As a CEO for the past 15 years, I have learned that work life integration is a critical strategy to ensure happiness, sanity and success in my career and personal life. Balance, in my mind, assumes you have two different (and separate) parts that are to be weighed equally. As straightforward as this sounds, it becomes challenging when you love your work and also love spending time outdoors, but have to assimilate to a typical “corporate desk job.” Why do we have to keep our work and life separate? I’ve never been able to do this effectively and have found that work-life integration is the only way I can be a successful and happy CEO and leader.
I have found that there are three things that are musts for me in this kind of thinking. One, do work that I am passionate and excited about. Two, work with people I really care about and enjoy. Three, integrate what matters to you most in each and every day. For example, I really enjoy spending time in nature and choose to work outside in the open air or I will split my day by taking a hot yoga class at 3:30 pm then returning to the office more centered and balanced.
Another example is what I call my “mobile office”. I recently converted a van into my own mobile office which I take to the beach a few days a week to work in. Van Life was born! Having the opportunity to incorporate nature while I do what I call “focus work” has transformed my performance as a CEO, allowing me to more easily access my creativity, develop new ideas, problem solve and lead a pioneering start up. It has also allowed me to easily incorporate what I love to do at quitting time; hike, body surf or TRX right on the beach! I think mixing business with pleasure and making them one in the same not only allows me to “walk the walk”, but also sets me on the path for lasting personal and professional success.
I also prefer to hold meetings on the move and while being active whenever possible. I often take hikes with my team and I’m amazed by the ideas and innovation that are born from physicality, fresh ocean air, flowers in bloom and a beautiful sunset. A great example of this came when I was consulting for big wave surfer and entrepreneur Laird Hamilton. We began our “work” day with pool side meditation and an ice bath, followed by a “board room meeting” in a barrel sauna at 220 degrees and a workout in his pool. The focus, clarity and quality of ideas that came from our “business” day were amazing. Now that was a workday to remember!
Most of my core team have been with me for many years. Over those years I have developed great relationships with them. I truly enjoy working with, collaborating with, and being social with those on my team that have stuck with me over the years. Having a common goal that you bring to life with a team you truly care about, is one of the best secrets I can think of for work-life integration. It is like going to battle with your comrades, create an unbreakable bond that is truly special.
However, my career didn’t start out as integrated as it is now. I began as a licensed health care provider where I worked on a trauma team in the ICU and high-risk labor and delivery. While the work was rewarding, the days inside the hospital were long and exhausting. I would immediately immerse myself in nature after my shift ended by running on the beach or spending time outdoors, just to keep my mind and body in balance. I then joined a fledgling startup that started with a passion on the topic of lignan research. My passion for the work at Barlean’s Organic Oils became a success as I took the small startup to a $75 million-dollar company and eventually worked into the role of CEO during my 25 years. As much blood, sweat and tears my partners and I poured into the company, what really drove our success was passion and enthusiasm for what we were doing. As a result, my occupation became my vocation, morphing from work-life balance, to work-life integration.
Currently at Emerald Health Bioceuticals, we offer products to support the endocannabinoid system. Ironically this bodily system is the perfect analogy of work-life integration as it is in charge of integrating all of our bodies systems to keep us in balance…in homeostasis.
Ultimately what I believe it comes down to is doing what you are most passionate about with people you really care about and integrating things you love in your everyday work life and the rest comes easy. I have always done what I loved and now every day when I’m “working” it feels like a natural integrated part of my life that I would not want to live without. I truly believe a life where work and pleasure are integrated is the key to having it all, both personally and professionally.
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