March 25th is an important day in my diary. You see it was 44 years ago on this day that my Mother passed away. Unfortunately, as I left home that morning I did so having had an argument with her. I never got the chance to say that I was so sorry for being selfish that morning. I tell you this because it provides some context for a LinkedIn post I received from Andrew Smith, one of my connections, about the importance of work-life balance.
Importance of Work-Life Balance
Apparently, Andrew was in London and met an elderly man called Brian and he shared his experience with me and others in his network and with his permission, I would like to share his experience with you, which illustrates the importance of work-life balance. Andrew said:
“Yesterday I was in London and whilst waiting for my train I sat having a coffee. An older guy asked me if he could sit next to me. I said yes.
He introduced himself as Brian and said he was 87 years old. He was very chatty and he stated he was very nervous travelling on his own. I asked him if he had booked an assisted journey. His reply was that he didn’t want to trouble anyone.
I asked him where he was going and why he was travelling. He said he was going to see his daughter who lived in Sheffield. He went on to say that she was always working and had no time for her family. He went on to tell me about his career and that he had an engineering background and had worked for his company for nearly 60 years.
Brian reflected on what he had done in life and totally blew me (Andrew) away. He said, ‘Do you want to know what my biggest mistake was?’ I replied only if he was comfortable doing so. He said that he had worked his fingers to the bone and neglected my family and that this was time he would never get back. He told me that he didn’t see his children growing up in their early years. He worked and slept.
Brian said, ‘Even now, my family are making the same mistake. My daughter and her husband both work. They have a nanny who does everything. This is my last chance to see if I can change their thinking and try to prevent them from making the same mistakes that I made.’
He went on to say that his health was deteriorating and this could well be his last journey to see his daughter.
Time moved on and I asked him if I could accompany him to his train. He declined to start with and it took some time for me to persuade him that my train would only be 10 minutes behind his and at the same platform. I walked very slowly with him to his entry point. I said goodbye to Brian and wished him well.
I will never forget Brian.
While travelling back on the train I started to reflect on my career and what I have achieved. How my working life had affected my wife and children. I realised that I too have neglected my family and spending long hours travelling, working weekends, working late, missing tea. The list goes on.
Know the importance of work-life balance is the key. You only get one life. Make sure that you don’t make the same mistake as Brian and myself. I hope this makes you reflect on your life. I know that Brian has affected me in a chance meeting of approximately one hour.”
Living with Regret
Andrew’s message touched me when I read it and, in the light of what happened on that day 44 years ago, I believe that Brian’s message that Andrew shared with me is even more pertinent. Obviously, I wish I could turn back the clock and be nicer to my old Mum that morning. But more than that, I wish I could say that I had always got it right with my family but that would not be true. Oh sure, I could kid myself that all the time I spent in the office and out on the road was for the best possible reasons; you know, providing for my wife and kids etc.
But, as somebody much wiser than me once said, “Remember that in life the most important things aren’t things”
Thank you for allowing me to share this personal story with you today and to Andrew for sharing Brian’s story with me.