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It’s Not Wrong to Put Work First

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What with all the chatter around work-life balance, it’s easy to get caught up in feeling guilty every time you have to work late. We’re so used to the idea that, somehow, we live in a zero-sum game situation and that choosing to spend time working must therefore be to the detriment of our families.

That’s rubbish! Here’s why.

Firstly, we don’t live under the tyranny of a zero-sum situation. There’s a tendency to engage in a lot of pearl-clutching, emotive moralizing when it comes to our kids. The fact is, though, that time spent working on your mission in life is not actually damaging to your family. Unless of course, that is your mission. But I should hope not!

Before we delve further into why it’s not wrong to put work first, I want to highlight an important truth: There’s no utility in guilt. If you sit at your desk, one hand on the keyboard and the other clutching birch twigs, you’re hardly going to be at your most productive. This article is not about encouraging you to be neglectful in any way, but it is about ensuring that you are able to cultivate a life for yourself, your vision and your family that is harmonious — a holistic life in which you can be present for everyone, in all situations.

As I say, the first thing to get out of the way is guilt. It can only inhibit your progress in all areas. The next thing to do is to sort out a proper space for spending quality time with family. Whatever that looks like to you.

My good friend and recent guest on my Beyond Success podcast, spends a lot of time with some very high-profile business owners. Sir. Richard Branson is one such person, and during a trip to Necker Island, Branson said that buying the island was the best thing he ever did for his family, because it gave them a playground, a place where they could come and bring friends and just be together.

I’m not so thunderously tone-deaf as to suggest that we all just pop out and buy a Caribbean island, dust off our hands and declare “job done,” but the principal holds water. There are more pedestrian levels of doing this that most of us can realistically achieve. We might get a time-share holiday home somewhere, for instance, or maybe rent out a villa somewhere each year. Heck, you could buy a big tent and go camping at the same lake each year. The point is, find a place that’s joyful to spend time in, and open it up to the whole family.

Related: 15 Ways to Better Manage Your Work-Life Balance as a Parent and Entrepreneur

Your networking starts at home

The other pearl of family wisdom that Yanik gleaned from Brandson is to involve your kids in your dream wherever possible. Even in the early days of Virgin, when they lived on a house boat, Branson would involve his kids in his business deals and discussions. Even though they were very young, he’d ask their opinion and talk things through with them.

This is not to say that you should let them make business calls or draft contract terms, but the point is, involve them. Make them feel part of the dream/goal/mission by talking to them about it. They will not only feel more invested and inclined to support you, but you’ll also have a sounding board made up of people who have your best interest (that is aligned with theirs) at heart.

Related: 5 Reasons Why ‘Family’ and ‘Business’ Do Mix

Remember why you’re putting work first in the first place

Ultimately, the whole point of being an entrepreneur is to create a more abundant life for your family and leave behind a legacy. Part of that legacy, surely, is to encourage your kids to live a more expansive life, so why not start now? What better way to teach them than on the job?

Let your kids see that it’s okay to follow their dreams and aspirations. Show them that failure is a part of it, but so is resourcefulness and perseverance. Be a guiding light for them to show that they have it within them to go the distance. Plant the seed of that in them early, and you’ll see amazing things from them in adulthood.

The real reason it’s not wrong to put work first: You’re not

By prioritizing your mission and involving your family in that mission, you’re putting everybody else first. Accomplishing your mission not only involves them; it is them. If you take a holistic view, one in which you are adequately resourced to take care of everyone, you will start to see solutions. If you insist on compartmentalizing your life, you will simply face more conflict between the different aspects and be forced to choose.

It’s entirely possible to succeed in your mission and have a healthy relationship with your family. Others have succeeded in doing so by simply reframing how they view their mission. If they can, you can.

Why not reach out to someone who has done this and ask for their guidance? My business mentor, Greg S. Reid, is fond of saying, “Seek council, not opinions.” What he means is, prize competence over familiarity. Don’t just talk to folks you know about how to solve your problems just because you know them. They might have great judgement, but have they actually walked the path you’re seeking to walk? Probably not, and therefore, all they can offer you is their opinion, not practical guidance.

Related: Stop Focusing on Work-Life Balance If You Want to Be Successful

So, to recap:

  • It’s not wrong to put work first.
  • Take guilt out of the equation.
  • Find a place that is special for your family where you can all spend time in together, regularly.
  • Involve your family in your mission and make them part of it.
  • Seek the council of those who have successfully done so.

I wish you all more joy, abundance, purpose and fulfillment. Myself and others are living proof that it is possible, without any inherited or innate advantage to speak of. You don’t have to choose. You can have it all, so choose that.

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