How Work-Life is Really About Marriage and Other Lessons from Oprah
Rob Pasick* is an expert on work-life, leadership, men, and marriage. He’s been researching, writing, and living these topics since the early 90s – you’ve probably even seen him on Oprah. He’s also been married for 45 years which surely makes him an something of an expert.
People congratulate Rob on 45 years of marriage and ask him how he’s done it. “It’s hard work,” he says, “and in the 45th year you have to work just as hard as you did in the first.. It takes a lot of energy and investment.which we men often fail to provide.” This is Rob’s unique perspective on work-life as well: Our happiness in our primary relationship is a mirror to our happiness overall. The challenge is that marriage is the place where it’s easiest to fail. It’s the relationship we are most likely to take for granted because it doesn’t come with the same external goals and metrics that typically occur with our work.
Now in his 60s, work-life integration is easier for Rob – now it’s more about doing what he loves to do and what comes naturally. He is a psychologist, executive coach, professor, blogger, and connector. His work is to help make people’s dreams come true, and he doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
When he and his wife were younger and raising children though, it was a lot tougher. They were always a dual career family and juggling all the responsibilities was no easy task. He gets it. And he sees a lot of young people through the classes he teaches. He advises them to determine how they will spend their time by considering four things:
- What are you passionate about?
- What are you good at?
- What do you value?
- What can you get paid to do?
At the intersection of these points is the priority for where we should be spending our time. Rob also knows that these are all part of a delicate equilibrium. When a young professional is just leaving college, it may be more important to prioritize pay over passion, so it’s possible to pay the bills and pay off college loans. Over time though, passion may receive a greater weighting in the decision-making about career choices.
What advice would he give to young people? “Build goodwill,” he says. Instead of striving to be the smartest or the most aggressive, seek to build relationships. Manage emotional reactions, and don’t burn bridges. In our interconnected world personal skill is probably less important than reputation. Treat people fairly. This applies to good leadership as well. Leaders should treat people well. Even those who work on their own – outside of formal organizational structures – benefit most from being decent humans. In the end, reputation matters most.
Rob also notes gender differences. Women are typically more strapped with the responsibilities of keeping the house and orchestrating family activities. Despite our societal emphasis to the contrary, this is still the case. So how do we turn the talk into action? Women should keep demanding more from men, says Rob. And men should listen better and make their family responsibilities a priority.
This priority was highlighted for Rob in a moment of both high and low. When his first two books were published*, Men in Therapy: The Challenge of Change and Awakening from the Deep Sleep: A Powerful Guide for Courageous Men, he was in high demand on the talk circuit. While he and his family were on vacation, he received a call to be on Oprah. He left their vacation and flew out to be on the show immediately. It was an obvious choice for Rob – after all, this was Oprah! But his family was frustrated that he had left. It was a moment of realization for Rob about the importance making choices that prioritize time with family. They were so much more important than Oprah.
This is the crux of work-life then, spending time with the people that mean the most, doing the work you love, and investing in marriage – and relationships – from the first year, through the 45th year, and beyond.
Would you like to tell your story? If so, let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Why? One of the foundations of Bringing Work to Life is abundance: the idea that it is possible to find fulfillment, have it all, and avoid the trade-offs between work and life. After all, work and life aren’t separate things to be placed in containers, but part of an integrated whole of a satisfying life. Another foundation of Bringing Work to Life is the idea of multiple right answers. As we’re all seeking ways to bring work to life – and bring life to work – we can learn from each other’s unique solutions and stories. I’d love to learn about your story!
Tracy Brower is the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations.