I recently met with a capable and driven executive and asked him, “How are you?” He gave me a rapid-fire answer of all of the things he was doing: travelling, business updates, career changes and his children’s innumerable activities. It sounded like an intense but satisfying life.
Then I asked him again, “How are you really?” And the moment I did, he became emotional and the reality of his life just flooded out of him: his stress, his frustration of trying to juggle it all, his sense that he had no time to really think, or play with his children or enjoy any of it. The (cute) summary is this: his schedule was always filled but his life wasn’t fulfilled. What is less cute is the idea that he, and many of us, have been sold a bill of goods.
We’ve been sold on a heroic ideal of the uber-man and super-women who kill themselves saying yes to everyone, sleeping four hours a night and straining to fit everything in. How often have you heard people say, “I am so busy right now!” But it almost seemed like a back-door brag.
But it’s a bogus badge of honour. It suffocates our ability to think and create. It holds otherwise hard working, capable people back from our highest contribution.