Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Are You Anonymously Excellent?

Michael Jackson had plenty of recognition

Michael Jackson had plenty of recognition

“So You Think You Can Dance” is a reality show where would-be professional dancers perform, viewers vote, and judges judge. If you like dance, you’ll love the show. And like most Reality TV, we can learn interesting things about people.

One night, I tuned in late, and I didn’t recognize the guest judge. It was this sixty-ish man named Kenny. When Kenny spoke, the dancers were sitting on every word. And when he complemented a contestant or one of the choreographers, the dancer became emotional and thanked Kenny profusely. The reaction was far beyond how they reacted to others (like the esteemed Jessie Tyler Ferguson.) Who was this guy?

His name is Kenny Ortega.  And??? It still meant nothing to me. I looked Kenny Ortega: up on Wikipedia:

Initially known for working with dancer and choreographer Gene Kelly on the film Xanadu, Ortega went on to choreograph the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, and has won awards for choreography in music videos, such as Madonna’s “Material Girl”.

Together with Michael Jackson, he created and designed the Dangerous World Tour 1992-1993 and the HIStory World Tour 1996-1997. He has also choreographed events ranging from Super Bowl XXX, the 72nd Academy Awards, the 1996 Summer Olympics (Atlanta) and the 2002 Winter Olympics(Salt Lake City).

The list of achievements and accolades went on and on. Ok, this dude is a dance god, but to the average person like me, he is unknown. He is Anonymously Excellent––supremely respected by people in his field, but largely unknown to everyone else.

I wonder what it’s like to be Kenny Ortega? Is he happy and satisfied with the enjoyment of the craft, and the recognition he gets from people in the dance and entertainment world? Or, does he wish to become a household name like Patrick Swayze? Swayze’s achievements as an actor are nothing compared to Ortega’s achievements as a choreographer. I have no idea if Ortega lives a happy, satisfied existence, or if he is tormented by feelings of inadequacy.

How many Kenny Ortega’s are out there, people who are fantastic at what they do, but anonymous outside of their field. I can think of many people I used to work with who were great at their job, and were unrecognized by management. I don’t mean recognition like getting an award at the company meeting. I mean management didn’t know what they did. But their peers and people in the know would jump at the chance to work with them.

Across the world, there are millions of people who are Anonymously Excellent. The question to think about is this: How much recognition do you really need? Surely someone knows how hard you work, and realizes how good you are at your job. And those close to you will like you now matter what you do or don’t accomplish.

If you don’t feel good about yourself with the recognition you currently have, no amount of additional recognition will make you feel better.

Help! I’ve Fallen Into Work Idolatry

Book collection via flickr I am running a contest design the cover for “Busting Your Corporate Idol.” The average contest lasts seven days, and gets 100-200 total designs. This one has over 300 designs in just 3 days.  Many are outstanding, and picking the winner will be hard.

The contest runs through July 2.

But how do I pick? This isn’t really about me, it is about readers. This book would be no where without the 15,000 of you who read the blog. THANK YOU!

Would you like to help find the best possible cover? This is an eBook only, and I need something that will jump off the Kindle page and pull people in.

It is pretty cool- see for yourself at 99designs. You can leave feedback by design number below in the comments through July 2. I am having polls on a regular basis, where you can rate covers 1-5 and tell why. Keep an eye on comments for the latest info. I will send your feedback directly to the designers, and they are very responsive.

Here is how 99designs works. You write a creative brief describing what you want in the design, designate prize money for the winner, and begin a project. Designers from all over the world submit covers, and then revise based on your feedback. If any of you ever worked with me on a creative project in marketing, you know that I have a lot to say. I am having a blast. I always liked working with creatives on ads.

Some people feel 99designs and other sites like this are exploitive, because only one person gets paid, and the rest are working for free. I don’t see this as exploitive, any more than submitting a blog to the Huffington Post is exploitive. Everyone knows the conditions, and people submit for a variety of reasons. In some parts of the world, the $299 prize is a lot of money. Many are building a portfolio, while getting feedback every day.

There is a personal downside to the fun I am having. The book cover and editing has taken over my life. In the last 3 days, I’ve missed turns when driving. I got confused about when to pick up my daughter from camp, and had to pay for being late (literally and figuratively). Last night I started cooking dinner 45 minutes, and had to cram some food down to get my daughter to an event. I kept look at designs while a tape ran in the background. You have to stop and start cooking. You have to stop and start cooking. We are running out of food because I haven’t gone to the store. 

Yes, I am having a mini-outbreak of idolatry, because my work is getting in the way of my primary job as stay-at-home parent.

Looks like I need to read my book again before this week becomes a lifestyle.

Is Life Balance Better Than Work/Life Balance?

Talented Man by Erkuthanci via Flickr cc

Talented Man by Erkuthanci via Flickr cc

I have an issue with work/life balance. By putting work & life on the same line, it implies an equivalency between the two. And by putting work first, it provides a pecking order.

Work and life are not equals to be balanced or prioritized: Work is a part of life, a subset. The real issue is how to balance the different facets of life.

As I wrote in Busting Your Corporate Idol, life has three arenas: sleep, work, and everything else. A Balanced Life requires attention to each arena. 60, 80, 90 hour work weeks encroach on other arenas.

So much of the work/life balance field is focused on flexibility. But what about the person who has flexibility and chooses/feels compelled to work 60+ hours. Is this person happy? Maybe Is his or her life balanced? Doubtful. Freedom to pick your own 90 hours isn’t really a help. It may feel good for a time if you love your job to work all the time, but it isn’t balance, and it isn’t sustainable. (I know, because that was me.)

What I needed, and what many people need, is to work fewer hours. In my last post, I quoted an executive who said to Cali Williams Yost

Every time you say work-life balance all I hear is work less, and we have so much to do. I need everyone to do more. Plus, I don’t have any kind of work/life balance myself. How can I support something I don’t have?

I find it sad that the executive felt that he could not have life balance; he wasn’t even trying. He just assumed that he needed to make sacrifices for the company. (Which regular readers will recognize as corporate idolatry.) It doesn’t have to be that way. This executive had flexibility, and after talking to Yost, agreed to allow his employees more flexibility. But he was still overworked, and so were they!

So it’s time to call a spade a spade. We are overworked, and in order to achieve Life Balance we need to choose to work less. Yes, it is our choice. It does no good to blame the company, the economy, or globalization. No one will tell you to work fewer hours. You need to take back that time for yourself. You might be surprised to know how many managers have told me that they see their employees working too much. They won’t life a finger to stop it, but would comply with a request for less work in an instant.

Balance is not stationary. Life Balance is someone riding a unicycle while with a bunch of bowls on her head, with sticks in her hands, each holding up a ball. She is constantly moving. Life Balance is the same way. We are always moving and adjusting. Your Life Balance will look very different from my Life Balance. Of course they will, because we are different people.

I think that until we give up on the misdirected goal of work/life balance, we cannot achieve what we really want, a balanced, healthy, and meaningful life.

What do you think is the best phrase? Life Balance, work/life balance, or work+life fit?

Thank you Patricia Kempthorne, Founder/CEO of The Twiga Foundation, for your helpful feedback on the concept of Life Balance

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