Wednesday, November 4, 2009

#6 Lose Yourself

June 25, 2009

Lose Yourself

We are told from a young age that as we get older, life is all about compromise. Compromise. Even the word makes me cringe. If I am completely honest with myself, it’s not something that I am particularly good at. I like to think I get exponentially better at it each year I have lived past 25, which means that at 29 I am still at the kindergarten stage. The form of compromise I am talking about, however, is not the real topic of this blog. I am talking about the darker form of compromise. What I have lost along the way in order to gain what I have gained.
Some of us learn this one early on. You may have had to sacrifice countless things in order to have a chance at the opportunities that you wanted a shot at. But this for me, is one that I am learning slowly. Year by year, I am forced to look at my life and make sure that I am not weighing to heavy on any side. But, the more ambitions one gets, the more difficult it gets. I always believed that I could have it all. I am starting to believe that if I want it all, it can probably only happen on a small stage. Whereas, if I want it all on the big main stage, then something has got to give.
You always read articles and exposes on these amazing leaders who somehow manage to run multi-national corporations, whilst still being able to do the school run and do philanthropy work in their “spare” time. And while I don’t think they are lying, I do think that somewhere along the way, they were working 18 hour days, rarely saw their family, and their idea of philanthropy was signing a check. But, when it comes to success, and having it all in the end, what are we compromising along the way?
It reminds me of a story or fable really that a friend of mine told me years ago that has stuck. The one that goes somewhere along these lines: On a beautiful beach in remote part of the world, there was a young man fishing. He loved fishing on the beach, and everyday caught enough fish to feed his family and to keep his small and humble home. He was by no means a wealthy man, but he and his family had food, shelter, and their health. He led a simple but happy life. Then one day a man in a suit came up to him, and told him that the particular stretch of land the he owned and fished on, held enough fish to feed the entire village and would he like to set up a small fishing stall in the market to do so. The man set up and soon became the most popular stall in the market; he then set up his own fish monger’s in town and soon had fish stalls all over the state and soon the country. He was now an important man, far too busy to stand on the beach and idly fish all day. When they were old enough, his sons followed him into the business and expanded his empire internationally. By now the man was in his late 40’s and working every hour the day allowed. He hardly saw his wife and his sons were already squabbling over their inheritance and share of the business. The man tried to remember back to when the days were simpler. He started to think about slowing down. He booked a meeting with his accountant to see when he should retire and his accountant told him : if you continue to work really hard and build your business, then in 5 years you can retire comfortably to a house on the beach and spend your days fishing off the shores and hanging out with your family and wife. The light bulb went on and he realised that he has sacrificed his most precious values in order to obtain something that he already had.
I always remember that story as a reminder. I think it’s often too easy to lose sight of what’s really important when your eyes are focused so keenly on the horizon. Anyone who has tasted success has had to make compromises along the way in order to do so. I am now at the stage in my life where in the not too distant future I would like a family and kids. But on the other hand, I also want to grow my company, open new offices, expand internationally and become an incredibly successful businesswoman. What friendships and relationships have I already given up to get to where I am today? Do I miss anyone? Was it worth it? So far, I don’t have too many regrets but I can’t deny that I have foregone friendships and relationships in order to build my career and life in London. But as I get older, it all somehow gets more serious. One day I will have much more than just myself to answer to and be accountable to. In fact, I already do. Will it be my business that suffers or my relationships? Or will I somehow find a way to have it all?

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