Chaos…all the cool kids are doing it!

I was “tweeting” today (insert visual of a funny facial expression).  Really, who came up with the technical term “tweet” anyway….ok, back to my article.  I am working to attract additional readers and build a bit of a personal brand, so a friend told me that I should be leveraging Twitter and I listened.  It’s been an interesting Twitter week (thank you to my dear, sweet followers-all 36 of you- I won’t forget you when I hit the big time blog circuit).  Tweeting and “following” has shown me all of the random thoughts, interesting perspectives and creativity that people want to talk about and honestly, I love reading all of it.

As I have blogged about recently, one of the reasons I switched companies in March was to have more focus on family and to seek personal balance.  Tonight was one of those less than balanced evenings as I had soccer practice with my oldest and my wife took my other two offspring to the 6-year old’s hockey game, only to meet back at the house, get everyone showered and prepped for the 2nd hockey game of the weekend (taking place at 730am on Saturday morning- so much for the weekend sleep in).  Truth be told, I was getting a little bored at soccer-at least I’m honest while I search for balance and increased family time.  So in an attempt to combat my boredom I grabbed the I-phone and looked for people to follow on Twitter. I started surfing through the lists of people who might be writing, speaking and coaching on the subject of “life balance” and the results were a bit overwhelming.  Life coaches, authors, speakers, spiritual advisors and a few hundred thousand others popped up.  I began to feel a bit diluted in the whole scheme of becoming a work life balance pioneer, but I kept clicking FOLLOW on the various people who appeared to have unique perspectives on a common topic.

Twitter aside for a minute, type WORK LIFE BALANCE into Google and you’ll get these results: About 4,960,000 results (0.08 seconds), so it is clear that a host of us are seeking some kind of balance.  Isn’t it funny that so many people could be looking for something and none of us seems to find it, ever?  I can find thousands of authors, coaches and speakers who preach about ways to achieve balance and yet, according to a recent article I read in a workforce planning magazine more than 70% of professionals are struggling with balance, engagement with their careers and are down right unhappy.  That’s when it hit me… if so many of us are looking for something and we never find it, maybe we really didn’t want to find it in the first place.  Is it possible that we have grown to like the misery, the drama and the unnatural balance that we live in?  I’ll admit it; I like the misery and drama a little bit.  Hell, it gives us something to talk about at work, during family dinners and it enables us to hide from growing, exploring, divergence of thought and balancing our lives.  In short, fear based and drama based actions and thought are ironically easier to deal with and more widely accepted than the balance we claim to want.

Here are some examples.  For some reason, I, like others, have been terrified to live life the way it was intended.   I’ve worked hard for the last 4 years to try and break my ego maniacal ways, become more financially responsible and to pay more attention to the people in my life that deserve my attention.  Old habits die hard because my ego is still pretty strong.  It doesn’t take much for me to want to revert back to my “old habits” of living a life built around monetary incentives and materialism which creates an unbalanced lifestyle.  Second example; I am driving a used car for the first time in my professional life and although it gets me from A to B and it doesn’t burn $4.00 per gallon at the rate of 15 miles per gallon like the SUV I might want, I still refuse to take people to lunch in that car (for fear they might wonder if I’m doing ok) and I’m thinking about buying a nice new car, so people will think highly of me (coughing sound…shallow…coughing sound).  Again, it is much easier to pay a car payment and live more chaotically than to embrace the comfort of no car payment.  How counter-intuitive is that?  Finally, I make a recent career move that some might call a -step back- and although I did it strategically, I still feel the need to justify that move to everyone I see, so others won’t think that I am a “job hopper” or incapable of keeping a position (even though the job gives me everything I would need to support the “balance” I talk so positively about).

See- I am simply prone to making decisions that support chaos, not balance.  I am realizing that this elusive balance isn’t something that is found, it is already around us and only takes a set of simple choices to engage.  Balance is the way life was intended to be lived, but we’ve grown so comfortable with chaos, that we’ve made the natural appear unattainable.

