I just finished reading Steve Jobs’ biography, and man, what a page turner. Having worked at several start-ups, it was amazing to see that some problems we faced, Apple did too in its early days: disorganization, growing pains, and defining company identity. It was also gripping knowing what I know now – that Steve Jobs would die in 2011 – that made the ending go so fast. What would Steve, the most iconic entrepreneur of our generation, accomplish before his death? How would his legacy live on?
But for all his greatness as a businessman, I marvel at his personal relationships. Steve Jobs did not only put his products above all else, something true of many entrepreneurs, he also put them above his family relationships. He barely knew his daughters, especially not the one he fathered out of wedlock at a young age, whom he refused to believe was his after many years.
I am a strong believer in work life balance, particularly maintaining healthy relationships with family. I have made decisions in the past to give up parts of a professional life to have more time for family, a decision I have never regretted. I can’t imagine making the choices that Steve did; to me, no product could ever replace the kind of bond I have with my husband, my child, and my close family and friends.
Yet, many entrepreneurs do make the decisions to pour their life into their work. It makes you wonder: can you be a successful entrepreneur and still have family time? One of my business mentors told me that entrepreneurs get to choose their own work hours, that “you can choose which 20 hours you want to work each day.” That kind of attitude seems to forgo having any life outside of work. And many examples we see in life, Steve Jobs included, seem to indicate it’s not possible; that in order to be good at one thing, you must give up time spent on anything else.
I hope it’s possible to do both because I won’t be the kind of person to pursue my career at the expense of everything else. It’s just not who I am. Even if I die and only my family remembers me, that’s legacy enough for me. Steve Jobs gave a great speech about staying hungry and foolish. I know he meant pursuing your passions in business or art, a personal passion, not an interpersonal passion. But I’m going to make that mine and pursue both my professional and personal life. Make them both meaningful, and not sacrifice one for the other.
It may be the most foolish notion ever, but it’s who I am.
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