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Don’t Buy into Lousy Advice

Topic: Entrepreneur Evangelist | Comments (4)

Posted on February 8, 2010 by admin

I attended a funeral for a member of my extended family this weekend. At the informal gatherings throughout the weekend, we watched a video slide show created by his daughter, which captured key moments and highlights of his life.

Ranging from a childhood photograph of him as a little boy, sitting on a sled holding his (terrified) cat, all the way through his 80th birthday celebration, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, the video was a very sweet tribute to a life that spanned the better part of a century.

You know what was not anywhere in any of the photographic memorial of his life? His job.

I was thinking about this as I was ready Tim Berry’s horrified response to an article entitled, “Love Your Business More than Your Family.” Mr. Berry identifies a few of the most shocking objections he has to Mr. Cloutier’s article, but I have a few others I think are worth adding.

Cloutier says: “By all means, make it an occasion to show your spouse, kids, loved ones that you care. Then get your behind to the office because that’s where you need to be. Your family will still be there when you get home.”

Newsflash: Taking your family for granted is the world’s most sure-fire way of losing them. For starters, any spouse who puts up with being second fiddle indefinitely needs therapy to work on self-esteem issues. To be blunt, if they are less important than your job, then they would be better off without you — no matter how much money you are bringing in.

Secondly, people do not live forever. My mother died at 39 years old. Even worse, she died 28 days after she was diagnosed with leukemia. Even if she had been able to spend that 28 days living (instead of being hooked up to machines in a hospital room), you cannot make up for decades of life in 28 days.

Finally, study after study after study shows that parental involvement is key to raising healthy, stable children to be productive members of society. It’s not the responsibility of one parent, it’s the responsibility of both. If you care about your job more, then not only are you teaching your child a horrible lesson about their own self-worth (not to mention missing out on being a positive influence during their formative years), but you’re also begging for them to find other influences. Nature abhors a vacuum, and this is rarely more vivid than watching children gravitate towards unhealthy influences in the absence of healthy ones.

Cloutier says: “If you are not focused–if family, friends and loved ones fill up your busy weekly schedule–you are probably failing to deliver real profits for your company.”

Newsflash: Your business’ success depends on more than just how much time you spend on it. Working harder but not smarter doesn’t do you any good, and other factors — business partners, market conditions, etc. — can all impact the success of your business, regardless of how much of your time you spend.

This advice is tantamount to a choice: attempt both a business and a life with decent odds of modest success, or scrap the life and roll the dice that the business can be successful enough for you to be able to successful bribe people into pretending to be a part of your life.  Sacrificing a life on the outside chance of ridiculous success and wealth is an awful big gamble.  If the dice don’t roll in your favor, then that leaves you absolutely nothing else to show for your life.

Cloutier says: “They’d much rather enjoy great financial security than see you struggling for the rest of your life to make money that never comes.”

Newsflash: This is the kind of self-deluded justification that someone tells himself while he is waiting to pay bail for his 16-year-old who just got arrested for stealing cars.  Being able to pay for expensive therapists and lawyers does not make you a good parent.

When you die, what are your friends and family going to remember about you? How much money you left them? Maybe, but money doesn’t last and eventually it will be gone. Your kids are going to remember you teaching them to ride a bike or how to fish or about that time it started raining during your camping trip and your sleeping bag got soaked.

Do you honestly think your spouse cares more about getting a nice piece of jewelry than about watching a sunset with you on a remote beach somewhere?  (And, if your spouse does care about the jewelry more, then what was going through your mind when you married them in the first place?)  If your spouse is supposed to be content to be married to a ghost, then what good are you doing them as a spouse?

I watched the video slide show at the funeral this weekend several times. You know what I saw? I saw a man who loved his family. I saw a man with hobbies he enjoyed, and a man who belonged to communities of people with whom he had a connection. The people who were at his funeral talked about his sense of humor and his passion for life. No one once mentioned his business.

Cloutier says: “But in the end, the best thing you can do for them is to create the legacy of a business that is thriving and financially sound. When you’re retired, wealthy, and able to spend Valentine’s Day and other special occasions with your kids and grandkids at your winter home in Hilton Head, you’ll be glad you devoted so much of your time to your first love: your business.”

Newsflash: This is what I find to be the most dangerous advice of all. If you spend your entire life loving your business more than your family, by the time you are sitting in that winter home in Hilton Head, none of your kids or grandkids are going to bother to visit you. (Nor should they.)

Life is hard. Relationships are hard. It is only the most delusional arrogance that truly claims that business is more difficult, and therefore it’s the only thing worth spending time on and worth practicing to get better at doing successfully.

If you spend 60+ years ignoring your life, by the time you put your business aside — and, let’s face it, odds are slim that someone with those priorities ever would — whatever “life” you have waiting for you is likely to be a mess. Like anything else, we only get better at life with practice. If you wait until retirement to even start, then you’re 40+ years behind everyone else.

Everyone in your life will have become so used to living without you, that trying to fit you back in will be a bigger chore than makes sense for most of them to bother with. And, just because you’ve become exceptionally skilled at business, doesn’t mean that you’ve learned how to be good at your role within your family — odds are, if you’ve neglected that role for decades, you are probably pretty lousy at it.

If you do love your business more than anything else, then do everyone a favor and skip having a family at all.  Your business is not your only job.  If you have people in your life, then you have a responsibility to them, too.  And neglecting their emotional needs — which is time-consuming, difficult work — in favor of only meeting their financial needs means that you are not doing your job.

Business people who neglect their families for their business are no more honorable than any other type of spouse or parent who doesn’t live up to their family and social obligations. They just use making money as a justification for their behavior.

Alora Chistiakoff is an entrepreneur, blogger, content strategist and project manager who has been developing online business and technology for startups for more than a decade. She co-owns The Indigo Heron Group, Inc., a content strategy firm in Austin, Texas.