Commentary: The Little Things

I’ve long thought the most impressive people in business are those who successfully balance work and family life. No one can enjoy a perfect 50/50 split, but balance isn’t really about numbers anyway. It’s more about moments. It’s about creating them as often as you can.

My wife Nanette and I have been married for five years. We have a three-year-old daughter Audriana (we call her Dri for short) and a one-year-old son Dominic (we call him “the pistol” because he never stops moving). Sure, our kids are a handful, but they give me moments every day that make me smile and keep me going.

Each morning, for example, Dri asks me to help her dress her favorite baby doll. It’s actually much more challenging than you might think – all those snaps can be tricky. But it’s worth it when Dri grins and says, “Thanks, Daddy.”

Dominic, meanwhile, loves to bring me a clean diaper at about 7:30 a.m. – it’s his way of saying he needs to be changed. As his nickname would suggest, changing Dominic takes the skills of a ninja. He wiggles, squirms, stretches and kicks. But when the battle is over, he jumps up to go grab my glasses and razor – because, after all, he likes to shave, too.

No doubt, my mornings would be easier without dress-up time and diaper wars. But my life wouldn’t be as fulfilling.

Now before you get the idea that I live the land of rainbows and unicorns, let me tell it to you straight. There are plenty of times Dri and Dom drive me up a wall. It can be frustrating when I’m awake well after midnight editing a story or answering emails because our kids don’t respect normal business hours. And on more than one occasion, Nanette has given me the death stare because I’m sending out a Tweet as Dominic is climbing onto the kitchen table. Raise your hand if you can relate. Fortunately, my family agrees that I’m present at home much more than I’m absent. Hey, I’ll take it.

None of this, by the way, is to suggest that work is unimportant or secondary. There’s no shortcut in sales – you have to put the time in to reap the rewards. You’re going to miss a few family dinners, maybe some soccer matches and even bedtime stories. Don’t beat yourself up – you’re never going to write the perfect script.  

If you’d like some encouragement, though, there’s a TED talk given by Nigel Marsh that you might want to check out. He remembers a time when his wife asked him to pick up their son Harry after school one day. He left work early, got Harry, took him to the park, then to a restaurant to get some pizza. He brought Harry home and gave him a bath, put him in his Batman pajamas, read him a story, tucked him in and kissed him goodnight. It was then when Harry excitedly said: “Dad, this has been the best day of my life – ever.”

Marsh points out that he didn’t really do anything special – he was just there. His point: Almost any person can be around for the big things, but people who really have balance are home for the little things, too.

In the upcoming March issue of Advantages, you’ll come upon our piece on emotional intelligence, or EQ. People with high EQ are self-aware, but just as importantly, aware of others – especially those who matter the most. That’s why I firmly believe that while having high IQ is great, it’s actually high EQ that’s the true measure of genius.