Today’s post is from Ben Ackerman, a mentee from my 2012 group. Ben is President of Southern Experience, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. Experience is a fan experience technology company serving over 200 properties in the live entertainment industry. Ben and his wife Dawn have three beautiful children and live in Alpharetta, Georgia.
I am a driven person. Whether I am at home or at work, I am always thinking . . . always trying to make things better. That is how God made me.
There are many many positives to being driven but at the same time it has drawbacks. The biggest one for me is that constant battle of ‘balancing’ your family with your work. Unfortunately, I have found there is no such thing as balance when it comes to these two areas of your life.
Why? First, you will always feel as though you are doing too much for one and not enough all at the same time. Second, neither your work nor your family will ever think you are there enough for them . . . period.
In his book, When Work and Family Collide, Andy Stanley explains this dynamic in very simple terms. He says your work will never tell you to go home and your family will never tell you to go to work. You have to choose whom you will cheat . . . every day.
So how can you possibly strike a balance with that constant dynamic? How do you choose who to cheat and when? The answer is never easy.
However, with prayer, God will give you the wisdom you need to decide, but the ultimate decision is 100% on you. Further, the answer will always come from the simplest word in the dictionary but arguably the hardest to actually say when it comes to work and family . . . “no.”
My first truly realized this a few years ago while I was in Regi’s mentoring group. I was working for an Atlanta based-company owned by a multi-billion dollar West Coast company. I had been working on a project for several months. Our President (my new boss) and I landed a meeting with the CEO on the West Coast to review and discuss the project. This was a huge opportunity and I had to be there. It was my opportunity to present to ‘the man.’ The meeting was scheduled but it was the same day as our monthly group meeting with Regi.
Naively, I thought this wouldn’t be an issue. I thought I would tell Regi how important the meeting was (it was the CEO for goodness sake) and he would completely understand . . . why wouldn’t he? Right?
I called Regi and presented my case knowing full well I was about to get his blessing. He listened and then simply said, “You made a commitment to the group and you need to stick to it.” What?! Really?! He was making me choose between my word and my career? I couldn’t believe it and I had no idea what I was going to do.
Ultimately, after prayer and deep thought I told my new boss I couldn’t go and I told him why. Amazingly, he completely understood. I upheld my commitment to the group, I didn’t lose my job, and there weren’t any negative effects at work for saying no. Unbelievable!
Although I thought I understood this tradeoff, until this point I hadn’t really chosen to cheat work before. I had pretty much always cheated my family. It was always easier to tell my family “no” because it was easy to explain why work was always most important . . . even if it was my 81st hour on the job that week.
This was just the beginning and I am still working on it (ask my wife!), but the more I say “no” the easier it gets. I have learned that the opposite of what I thought was true is actually true. When you tell your family “no” they really don’t understand. But when you choose to cheat at work, work actually understands and understands much better than your family does. True balance is impossible but making the right decision at the right time for you, your family and your work takes wisdom, courage and the power of no.
God, we pray for all of us struggling to decide who to cheat and when. We ask you to give us the wisdom to see the right answer, the courage to make the right decision and the power to simply say “no.”