Our very own Chuck Blakeman recently sat down and had a sparkling conversation with online magazine Shoutout Colorado. This is how it went.
Hi Chuck, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Work/Life balance is a mirage and an unhelpful concept in the pursuit of a great life. This work/life balance idea stems from 175 years of living in what is still know as “The Factory System”, which 90+% of all organizations still use as their operating system. In 1850, for the first time in history, more people left their homes to “go” to work than were working in their homes. And virtually of the work we “went” to was radically different than the work we had done in our homes. It was instantly dehumanizing, demeaning, and largely brainless, and something people just put up with so they could go home and be human again.
For the first time, we divided work from personal life, and work became an unwelcome interruption in an otherwise great day. Parents taught their children, “you don’t go to work to make meaning or make friends, you go to work to make money so you can make meaning and friends outside of work. Work is now juxtaposed against our personal lives, as if it is in the way. We seek balance because work so often interferes with our personal lives instead of adding to them. We should not live balanced lives in any way. Balance is for a teeter totter, and if you are perfectly balanced, you are going nowhere, suspended on one end of the board. Nobody ever made a significant contribution to the world around us by living balanced life.
It is the unbalanced life that has a story to tell and a lesson that has been learned. It is the unbalanced life that can be passionately committed to a cause, a curiosity, a learning, a goal, and a transformational impact in the world. Mahatma Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Martin Luther King, that woman down the street whose garden explodes because she is consumed by it – none of them live balanced lives. To be fulfilled, we must live unbalanced lives. At times the unbalanced will favor work. Handel spent nearly a monthly completely holed up night and day writing The Messiah. Gandhi did not involve himself in politics or any movements until he was 47, and then was consumed by that. Claudette Colvin, who did more, earlier, for civil liberties than even Rosa Parks, was completely out of balance as a 15 year old refusing to sit in the back of bus and being an activist. I was out of balance in the direction of family when I put them in front of the opportunity of a lifetime to own a piece of a company with its headquarters on the main street of Napa Valley.
The answer is integration. We need to re-integrate work and personal, and stop dividing them out as if they are mortal enemies in an eternal battle for our souls. We need to re-integrate our families into our work, and our work into our own personal goals. At times we will be completely out of balance in the direction of work, then family, then personal pursuits, then creativity, then neighborhood, then causes. We can be out of balance when we successfully reintegrate our work and our persona lives, and simply ask, “What is right for this season of my life?” It isn’t about work/life balance, it’s about doing the right thing when it’s the right time to do that, and then doing it with everything we have in us, and making sure that we are integrating our whole lives as a consistent and interwoven story.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I barely graduated from high school and believed if there were 100 people and 99 jobs, I would be the one left without work. I joined the army and built a little side business, and over the next 30 years I built thirteen businesses in nine industries on four continents. Success leaves clues, and a little success led to a little more. My life vision is To Live Well By Doing Good. And my life question, stolen from another hero, “Why do what others can and will do, when there is so much to be done that others can’t or won’t do?” That is the essence of the entrepreneurial mind. So most of the businesses I started were in things I knew little about and filled perceived gaps in what others were already doing well.
The greatest lesson I learned is that work is a means to an end, not the end itself. That the bigger question is “What are your Lifetime Goals – Your ‘Big Why’?” Once I figured that out, I was able to redesign work and use it to achieve my Big Why. The second greatest lesson I learned is that I get what intend, not what I hope for. There is no room for “Wouldn’t it great if…?”, or “Someday I’m going to…”. I learned to lay out a destination and then work with singleminded purpose to get there. Along the way I learned that the Rugged Individualist is dead, and that both victories and defeats are just fascinating seminars to get me to the next place in my life. Being wrong became easy because it was just a seminar, and being right became humbling, because it was just a seminar.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take them on a bike ride up into the mountains on steep back roads with no tourist allure, but end up in any one of a number of mountain towns for the night before going on to the next. Colorado has a lot of great unbeaten paths – I would show them those.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many people, and most of them unknown outside their small towns or spheres. For whatever reason, I’ve never been attracted to the high profile, big personalities that are globally recognized as my mentors. Mr. Tritch, Mr. Bray, Ms. Fox, Ms. Follet, John Heenan, Gary Bradley, Skip Gray, Donald McGilchrist, Jim Peterson, John Ridgway, and some others who lived outside the spotlight – these are my heroes. In my first book I said in the preface, “I’ve never had an original thought in my life, but I’m okay with that, because I’m pretty sure you haven’t, either.” If we’re being honest, we’re a collection of lives lived, examples we have seen, and ideas that were in the world before we were born, and all we can do is give new voice to these in a way that maybe someone will hear us who didn’t hear the ones before us. I’m a re-application of many lives who have come before me, and I’m humbled to walk in their shoes.
Visit Chuck Blakeman’s website, or check out his book Rehumanizing The Workplace By Giving Everybody Their Brain Back on Amazon.