Integrating Work and Life

by Stephen T. Messenger

June 14, 2022

Like many typical professionals, I’m pretty good at keeping work away from home. I compartmentalize my career and try to keep my family separate from the stressors of work or the burdens that come with it. Likewise, I rarely bring family matters into the workplace.

However, recently I’ve seen advantages in integrating the two worlds.

We would dramatically increase our leadership capability if the lessons we learn from our family, leisure, career, and hobbies seamlessly translate into other areas in our lives.

Integrating Life

At a recent ceremony I attended, the guest speaker noted that she gave up trying the traditional balance of work and life, a phrase we’ve all often heard. Instead, she spoke of integrating family and career activities together and prioritizing when needed. An intriguing concept!

This week I’ve found myself on an extended hiatus between Army assignments. It’s provided a chance to explore activities that are new, or I haven’t done in a while. Interestingly, the more diverse the activity, the more I see applicable lessons in the workplace.

The first item I wanted to catch up on was reading. I sought out some books that I traditionally shun for more professional, military-related topics. Suddenly, instead of visiting World War battlefields and sitting near national leaders, I found myself immersed in the seedy underbelly of magic, hunting down drug-dealers, and cheering on the U.S. 1936 Olympic crew team.

While I thought this would be a reprieve from professional reading, instead, these unique and unexplored topics provide much, if not greater insight, into the leadership profession.

Off-Topic Books That Are on Topic

In Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone, the author and magician learned holistic integration while pursuing the perfect magic trick. He integrated concepts from mathematics, theater, clown lessons, and pickpocketing to create an act worthy of performing at the International Brotherhood of Magicians competition.

Reading Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden, I learned about the brutal rise and fall of Colombian cocaine cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar. He exemplified Sir John Acton’s statement that, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” As people earn positions and promotions, it’s easy to lose sight of how they got there.

Next in The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, the 1936 U.S Olympic Rowing Team followed the path of nine lower-class athletes rising out of the ashes of the Great Depression and described how they overcame a host of adversities to compete in the Olympics. Persistence is a powerful concept.

Books about different experiences, power and ego, and true determination easily apply to all aspects of life. But then I found simple, everyday projects apply as well:

Everyday Life as Leadership Lessons

  • Weeding the garden. I pulled a small root that surprisingly reached over four feet and across tens of plants! The interconnectedness of one root system often has impact in other areas. My decision in one area has secondary and tertiary effects that I’m probably not thinking about.
  • Spackling our rented house to vacate. Attention to detail matters and creates decisions on how much effort you’ll do when no one will ever notice but you. I could have “mailed in” spackling since I’m the only one who’s really looking… but every task should be done to the maximum standard.
  • Surviving hotel living with four kids and a dog. Multiple days in a hotel with a large crew will try anyone’s patience. Creativity is needed to keep the clan happy and the parents sane!

I’m starting to realize that many activities at home make me a better professional at work, and many ideas at work make me a better family man.

The holistic leader compartmentalizes less and integrates more.

It’s about bringing family and friends into your world of professionalism, and work leadership lessons into the home to train the next generation. I’ve all too often separated these two worlds, strangely abiding by that whole “men are waffles” concept where the syrup never spills out of the waffle hole into another.

Living the Integrated Life

But combining all these lessons can help make us better leaders. It’s up to us to capture those ideas, integrate all facets of our lives into each other, and be the best version of ourselves at home and work.

“Somedays,” as Dirk Bentley noted in his video, “you’re living.” You’re reaping the full benefits of a holistic life, learning ideas that make you better across different facets. Reading certainly helps, but so do all the other activities across the spectrum of life.

Lead well, in every area!

We encourage you to subscribe for a free, weekly email (no ads nor fees) to the latest Maximum Standard leadership lesson. This is a no-threat opportunity to improve your leadership through reading, and then think about and discuss leadership with your peers to improve.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: