re driven by the prevailing notion that to survive in this hyper-competitive economy we must spend even more time at work.

I don’t want to just pick on Steve Jobs.

There are many voices urging us to work harder and longer, to sacrifice more and raise the bar even higher, all in the name of winning. No holds barred. Even our own voice is too often part of the chorus. “If I just work a little harder….”

I believe in working hard. My parents taught me that. The book of Proverbs says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” No pain, no gain. I get it.

My question is this: Is business the only game in life worth winning?

When it comes to mentors, I think we need to be critical of those who succeed wildly at business or on the stage or on the ice but who are failing at home. Our heroes need to include stay-at-home moms, dedicated dads, little league coaches, brothers, sisters, pastors and teachers. We need to honour the people winning in their relationships, encourage those who are working hard to be good parents and lend a helping hand to those caring for the neighbour in need.

Near the end of last year our team here at Compass went through an exercise to write down the values that will guide our work life. One of the most important values we identified was family. It means simply that we consider it a failure to succeed at work at the expense of home life.

Of course, there will be times in the coming year when herculean effort is required. There will be times when extra hours will need to be logged at the office or on the jobsite. There will be times when the responsibilities of work will require sacrifices by our families. There may be times when significant learning opportunities will require time away from home. These are times we will need to rise to the occasion. But these times need to be balanced with ample time focused on the people who rely on us most deeply.

Here’s hoping that 2012 is a happy and prosperous year for you and your family. By working hard at all of life you’ll be making a real impact and leaving a meaningful legacy. I hope one day your family, friends and clients alike will rise and bless you for the impact you had on their life – through the time they spent with you, NOT by reading about your exploits in a book.

Happy New Year!

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