This I Believe

Andrew - Seattle, Washington
Entered on September 26, 2006

I believe in balance. The concept of balance is not anything new; it’s an idea that has been espoused by philosophers and religious leaders for centuries. Even today, we recognize the importance of balance in nature, politics, business, and science. If there is one thing that most people can agree on, balance is a good thing.

While most people will acknowledge the importance of balance, its relevance remains fleeting in our own lives. We work hard, often sacrificing our personal relationships, and even our health in the pursuit of success. In a world where commercial culture encourages us to gorge ourselves with useless products, finding balance is heretical.

Ironically, my belief in such a heretical idea developed while working as a commissioned salesperson. I made good money, but my newfound prosperity was overshadowed by sixty-hour workweeks, and supervisors that regularly threatened to fire the staff if they did not meet their sales goals. The long hours and hostile environment took their toll on my emotions, my health, and personal relationships.

I soon realized that my job was consuming my life, and that it needed to be countered with a life outside of work. I tried to stand up to my bosses who demanded larger chunks of my time. Those closest to me considered my efforts valiant, despite the discouraging results.

The final indignity came during my older sister’s wedding shower. I was scheduled to work at 10 AM the following morning. Just before I entered the house where the festivities were going to take place, my cell phone rang. I answered, and it was my supervisor on the other end. He told me that the entire sales staff was required to come into work at 6 AM instead of our regularly scheduled time. “Okay, I’ll be there,” I replied. It was at that moment, I knew I needed to get out.

With what little free time I had, I sought a new employer. My boss was aware of my discontent and tried to convince me to stay. He reminded me that my family and friends would forgive me for working so hard, because I was trying to get ahead. All of which is true. Yet, I had sacrificed my health, my emotional wellbeing, and time that could have been spent with the ones I love, all for a job. While the financial gain was great, the cost was far greater.

To this day, I still see the value in hard work. But, I have learned that work can only be good, if it is in balance with time to enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishment, and the wealth of relationships.