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Business Viewpoint with Don Conwell: Lean to rebalance life and work

Business Viewpoint with Don Conwell: Lean to rebalance life and work


We are all looking for the perfect life vs. work formula. If it came in a powder, I would put it in my protein shake every morning. For me the goal of achieving a perfectly balanced life proved elusive and tremendously frustrating.

I was like a juggler who had introduced one too many plates into his routine. Your work life and your personal life are not separate. They are both with you at all times, and how you address this reality will determine the quality of both.

In Todd Duncan’s book, “Life on the Wire,” he throws out the quest for the perfectly balanced life and instead compares the journey to a tightrope walker. The tightrope walker is almost never still or in balance. As he journeys across the wire, he is in a constant state of movement using a long pole to make minor adjustments. This allows him to maintain his focus, shift his weight, move forward on the wire and arrive safely to the other side. Duncan says that life is exactly this way.

As we live our lives, we must constantly be adjusting for our “imbalance.” Work, family, marriage, finances and health are just some of the forces that pull and push us in different directions. When I found myself with four children (OK ... “find” may not be the right word) under 4½ years of age, working more than 60 hours a week and in school full time, there was no “life” balance.

In fact, sometimes it felt like I had no life. My wife was the stay-at-home mom, and I was the stay-at-work dad. Neither of us had written this into our vows, but we did understand that this was a season of life. We survived by leaning into what needed our greatest attention at any one time. This required day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month adjustments.

Duncan’s book addressed not only the constant need to rebalance, but he also provided clarity to the choices we all have to make along the way. Money vs. memories, risk vs. responsibility and making your mark vs. leaving a legacy are just a few of the tension points he addresses.

In my own life I have made career choices based on the goals of being a great dad and husband while at the same time fulfilling the requirement that my life had to have a significant impact on others. There were long periods of time where it was hard to see that I was achieving any of these goals. My first career was as a stagehand. The hours, as you can imagine, were terrible and not at all aligned with what my foundational goals were. At times, I wanted to just give up. I had no choice but to keep going. After all, I had to feed those four children I had found.

As I worked this and many other jobs along the way, I leaned hard into doing my best, learning from the experience and taking the only step I knew: the next one right in front of me. Ever so slowly I found myself making progress, and though I had no way to see where I would end up, it was clear in looking back that my steps were ordered.

Regardless of profession, we are all given the daily opportunity to interact with people and have an impact on their lives. In my case, one of the most rewarding examples of this is the culture we have created in our office.

I work on a phenomenal team, and I know that their lives away from work are better and more complete because of working here. Our culture is foundationally built upon kindness, humor, grace, ownership of your job, ownership of your schedule and the shared responsibility to care for team members.

Do I have this all figured out? The answer is no, but I do something every day to make sure I lean the right way.

Don Conwell is branch manager for AmeriPro Funding. He has more than a decade of experience in the mortgage industry.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily the Tulsa World. To inquire about writing a Business Viewpoint column, email a short outline of the article to Business Editor Rod Walton at The column should focus on a business trend; the outlook for the city, state or an industry; or a topic of interest in an area of the writer’s expertise. Articles should not promote a business or be overly political in nature.

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