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Work-Life Balance; The Beautiful Lie

In 2020, mainstream media gave Steve Harvey the business for saying, “Rich people don’t sleep eight hours a day”. What he said wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t even an exaggeration. No one I know who has had any level of financial success sleeps 8+ hours a day. In fact, in most surveys, high net worth individuals sleep about 6 hours a day. Sure the CDC recommends more than 7 hours of sleep a day for adults, but the CDC is fraught with politicians not credible scientists and it’s been on the decline for so long that we’re only now noticing how irrelevant and bumbling it has always been.

Which leads me to another truth. For too long, talking heads have been touting that everyone should practice work-life balance. The problem with this statement is it is also flawed with misleading concepts. Take, for instance, the utopian fallacy of the 4 day work week. People don’t live only Monday-Thursday, not in America or anywhere else in the world. And this schedule only works for a few people in certain industries. But these talking heads make it seem like the entire world should operate on a 4 day workweek. Not only is this naïve and short sighted, but another example of how neo-economics and new age management is making the US less competitive in the global market. But back to the point, rich people don’t work 40 hours a week. If you want to achieve something great, you need to take advantage of every possible hour to make it happen. Asking if you have a work-life balance is the wrong question. You need to ask yourself, do you have work-life happiness?

You will NOT be financially successful working 40 hours a week. I’ll say it again, you will NOT be financially successful working 40 hours a week. Take a look at the most successful people you know, either personally or publicly. Are they working 40 hours a week? CEOs of Fortune 500 companies work an average of 62.5 hours a week. Some CEOs of Fortune 100 companies work closer to 80 hours a week. Let’s be honest here. This life isn’t for everyone. But the story that you can be successful and have work-life balance is not completely true.

Now I want you to take notice. I said you will not be financially successful. The concept of success is subjective and its meaning - personal.

It comes down to what’s important to you and what you want to achieve. I know plenty of men that work 40 hours a week. They clock in at 9 and clock out promptly at 5. They go home to their families or to whatever occupies their agenda in the afternoon and they do this 5 times a week. Mind you, these men I’m referring to are middle management or below and average an income of about $50-60k annually. Nevertheless, they are completely happy with their lives and I consider them successful men in their own right. Other men I know work 60-80 hours a week. They wake up at 4 or 5 am, start their day at 7 or 8 and don’t have a formal finish time although most wrap up their day around 6 to 8 in the evening. They may even put in a few hours on the weekend. These men are business owners, executives, public figures and have an average income of over $200k on the low end. They too are happy with their lives as far as I’m aware and by most standards they are also considered successful men. And there are those who are putting in over 80 hours a week at work.

The point being made is that both examples of men I’ve described have chosen how they want to live and are presumably happy with their decision. The problem is that for the former example of men who only work 40 hours who want to achieve greater financial success, they are going to have to step up and realize that what they are doing is not enough. But they’ve been fed the misinformation from Variety and Huffington Post that you too can be financially independent by doing the minimum. And it’s simply not true.

Stop being afraid of hard work. Everybody loves the grand idea of being in business and having endless money. Having a nice car and a big house is glorified in our society, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, no one wants to put in the work. Eventually, people give up, uninterested in doing what it takes to get where they want to be. So many of us want something for nothing.

Daymond John, you might know him as one of the judges on Shark Tank. He started his $6 billion fashion line, FUBU as a side hustle in the early 1990s with $40. When he wasn’t waiting tables at Red Lobster, he toiled in his basement, sewing logos onto T-shirts and hats. He sold goods out of a 1979 Ford van, which he also used to chauffeur people around Hollis, Queens.

His secret? Well, as he puts it, “Out hustle and out work everyone”. He says business success depends more on determination, passion and ingenuity and less on having money and investors.

While I’m not a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, he’s a self-made millionaire, and I respect his hustle and grind, and he says that if start-up founders want to make it, they should put in at least 18 hours a day for the first year. Who are you going to believe Daymond and Gary, or some “also ran” talking head who has never built anything in their life beyond a lego set but managed to get a few articles published in Medium or Inc.

But there’s also a balance. At the end of the day, what matters most may not be how many hours you put in, but what you have to show for your efforts. Anyone can sit at their desk for 18 hours a day looking at their screen with nothing to show for it. But that isn’t work - it’s a waste.

This lazy mindset has been pushed so hard and for so long that US economic growth is far slower than it was in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and productivity growth is way down, despite everyone claiming they are working so hard. U.S. entrepreneurship is near 40-year lows. Blaming American laziness is an oversimplification of this phenomenon. Mom and pop stores have been destroyed thanks to Walmart and Amazon. And our government can’t help but reach into our pockets demanding fees for business permits and licenses before we’ve made our first penny, and we’ve raised a generation who are so afraid of failing and lack confidence that few have the intestinal fortitude to risk it all and go at it alone.

Success doesn’t come by chance or luck. Overnight success is a fairytale that has unfortunately turned into a goal for many. The truth is that success is the product of consistently and patiently working towards what you want. It’s that simple.

More importantly, there are also many obstacles and hardships you will have to overcome, it’s inevitable and you’re going to have to accept it. That is part of the journey. Mistakes and failures should not be discouraging, they should only be used as a tool to learn and know better.

There is a price to pay for success, otherwise, everyone would’ve achieved their dreams. However, the grim truth is that it is only a small percentage of the world’s population that become successful. Of course, success has a different meaning for everyone, but generally speaking, many cannot achieve what they truly want.

Success, for the vast majority of people, does not come without a fee. That fee is hard work. People who have reached various levels of success in their lives understand that there is no return without dedication and sacrifice.

You have to wake up early and head to work even when you do not feel like it. You have to push past the obstacles and hold the goal in your mind, realizing that each step forward is one closer to achieving it.

Wikipedia defines work-life balance as the state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal. Yeah, that’s a made up fairytale. And you can live your lie and pretend life is a fairytale where everything is equal and we should all have the same outcome regardless of the work we put it, or you can wake the fuck up, put in the work, get shit done, prioritize what matters most, put some things on the back burner and let somethings just fall off completely. To hell with the balancing act. You’ve got an empire to build.

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