What Are You (really) Working For? Part I


I remember it like it was just twenty-three years ago… because… well, it was.

The excitement of planning a new business… the pride in my parents eyes. The thrill of new clothes… and new cars. The exhilaration of winning new accounts… the joy of accumulating assets. The confidence that accompanies ownership… and the control that comes when you really do have the power to decide.

And the debt… yes, don’t forget the debt. It was a BIG-TIME motivator. And the truth is, it didn’t last long… the debt, that is.

Along the way, it became very easy for me to rationalize the eighty-hour weeks… indeed, they became the norm for most of the next fifteen years. It was easy to justify, because like all great husbands… and all extraordinary fathers… I was doing it for my family.

Yes, I was proving my love for them… by spending fourteen hours a day at the office.


By most standards, my office arrangement was set up pretty well. It was darn-near as big as our first house… over 600 square feet (yes, my personal office), with plenty of room for my family to join me… a living room grouping… with adjacent kitchen and bathroom facilities, and work areas for each of us.

Heck, we could even sleep there if we wanted to… and yes, on occasion… we did.

And then, I received a couple of wake up calls… four to be exact. Not all at once, mind you… but four very honest conversations, over a span of about thirty-six months… with people who felt comfortable enough to give it to me straight.

I thank God that I wasn’t too prideful to hear them.


The first of those was a business associate (and mentor) who planted a seed.

In a discussion one day about life, goals, and missions… he looked at my work schedule, and told me bluntly that, in his opinion… I would never accomplish what I believed were the major purposes in my life. I was focused on creating material success… he said… and had lost sight of life’s deeper meaning. Of course, he was right.

The next individual was a friend in business, who subsequntly poured water on the seed.

During this conversation, I revealed the fact that not only had I never taken a sick day since 1986… I had also not taken a vacation in the previous ten years. I remember wearing that statement like some kind of (now perverse) badge of honor.

He asked about my family… how they felt about it. He looked me straight in the eye, and suggested that my wife may have married me… because she wanted to spend time with me. When I stated that I was doing it all for them, his response was that people spend their time on the things that matter to them.

“Show me your calendar…” he said, “and I’ll show you where your heart is.” No one had ever talked to me like that before… and of course… he was right too.

But the most powerful shots were yet to come.


We spend our time on the things we value the most.

We will not accomplish… what we do not focus on.

While the truth may not always be pleasant… it remains the truth.


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