Howdy folks! I hope you’re having a great summer! Here in NYC I feel like we’ve had a bit more rain than in the past, but all in all it’s been a very pleasant season, albeit a fast one! I feel like we were just celebrating Memorial Day, and now I’m suddenly busy preparing for Photoshop World in just a few weeks! Yikes! If you come see me speak, I promise to fill your head with loads of information about OCF (Off Camera Flash) geekiness, but today I’m going to talk to you about that moving target we call the work/life balance. So if you’re here today to learn about the difference between an f/stop, and the bus stop you should move directly to this class. ;-)
You’re still here?! GREAT! Let’s talk about that work/life balance. Come in a little closer, I’m going to let you in on a secret… closer, closer. Sorry kids, whomever told you can have a wonderful life filled with happy, joyous days with your family AND run a fruitful, cash $$ money business while you skip and run into the distance riding a unicorn over the rainbow is either a lunatic or has just figured out the right pharmaceutical medley to keep them happy while they’re most likely screaming on the inside.
So why go on this rant you ask? Why am I trying to crush your mellow? In the words of Lynn Cartia, “I’d like to take this moment to bring it WAAY down.”
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jason Groupp, and I’m the Director of Education and Membership for WPPI/Rangefinder and PhotoPlus Expo/PDN (Oct 29 – Nov 1). I am also a photographer of 25 plus years, mainly weddings with a smattering of commercial and editorial work over the years. Going from my studio every day to an office has been one of the weirdest, most jarring experiences of my life and has forced me to make some lifestyle changes, while at the same time trying to manage the artist ego inside who needs to stay creative, and…oh yeah, I have a beautiful wife, and two nutty children ages 5 and 7. Managing three different lives at the same time, clocking nearly 55,000 miles on United this year, trying to be the best Dad in the world AND desperately trying to find the energy to be creative has proven to be a phenomenal challenge. Did I mention that I like to workout at least 4 days a week?
There’s a scene in Goodfellas where Ray Liotta is trying to manage all these errands, and still put on a face that he’s in complete control. He keeps complaining about this helicopter flying above him and this weird feeling like something is going to go wrong, and it does. Of course he’s crazed out on drugs, and that’s part of the problem, but at a certain point his work/life balance comes crashing down to a halt in epic proportions. He failed.
Okay, so I’m hoping most of you don’t have DEA agents flying over you watching your every move, but I’m sure most of you have felt like Ray (minus the drugs) at some point in your lives. We all have that moment when we think we can outsmart reality, and it all comes abrupt stop, and realize it’s time to change.
Now don’t beat yourself up! I’m here to tell you it’s okay. Wait, if I did I would then be that crazy person who tells you can have it all. You can’t. But that’s OK. I’m here to tell you it’s OK. ;-)
This past weekend I had one of those moments. My wife and I do a great job of “dividing and conquering,” as we like to call it. This includes general errands, dropping/picking up kids, play dates and stuff like that. A typical weekend includes early morning runs, followed by trips to the dry cleaner, supermarket, and some kind of kid-friendly activity to finish the day off. However, this past weekend there was quite a few more adult things that needed to be done, including calling several contractors, replacing tires on both cars, finding a new mechanic, and coordinating multiple birthday parties drop-offs, etc. As we sat eating our breakfasts, my daughter says, “OMG, there’s a cat stuck in our tree.” She’s got a great imagination, so we laughed, but then she repeated, “No really, there’s a cat stuck in the tree!”
With that one sentence, I knew at an instance, this would be the thing that completely derailed our weekend. The next several hours included phone calls to the police, animal control, fire department, and of course visits from our neighbors, all offering advice that was completely unhelpful. I looked at my wife and said that we don’t have time for a cat stuck in the tree! We have all of these errands to run, plus I have to write an article (this one!) for Kelby, plus I was going to edit some images later. She smiled at me and said, “Yes, but there’s a cat stuck in the tree.”
At that moment I realized the stress of trying to get it all in wasn’t going to happen, my plan had failed, and that was okay.
Here are ten things I do to help keep my sanity, none of them get me to achieve a work/life balance, but helps maintain a large enough bucket to keep the water out of our sinking ship.
- Recognize the warning signs. At some point you know you can’t get it all done, and you have to let it go.
- You can’t be good at everything all the time, but you can be good at what you are doing right now. Focus! Focus is the key.
- The “Play like a champion today” Notre Dame football motto can apply to everything you do. Prioritize, and conquer. When you’re food shopping, do that. “I’m shopping like a champion today.” “I’m buying tires for my car like a champion today.”
- Be present for your family. This is the hardest one for me. You can still drag your kids around to do the errands, but make the time to look into your kids’ eyes and listen. Too often I find myself on a business trip missing my family feeling guilty about not spending enough quality time with them. The cat stuck in the tree really made me think about how our lives need to be more balanced.
- Call in sick once in a while! Do it!
- Throw something out! Or donate it to someone who wants it. Clearing out clutter is awesome.
- Call your Mom. Well that doesn’t achieve a work/life balance, but she wants to hear from you.
- Kill your television. There’s nothing good to watch on it, and you are wasting too much time looking at it.
- Go read a book. It will keep you sane, and it will keep your brain alive.
- Make some plans to do something fun. John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re making plans.” GO MAKE SOME!
I’m not sure if this was a helpful article, but it was cathartic for me to write. Now and again there comes a time in your life when you get a cat stuck in the tree and I’m here to tell you it’s OK. You are not going to find the balance; all you can do is manage the fallout. Trick is to manage it like a champion. It’s OK!