Redefining Success: Straddle the Fence of Work & Family

Aaron McHugh

Redefining Success: Straddle the Fence of Work & Family

I find it difficult to always be in balance.

Usually work, life or play is taking up more than their fair share of the allotted time between sunrises and sunset.

The biggest tug-of-war is between family and work.

The older I get the more I see how driven we are as a nation to “succeed”.

The irony of that quest is that the definition is largely driven from deep within us.

We each define and adapt our own definition of success.  There are of course external definitions that influence our belief system.

How your neighbor or your brother or your co-worker defines success likely does not align like a dovetail joint with your version.

Success is making a ton of money

I had dinner with a guy a few months ago and his definition went like this.

“I care about making money”.

He and his family have aligned around the idea that Dad goes to work and mom cares for the kids.

In his early forties he believes that once he banks his millions he will be able to nestle into a life long practice of investing in his family.

The truth is he already has a million dollars or more socked away, but that first million or two was not enough.

He kisses his kids and boards his next flight to go fight in foreign wars on foreign lands.

Will his theory work?

Maybe he’s right?

Can we maintain hyper focus on our work for days, weeks, months, years and decades and then make a switch to our family later?

My experience says no.

Time is not a renewable commodity.

Relationships are fragile and largely dependent upon continual deposits over time.

In home mortgage terms, you can’t make a balloon payment once per year.

Healthy relationships simply don’t tolerate annual airdrop care packages.

What if family always comes first?

I have other friends who are so engaged with their family it is worth taking note.

They attend every one of their kid’s practices, volunteer in their kid’s classroom and help make magical birthday parties a reality.


I’m not just talking about women here.  I mean I have guy friends who show up and make their kid’s lives amazing.

I’ve tried to take a few cues from their example.

There is a balance

I’ve seen plenty of people who allow the pendulum to swing so far towards this direction that their families lack sustainable provision.

Lot’s of time invested and great relationships but challenges arise when it comes time to send your kids to the dentist to get a cavity filled.

Physical presence is not enough

I’ve learned that being fully present is the single best gift you can offer your family, co-workers, employees, friends or acquaintances.

I wanted to believe for years that if you were there in physical presence that was enough or at least good enough.

The reality is that physical presence is useless if we are not also emotionally present.

The crux then becomes how do we maintain both physical and emotional engagement in both worlds?

How do we straddle the fence?

How do you afford to take your kid to the dentist and be emotionally engaged in his/her life?

How do you afford to go on a nice vacation with your wife and be around on a Thursday evening to enjoy a glass of wine on the deck?

Straddling the fence of these two invitations is difficult.

I’ve met very few people who actually have navigated the fence straddling very well.

I have met thousands of people who have a lot of money.

I have met many fewer who have a lot of money and simultaneously have great relationships with their children, wife and friends.

Which side of the fence do you want to be on?

How precarious might your journey be if you attempt to occupy positions of influence on both sides of the fence?

Be thoughtful.

Walk on purpose.