Thoughts on life and work and family

Confession: I’ve been spending quite a bit of time the last month or two contemplating priorities. I don’t know that there has been a single specific reason for this. It’s more been a constellation of events that have resulted in this pondering.

While I’ve been thinking, this JAMA Surgery research letter examining retired surgeons’ reflections on their careers was published. I think the findings are open to some interpretation based upon lived experiences, but what is clear to me is that you don’t see respondents saying they wish they had done less to support their own health and their families. And, again, how we care for ourselves and our families looks very different for each of us in terms of time, activities, geography…almost in any detail (see below mention of resource allocation).

In addition, this week Clayton Christensen died and the HBR has featured some of his seminal writing. That led me back to his essay, “How Will You Measure Your Life?“, now almost a decade old and no less powerful. He has three foundational questions that he asked his MBA students in 2010:

  • How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
  • How can I be sure that my relationships with my family can be a source of enduring happiness?
  • How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? (Note: I reframe this one as “How can I be sure I’ll live a life of integrity?”)

His discussions of resource allocation and marginal costs in how we live our lives speak to my economic geek’s heart, if I’m honest. Perhaps most importantly, these three questions really are (to me) the crux of our complicated lives. As Simon Sinek says more simply, find your Why?

Calvin and Hobbes has long been one of my favorite cartoons; in many ways I relate to Calvin’s “free-range” childhood with a very busy imagination (Mama C was an amazing enabler!). Cartoonist Bill Watterson is incredibly wise around issues of integrity and what success actually means. And I credit him perhaps most for this statement: “To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

What does this all mean? I truly don’t know. Yet. What I do know is that I’m thinking more deeply about work-life integration that I have in a long, long time and how to do that in a way that maintains my passion for my professional calling and my dedication to myself and my family. When and if I figure it out (either fully or in part), I promise to share. In the meantime, perhaps I’ll go hang out with Hobbes in that sunny field he wished for…