A Lesson on Work-Life Balance

In 1978, Arthur Blank co-founded Home Depot. From scratch, he and his business partner revolutionized the home improvement store concept. He spent 23 years as a key leader in the company and became a billionaire. (He actually bought the Atlanta Falcons in 2002.) 

Blank had a demanding and fulfilling professional life and a large family. “I have six wonderful children, and my wife has three children,” Blank told Guy Raz on the “How I Built This” podcast (listen to it at bit.ly/Blank-Podcast). “I always consider The Home Depot to be my seventh child.”

At Blank’s retirement dinner, his oldest daughter said to her father: “Dad, I never realized when I was growing up the size of The Home Depot and the success of it because you were always there for me. You were always at events that were important to me. You were always there when I was doing dance recitals. You were always there.”

Blank placed equal importance on his professional and family roles. He worked early in the morning and after he put his kids to bed.

To his young teammates and mentees, Blank encourages the same. “I always tell them, make sure you have balance in your life,” he says. “Too many young executives, men or women, their attitude is that you’ve got to work now, work hard and put your career on fifth gear and go, go, go. When you return home in 10 years, you’re not going to recognize your kids and your spouse is going to look at you and say, ‘Who are you again?’ So, I think it’s important to find balance in your life.”

Family and Farm. As farmers, you have many pulls on your time. Long and inconsistent hours make it difficult to make baseball games, county fairs and bedtimes. The first step is to admit you won’t have a perfect balance between farm, family and other responsibilities, says Laura Cornille-Cannady, a farm business consultant. 

“It’s your definition of success that counts,” Cornille-Cannady explains. “True balance would require perfection, and that alone blows the notion out of the water that you can achieve balance.”

The definition of success—happiness, achievement, significance and legacy—is always changing and very personal, she says. Life can feel out of balance when one area is empty, but instead of feeling unsuccessful, impose limits on expectations and understand you can’t fill every role all the time.

Set expectations at home, at work and in the community, Cornille-Cannady says. Be present in all you do, and measure accomplishment by results rather than by hours worked. Also, create space just for you, either in a physical location or in your head.

There is a season to sow and a season to reap. For those times in between, I hope you reconnect with friends and family. Here’s to a bountiful and successful 2019!  


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