Diplomacy & Commerce, December 8, 2019, full article
There is this famous expression of “work-life balance” and every single person strives for it. What does it really mean? Is there a unique formula for such desired behaviour? Based on my experience, it differs from individual to individual, and there is no general advice or universal approach to it. We differ geographically, culturally, and historically, we are individuals, adapting to the environment, economy, industry trends, people around us, and balancing it with our desires, plans, expectations, resources, and potentials.
I will start today’s article around the thought that I don’t believe in the work-life balance concept in the way that you can learn it from an article or manual. I will try to explain it by remembering my recent travel to the USA and discovering what Anna Wintour, Ray Charles, and Inglenook have in common.
My husband and I travel around the world at least twice a year. This is a time dedicated only to the two of us. To be honest, in the past, we didn’t plan on it being regular, or count on it, it came very naturally. In my previous career I was constantly traveling due to business reasons. Being responsible, as a director, for several markets, working for a global pharmaceutical company, I was home, on average, three working days per month. Our way to dedicate some quality time to us, was and still is, traveling alone and abroad. Every trip brings new impressions, new learnings, and new business ideas. And it wasn’t any different this time.
I have a habit of buying birthday cards in every city I travel to. I am one of those, probably rare people still handwriting birthday cards and sending them by regular post to my closest friends. It is always a nice surprise for them. This year, searching among the shelves of a small bookshop in San Francisco, I was attracted to a card with Ray Charles quote “I never wanted to be famous. I only wanted to be great.” It wasn’t a birthday card, but it caught my attention.
Traveling down Route 1 or CA-1 with its great sightseeing views, enjoying the slow drive in the passenger seat, I always check my phone and favourite apps, post pictures to social media, and read all kinds of stuff popping out on Instagram. Yes, I know, we all do. Sometimes even too often. That’s how I came across the advertisement for Anna Wintour's masterclass. But it wasn’t the program that kept me reading further, it was her introduction of the program, saying “Own your decisions, and own who you are, but without apology.” It wasn’t a breakthrough quote, but it caught my attention.
While visiting California, you have to take time to drive to San Diego and try those “best ever” tacos of all kinds, and of course, you have to try some wines and visit a few wineries in the Napa Valley, which is what we did on the way back from San Diego to San Francisco. The best ever time, wine and Illy coffee we had was at Francis Coppola’s winery called Inglenook. The tour guide we met was once working at St. Stefan in the 1990s. Amazing how small the world is. He shared such great insight about wines that we had to buy Inglenook's best bottle of wine and bring it back home. The 2012 bottle of wine is called Rubicon, and it has a special history. The name has historical meaning, related to Julius Caesar while he was crossing the river Rubicon with his legion. Looking over the river to cross the northern boundary of Italy, he knew it was “point of no return” and crossing it would cause the Roman Civil war. And this is what Rubicon stands for. The wine was exceptional because we had it in these wonderful surroundings of Napa Valley and water fountains and vine grapes and I know our taste buds always correlate with our other senses and create outstanding sensations. Delivering a taste of “point of no return” is why Rubicon caught my attention.
Still wondering what Anna Wintour, Ray Charles, and Inglenook have in common with work-life balance? It was a discovery of mine, keeping and rolling those three thoughts in my head until the end of our USA trip. And on the last day, I said it loudly to myself. This is it! When you find a job that you are passionate about and love it, there is no need to strive for being famous, as Ray said. You can be great at it because it provides satisfaction. No need to strive for “ego” driven goals, it might imbalance you. Look for a purpose in a job you are doing or activities that you are passionate about. Find your grit. And when you find it, nurture it, believe in yourself as it is your real inner drive and we are driven by our heart, talent, and intuition (Anna’s words). Trust yourself first for your organization to be able to trust you, especially if you are a leader. And, as a leader, act as Julius Caesar, use your courage and be brave to make ambitious, purposeful decisions and lead your company to success, being authentic, while carrying your inner trust, a heart full of courage, supported by purposeful acting, discovering new lands and heights.
Work-life balance, in my understanding, is about everyday enjoyment, and it is individual. Your own formula for success may change every month or week. It’s on you how you discover it, adapt it to your life and work situation and how brave you are to make a change for better, crossing “the point of no return”, where you have to believe in yourself, love what you do, be passionate about it and have trust and respect towards yourself first, to be able to share it with others.
Simona Špilak, MSc