The positive is I’m recognizing all of this at a point in time where I hope to have years to correct some of these decision patterns and teach my children the more balanced choices in life.

I’ve made horrible mistakes…have you?

My Aunt Laurie, a 30+ year teacher and avid reader-writer used to tell me that when writing, you need to find your voice.  And…you should hope to find people who are willing to listen to that voice!  My writer’s voice, my opinions and my inspiration for life balance have been growing over time, but finding the audience who connects with my writing is a bit more difficult. 

A few days ago an old client emailed me looking for some guidance regarding recruiting strategies for one of his clients.  I happily responded with some available times and we agreed to chat for an hour on Friday morning.  Joe and I worked together in 2007 & 2008.  Joe was the HR executive for an Oklahoma based oil and gas firm and I was leading the recruiting company supporting them.  Although we work for different firms now, we have kept in email contact and trade voicemails occasionally. What I didn’t know until Friday morning was Joe is a regular visitor to my blog site.  Our conversation opened with “Trav- I love your blog”, which took me off guard because he began to comment on my writing frequency and how my topics seem to run in waves.  My ego translated these comments into: “Hey, dude…you are a decent writer, but you are all over the freaking map with topics, get focused, would ya!”  So as I was working to shut off my ego’s filter, I began to digest some constructive coaching when it became clear that Joe wasn’t coaching me, he was genuinely stating that he “connected” to the content on my blog site.  

Most of my friends and family know that I am innately forthcoming with my emotions and that I am working on being very “aware” of my strengths and my weaknesses.  Now Joe, he struck me as different.  Joe, self-admitted, holds onto emotion, keeps them bottled up and ironically, seems to carry the same fears and concerns I have written about.  He told me that the more I wrote about my challenges, fears and issues, the more he read and the more normal he began to feel (what a humbling experience for me).  The reason I was so taken back was the outward appearance that Joe carries.  Here is this man who from the outside looks to be as steady as a person could be.  He is the father of two boys, a husband, has strong career experiences and all the while he was harboring pain and anguish about his place in society, his priorities and his life long struggle with balance. Where I have fought feelings of inadequacy and insecurity for the best part of 38 years, he had been fighting them for 52 years.  Our fears, insecurities and struggle to maintain balance was all the same and it was relieving to both of us, so we continued to share ways we have dealt with and managed our challenges.  It became clear to me that my “audience” didn’t have to be a young father or someone who felt lost in their career.  My audience is probably larger than I thought it was going to be and I began to wonder how many young men, new fathers, old fathers, husbands (both newly weds and those celebrating 50 years of marriage) struggle with these same challenges.  How many of them get up every morning and anguish about going to work, because they would rather stay home with the kids, run the errands, take a step back in their career, down size their bills (but they just can’t find anyone to share these thoughts with)?

I have learned that being open and transparent isn’t the only step.  Once you have opened up, you benefit from taking action that supports the recovery of the areas you may have struggled with.  It was eye opening, humbling and an honor to talk with Joe and to learn from someone who has been working to “stop the chase” and find more balance too.  Admitting that I have faulted in so many areas of life is abnormal to most people, but truth be told, everyone is screwing something up at some point in life and I am just now realizing how much easier it is to adjust your course if you don’t feel alone on the journey.  Honesty and humility enables a person to “let go” of the bullshit that comes along with all of those fears.

After being honest with my parents, my wife, my friends, my coach (the list goes on), we have found ways to adjust the course I was on.  I am less than 12 months away from being “bad debt free”, I have made adjustments to my career (so it works around my schedule and not the other way around) and my relationship with my wife and children is based on honesty and humility, which doesn’t make being a parent or a husband easier, just more genuine.

As I have been taught, it is unrealistic to think we won’t continue to make mistakes.  We will continue to be fearful (we’re human), we will continue to make poor decisions, but having the nerve to be open and transparent about how we are feeling enables us to locate others who are going through the same struggles and you’ll be surprised as to how many people are trying to work through these challenges alone.

Remember- there is safety in numbers!