Balancing work life and adventure
Most people don’t go out and chase their dreams. That’s a sad reality. In today’s world once you get caught up in the “rat race” you usually sacrifice what you’ve always wanted for what every one expects you to do. Life then gets more and more complicated as you get older and your window of opportunities to do certain things, starts closing. There is nothing wrong with having a family and a great career, the issue begins when it comes at the expense of your dreams, goals and aspirations. I am a firm believer that you can do it all, as long as you have the correct balance of work, family and adventure.
My passion is climbing mountains. I live in Miami FL, as far as possible from anything worth climbing. That means anytime I want to go out and do a climb I have to get on a plane and go away at least a week, I do this a few times a year. In order for me to do this there are a few things that need to be in order, to make the trip as enjoyable as possible:
1. The business has to be running smoothly
2. My wife has to understand what I am doing and the risk associated with it
3. I had to have sufficient training to make the trip worth while
The business (work):
I am fortunate enough to have my own business, this gives me certain monetary and attendance flexibilities. But it also comes with great responsibilities, tons of stress and usually insane amount of hours dedicated to growing the business and making sure everything is always running smooth. I choose this over having a traditional job just because it gives me the control to work when I want and be able to take days off as I see fit in order to go out and climb as often as possible. Having a business also gives me a platform where I can build and structure a work force that would allow me to reap monetary benefits, that makes a lot of these trips more accessible.
In the case where you don’t own a business, I recommend speaking to the owner or your boss and let them know your priorities. In the long run it will pay off. It will be a lot worse if 20 years go by and you left an opportunity of a lifetime to go to Everest or climb Denali on the table just because you didn’t want your boss to be upset. As a business owner and adventurer my self, I listen to my employees and more often than not give them the “go ahead” on extended trips. I believe most people are understanding and if possible, let you take the time off.
When I was younger I worked full time as a manager for a catering company, usually 80 – 90hrs a week. I was a pretty integral part of the operations. But I always made it clear I had ambitions to travel and have a life outside of work. In one 6-month period I took 5 trips to Argentina, most of them between 5-14 days (one was for 20 days) and I always had my job when I came back. What I always made sure to do was to be the hardest worker when I was present, to be proactive and do more than what was required from me and to always have good communication with my superiors. In other words, make my self irreplaceable. This always made the conversation to ask for time off much easier.
I’ve also always been a forward thinker. I’m not the kind of guy to put all my money into one trip or expedition to then come back and figure out how I’m going to pay for food. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I like to set my self up for success not just for the present moment but also for what’s to come. As ambitious as I am in my adventures, I always make it a priority to plan for what’s to happen when I come back, how can I position my self for financial freedom and how I will fund my next trip.
My Wife (family):
For me this has always been the toughest part of my journey. Since the moment I met my wife, she knew I was a hardcore dude. But she never imagined I would become a mountaineer, leaving for weeks at a time, putting my self in situations where I’m risking my life and doing it as often as I do. It also meant taking less vacations together and a rigorous training schedule. At first it took a toll on our relationship but over time I have spoken to her and she has been able to understand what drive’s me and why its so important to me. I am now a firm believer that communication cures all. Before I used to spend hours by myself planning my trips and organizing my goals, now I make it a team effort and have her join me in my planning. It gets her excited to be a part of it as well. Even though she wont go and climb herself, she knows what I am doing, where, with who and for how long. On the flip side I also encourage her to pursue her passions with a vengeance! I support her and make sure she’s going after her dreams. I push this message with all my family. My goal is to inspire those around me to go out and chase their dreams regardless of their age. I took my 73 year old grandmother to NYC recently so she can get to know the big city before she gets too old and I convinced my mom to make her dream trip to Bali and explore beyond her comfort zone. The best part is that once you get your family and friends to go after what they love, they will undoubtedly understand why you do what you do. For me it makes me sleep better at night to know that those I care about support what I do.
This where the balancing act really comes into play. Run a business, keep my wife happy (happy wife, happy life) and train hard enough to enjoy my time in the mountains. This is just as important as the other two, if you’re not in shape you will suffer like hell on the mountains and you might ruin the trip for those climbing with you. That being said one needs to be very disciplined in their training. Somewhere between the time you work and the time you spend with your family, you have to squeeze in your training, even if it means giving up the hour you usually spent sitting in front of the TV. 1-2 hours a day is the minimum amount of training you should be doing. I prefer to train right after I leave my office. It segments my day and I know once I get home, its family time for the rest of the night. It also gives me a break mentally from the problems at work. The important thing here is creating habits, make it clock work. During the week I usually do Crossfit, this means all I have to do is show up. I don’t have to come up with a fancy work out plan because the coach already does it for you and they make sure you leave drenched in sweat and trying to catch your breath (you can read my Crossfit article for more on this). I usually then get home and go for a run with my wife and my dog.
To summarize, you can do the things you love while building a life for yourself. For me its all about efficiency and communication. When I’m at work, I’m 100% focused on getting the important things done and being productive, during my training I make sure my crossfit coach understands that I need to get my ass kicked every time I step inside the gym and when I get home I make sure to be present and give my wife the attention she deserves. The old saying goes “ its about the quality not the quantity” and I believe this to be true in every aspect of life. Its better to spend 2 hours with your spouse having great, solid interaction and communication than to spend 6 hours sitting on the couch watching TV while she is in the other side of the house scrap booking. The same goes for training, if you are a notorious gym talker (goes to the gym to work out with a buddy and ends up talking more than exercising) then ditch your friend and get your self a trainer that is going to be in charge of getting you in shape. There is nothing more satisfying than having a balanced life. Learn to immerse yourself 100% when you tackle each part of your life, you’ll realize you have more time than you had ever imagined.
I’m also a big proponent of personal development, you need to have time to make your self better. This can take 10 – 30 min a day. Whether it is reading a book or meditating. There’s enough time in the day to do more than you can imagine. It all starts with stripping away the things that aren’t important, prioritizing what matters and what’s going to take you to where you want to be in life. Learn to say no to the things that aren’t productive to you, build self discipline because the life you want is waiting for you on the other side.