November 11, 2013

Topic: Management & Leadership

How do you define success? Do you work to live or live to work?

I just got back from my first real cool-weather (44 degrees) bike ride of the year. I only go out if it’s above 40 degrees, and it made me think about how I define a successful bike ride. In the summer I usually judge it by my average speed, which I track on every ride. In the fall, once it gets fairly cold, I measure success by whether or not I dressed appropriately to not freeze while I am out. How one measures success can vary.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that some people “eat to live” while others “live to eat.” I’m probably more “eat to live” however, I have foodies in my family, so I get to enjoy the tasty treats from those who live to eat.

In the same way, I think some people “work to live ” while others “live to work.” I think most people who know me would say I fall in the live-to-work category. I’m thinking about how our company can better succeed 24/7 (well, except when I’m sleeping). That’s not to say I wouldn’t rather be musky fishing or riding my bike than be in the office, or that I neglect my family, but it’s what drives me.

On the other hand, my dad, a factory worker who built Evinrude boat motors, retired at 51 as soon as he hit 30 years of service. He worked to live (i.e., provide for his family) and he really enjoyed fishing, hunting, and socializing. So which is right? Of course, neither. It’s very personal, and also, just like nobody totally eats to live (everyone likes good-tasting foods and variety), nobody totally works to live or lives to work. But there are ways to best achieve success depending on where you are on the spectrum.

If you lean toward “work to live,” you’ll achieve success in your job by having a position that gives you the ability (time and money) to do the things that tickle your fancy. But you still want to strive to work with people you enjoy, and for a business whose values and purpose you respect. Because even if you feel you totally work to support your family, hobbies, or other interests, it is important to work in an environment you enjoy — you spend too much time at work to dread being there.

To the extent that you fall into the live-to-work camp, make sure you are at an organization that will provide you the opportunities you seek. A growing business will need to add people and positions, creating opportunities for career progression. The onus is also on you to take advantage of any in-house training as well as company paid training — particularly tuition reimbursement, if that’s a necessary part of your plan. Make sure you demonstrate your desire to grow by looking for special projects and putting in the extra effort.

No one has the perfect job. But if you understand where you are on the work-to-live/live-to-work spectrum and are matched with the appropriate job situation, you are that much closer to success.

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