“You must be very busy. How many days are you on the road each year?”
I am asked this question following just about every conference presentation and at some point during most school safety consultations for local districts. Most people are surprised by my answer. I will share that answer with you very shortly.
But first, let me share that I am most surprised when I hear other consultants and presenters respond to that same question with answers like, “I am on travel and away from home for more than 300 days each year.” Simple math tells me this means these persons are home for a little more than an average of five days per month.
While my initial response is along these lines of, “Sounds like fuzzy math or some heavy fluff story to me,” let’s assume these national trainers and consultants are accurate when saying they are traveling more than 300 days each year. The more important question is not whether they’re telling the truth but instead, “Where is your life balance?”
I love my profession. It is so rewarding to work with teachers, principals, students, school support staff, first responders, board members, superintendents and others in the school safety field. In terms of the world of work, there is nothing more rewarding than getting paid to do something you treasure so much and that is so rewarding.
But even more importantly, I love my wife and children. I love volunteering in our school-community. I love watching — and even periodically assisting with coaching — kids’ sports. And I love a spontaneous family movie trip, a family dinner out, family vacation time, and other non-work aspects of life which balance out the often-chaotic, sometimes violent, and periodically frustrating aspects of running a national business that can involve crises, violence and trauma to school-communities.
In my lifetime, I have watched a 60-year-old police chief friend be buried after a sudden death from a heart attack, leaving behind a wife and young son. I have listened to national expert “road warriors” from various professional disciplines who are on their third divorce, some who are heavy-handed on the alcohol intake, too many who miss their children and major family milestones, and others who appear so worn and aged that they look like they were just hit by a bus. Through them, I have learned the value of life-balance.
When I hear the “more than 300 days each year” claims by some consultants, I have to wonder what type of husband or wife, father or mother, partner, friend, etc. they are to their dear ones and what they are missing in life. I wonder what poor quality of individual attention and work they must be giving their clients if they are going into one job thinking about rushing off to their next job. And I wonder how they will feel when one day they realize that their marriage to their frequent flyer account has taken priority over their commitment to their spouse, children and quality of live.
So my answer when people ask how many days I am on the road each year is, “Not nearly as many as you think. I may be gone for a couple days, but I block off home and family time when I return. And if I am on travel for a week, I block off time to stay in town for a few weeks after so my family time does not suffer.” The reason: Because I do not want to become the person I end up talking about in my presentations: The disconnected, dysfunctional and disillusioned member of what at one point was, or could have been, a functional and happy family.
Our clients get individual attention, quality reports, cutting-edge analysis and insights into best practices and future thinking, etc. But my family also gets priority attention, quality time, and top billing in my world. Doing so makes my life better balanced than that of many others and hopefully brings a better “me” to both my family and to those I encounter professionally.
So I now ask educators, parents and safety professionals: Do you have life balance?
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