Welcome to a fresh batch of SMART goals, Quarterly Rocks, B.H.A.G.s, OKRs, or whatever business speak us grownups are supposed to call our New Year’s Resolutions.
Until you retire or die, you—like me—will be running on a treadmill under an avalanche of emails, calls, Slacks, meetings, assignments, and projects telling us to go faster and do more with less, all while maintaining positivity and collective kaizen.
It gets worse.
Not only is there an endless stream of external expectations from bosses, family, friends, authors, and famous people who’ve “made it,” the greatest tyrant usually lives in our own minds.
I am an ENTJ, so I make lists and plan Earth-shatteringly ambitious goals for myself then pretend that the world will stop spinning and fall from the Solar System if I miss a spot.
The week before the Holidays, I had a full five days without travel to finally “Catch Up.” I was on the phone with my wife at 9:30 pm when, not one, not two, but three different problems invaded my inbox from separate sources all in the space of about five minutes.
Seeing my challenges compounding no matter how hard, or long I worked, I looked up and said, “Why am I doing this?”
It would be great if there were a formula to make life manageable or roll back the downside of all this great technology we’ve invented so that we could more easily unplug and rest. However, at some point, we have to say, “This is the business I’ve chosen” and accept it. Grow? Of course. Improve our self-care? Absolutely. Yet if you’re a truly ambitious person, striving to put a dent in the Universe, you just can’t shortcut the work and the struggle to win in a competitive marketplace.
My question is why? Why are you doing this? Why are you working so hard?
I find we all spend far too much time thinking about what we are doing, or how we are doing it, but not nearly enough time exploring why we are doing any of it in the first place.
Whenever I’m trying to understand something, I generally think in pie charts.
Causes, motivations, and forces that contributed to an outcome are rarely singular. I don’t believe in a black and white world where one person does one thing for one reason.
Then, I name the slices. Here are some examples of the pie slices in your why:
- To support your family
- To protect your team members and their livelihood
- Because you love the work
- To make the world a better place
- For praise, recognition, or connection
- To buy more things
- To avoid feeling alone or unneeded
- To keep a promise you made to yourself or someone else
In my most recent moment of difficulty, I was able to pause and reflect on my why: I have a wife and two young daughters; I love the work, (most of the time). I have team members who depend on me—plus, our company is truly on a mission: “To grow companies worth fighting for with best in market performance at maximum viable scale.”
Then I thought about the work we are doing with Children’s Hospital. Twelve years ago our daughter, Shae, was born with special needs and life-threatening medical conditions and stayed at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for six months. The experience was hell on our family, but we were finally able to bring Shae home, where she is now happy, healthy and continues to thrive.
The hardest thing about our experience was seeing all the young children who were alone in bed, without parents or nurses available to stay with them. There was no one holding them and giving them the love they needed beyond the medical attention they required. My wife, Ciera, and I vowed that one day we would do something about it. So we launched The Koala Corps to address this problem.
Every month, Oxford Road contributes financially to Children’s Hospital for the Koala Corps—to provide arms to hold every child in need at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. We are working with our team and our partners to advance this cause. You can learn more about our story or get involved.
That’s all the why I need to keep pushing through the hard times.
Let’s be honest. 2019 will probably not be easy for any of us. It might be a great year and we may get closer to our goals while increasing work-life balance, but invariably most of us are signing up for the same level of chaos year after year after year. There will be times of struggle where we all need to dig deep. That is when it is most important to know that we are working for a purpose and, preferably, one that is greater than ourselves.
So now I ask again, “Why are you doing this?”
If you aren’t satisfied with your answer, I hope that you will join us. If not, find a cause like the Koala Corps in your life so you always know in your mind why you are working as hard as you do.
I wish you a deep and lasting purpose in 2019.