The Latest from the ABM Experts
June 26, 2019
A View from The Other Side: Living with a Workaholic
Written by Sangram Vajre
It started with the occasional missed dinner.
A few late emails here and there.
But it didn’t stop. Workaholism isn’t always obvious; it’s an insidious force. And Carlos Hidalgo was no exception.
On the latest episode of the FlipMyFunnel Podcast, Carlos interviewed his wife Susanne Justice-Hidalgo, Co-Founder and CFO/COO at VisumCx, about what it felt like to view the 90-hour work weeks from the other side of the glass—and what the toll was on their family.
What We’ll Cover in This Post:
- On the Other Side of Every Entrepreneurial Adventure Is a Relationship
- Why Family Dinners Matter More Than Ball Games
- What Would You Do Differently?
- A Message to Those Buying Into “Hustle Porn…”
- Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Boundaries
- Workaholism Actually Makes You Less Effective
This post is based on a podcast with Susanne Justice-Hidalgo. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below.
On the Other Side of Every Entrepreneurial Adventure Is a Relationship
Carlos’s book, The Unamerican Dream, comes out June the 24th. It’s written for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and anybody in any stage of life who finds that they are being sucked into a perpetual treadmill in their life. It tells the story of Carlos starting an agency in 2005 and slowly, in a sense, leaving his family behind.
For every entrepreneurial adventure, there’s another side: a relationship. Susanne lived that other side. So what was it like for her?
“Well, in a word I would say ‘lonely.’ When we first started things out with your first venture, the timing of it was perfect. Our youngest kid was going to kindergarten, so I was going to be going back to work. And you’d be at home. You had been traveling extensively with the previous job.
“I think everybody starts these things out with really, really good intentions and you did as well. But I think what starts out as sort of this team effort quickly dissolves, and it becomes all consuming. It’s really, really easy to put the relationships in your life on the back burner because the needs of the company seem so immediate.
“It comes about very, very slowly. It’s just an occasional late email here and there, or an occasional missed dinner, and it just ends up snowballing.
“You get to a point where you look back and say, ‘How did we even get to this point?’”
Why Family Dinners Matter More Than Ball Games
Parents who work tend to overly focus about the “big stuff.” I’ve got to make sure I’m there for the concert, the recital, the ball game. But the dinners, the wrestling with kids . . . those matter just as much.
“I think we put way too much emphasis on those big things,” Susanne said. “’Well, I was there for the big game. I was there for their gymnastics meet.’” But the real, true connection is built in those times of having dinner together and talking about your day and laughing a lot, wrestling with your kids, reading a story to them at night ,and tucking them in.
“I don’t think we connect deeply as human beings by sitting in an audience at a concert. So it was sad for me that those were the things you were missing out on. You just couldn’t see at the time the effect that that was having.
“The mistake I made looking back was excusing those things, making excuses for you with the children rather than allowing you to have to deal with that yourself with them. I always acted as a buffer; looking back, I wouldn’t have done that. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t abdicate you from your responsibilities at home.
“Things that you were normally responsible for I just went ahead and picked up the slack, thinking that’s what I was supposed to do. And then you get to a point where you stop feeling necessary at home, and then it makes it even easier for you to not be there. I was more than capable, but I wish now that I had let the chips fall a little bit.
One of Carlos’s mentors, Keith VanderWeele, used to say this: “If I’m given the opportunity of quality time versus quantity time with my children, I’m always going to pick quantity because it is within the quantity of time that the quality can happen.”
What Would You Do Differently?
“I wish that I had had a better understanding of how much ego, self worth, and identity is wrapped up in someone’s career—particularly for men. I loved what I did and I did have a lot of identity tied to it. So I understand it to some extent, but there was a lack of understanding of how much your identity was tied to success. I wish I understood how much we as human beings can attach our identity to other people rather than finding it in ourselves.
“I know as a mom, that’s a really, really easy thing to do as well. We see it all the time, especially with stay at home moms or women who have given up a career in order to stay home with their children. We are so wrapped up in the success of our children because if our children are successful then we are successful. And if our children do something wrong, we want to think that someone’s a bad parent because their children made a mistake.”
A Message to Those Buying Into “Hustle Porn…”
There are plenty of “thought leaders” out there publicly talking about working a 95-hour work week with pride. What would you say to those who are buying into “hustle porn”?
“I’d say whatever payoff you think you’re going to have probably isn’t worth it. I’m always curious about certain individuals that are wildly successful in the business world. I always want to talk to their partners; a lot of them have failed relationships in their past.
“I think there’s a reason for that. You can’t do all things and be all things to all people all the time. And I frankly just didn’t understand the idea of finding success and not being able to just sit and enjoy it for a minute without becoming consumed with the next thing. I am more of a “sit back and enjoy the simple things in life” kind of person.
“So I never want to talk to the big cheese person that’s made all the money and had all this success: I always want to talk to the people that are behind that person and see what life’s been like for them. Because I think for most successful people, they probably went through a couple relationships to get there.”
Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Boundaries
Research says that 70% of individuals struggle with work-life balance despite the reams of articles that have been written. So instead, Carlos adopted “work-life boundaries.” He had to change fairly drastically because of where he was coming from. He asked Susanne to talk about that change.
“I think the first thing is just the open and honest communication that is continual and never stops. And this is kind of a tricky area for me because I’m a naturally laid back person, naturally very accommodating. I’m not a nag.
“So even you establishing boundaries has been foreign to me. Because if you need to do something I usually say, ‘Yeah sure, that’s fine.’ But I also needed to voice things in a reasonable way. When things were eroding, I needed to make sure that I wasn’t doing that sort of thing again, but also not policing you.”
The ask of Susanne from Carlos was, “Let’s do this in community. Rather than me saying, ‘Hey, I need you to hold me accountable,’ let me be accountable to you.”
Workaholism Actually Makes You Less Effective
Plenty of people, in response to Carlos and Susanne’s story, say, “This is so unrealistic. It can’t be done; you don’t understand. It’s easy for you, you guys own your own business.”
But as they’ve started to evangelize the idea of work-life boundaries, plenty of people in the corporate world are seeing benefits.
Carlos said, “I’m finding managers saying, ‘I’m getting more out of our staff, more out of our employees and our team when we allow this.’
“I find myself much more effective in the work I’m able to do, my work product is better, and I know for a fact that relationally in all aspects our life things are better than when I was in an unhinged pursuit of success and giving the family leftovers.”
“Yeah, you were completely high strung all the time. There was no relaxing, even when you were “relaxing.” You could sense it; it was palpable.
“Hustlers believe that they can compartmentalize things and I think that that’s an absolute fallacy because everything we do affects every other part of our life. All of our commitments take significant energy, and when energy’s going into one thing it’s getting pulled out of another.”