Episode 43

#043 - Nine Lies About Work Series: Lie #8

Published on: 1st June, 2021

Lie: Work/Life Balance Matters Most

Truth: Live-in-work matters most

We think the authors really hit their stride when they focus on the meta-work subjects and how to think about pulling those out of your team.

"Burnout isn't the absence of balance, but the absence of love."

Work is hard, the only way to do it sustainably is to have areas of work that you love. The number doesn't have to be that high - only around 20% and it's not a cure-all, because work is hard. BUT, if you love a good chunk of your work, you are most likely to be able to do it successfully and sustainably over time AND you avoid much of the downside like burnout and all of the healh-related issues that come along with it.

This chapter really spoke to me. I feel like I am most balanced in my life when I am professionally exhausted. I don't even need 40 hours a week to do that, but I need something interesting and challenging and difficult to work on with a sufficient degree of autonomy. If I don't have that in my professional life, I've found that my personal life suffers - even if I don't have that much on my plate.

"This person didn’t find this work—she didn’t happen upon it, fully-formed and waiting for her. Instead, she made it. She took a generic job, with a generic job description, and then, within that job, she took her loves seriously, and gradually, little by little and a lot over time, she turned the best of her job into most of her job."
"She tweaked and tweaked the role until, in all the most important ways, it came to resemble her—it became an expression of her. You can do the same. "

This is very much tied to strengths, this idea of leaning in on those, expressing them, growing them. This is the key that unlocks professional love.

Autonomy/Mastery/Purpose - Dan Pink and Cal Newport talk a lot about this. They would argue following your passions is silly. The probability that you have a passion that you are born with, that is something you are good at, will love for your entire life, and is actually useful are slim. They argue you build passion over time by building strength.

Story about Miles the anesthesiologist and what he loves about work, other similar doctors loved a different aspect, but they all had roughly the same job.

"The world won’t do your weaving for you—it doesn’t care about your red threads. The only person who can stop and be attentive enough to identify these threads, and weave them intelligently into the fabric of your work, is you."

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button or reach out at [email protected].


Robert Greiner 0:04

What are we talking about today? line number eight.

Charles Knight 0:07

Lie number eight.

Igor Geyfman 0:08



Charles Knight 0:08

There's ten, right?

Robert Greiner 0:10

Oh, there's nine, nine.

Charles Knight 0:11

Okay. Oh, this is the beginning of the end.

Robert Greiner 0:14

Yes. Next week will be our last in the nine lies about work series.

Charles Knight 0:19

Wow, we've come a long way.

Robert Greiner 0:21

Yeah. And we're two in a row like this. I really liked this chapter Igor, what do you think about it?

Igor Geyfman 0:27

Yeah, big fan. And I think even Charles will be a fan once we run him through it.

Robert Greiner 0:32

Yeah. So give some context, Charles. Since there's some nuance, just like the other chapters around what the words mean and stuff. So the lie is work life balance matters most, which on the surface causes you to raise an eyebrow. And then the corresponding truth is, love in work matters most

Charles Knight 0:49

love and work,

Robert Greiner 0:51

love, love in work, let's say in work, okay, love in work matters most interesting, but think the authors really hit their stride when they focus on tomato work subjects and how to think about them and how to pull them out of your team and explore them in conversations. This is an area worth mining, both personally and on your team. And the quote that sticks out, I think really towards the end of the chapter is burnout isn't the absence of balance, but the absence of love. And what they mean is like loving what you do. And so this whole fundamental premise of the chapter is like work is hard. The only it's toil, right, the only way to do it sustainably is to have material areas of the work that you do, that you really love and enjoy. And it was cool. They brought up this example of an anesthesiologist. Was that guy's name?


Igor Geyfman 1:36

I don't recall.

Robert Greiner 1:37

Yeah. And so they were interviewing doctors in the National Health healthcare system, which I think is in the UK, and there's a heavy degree of burnout. And they're, like, suicide rates are higher for physicians in this system, and things like that. And so they're truly like, worth exploring what's so crazy about the the work life balance, quote, unquote, of the physicians and the national healthcare service. And so they were interviewing this guy, this doctor, and he said, and he was really like, into his job. And as they started exploring it, he really he started out saying, I really don't like the burden of patients, and the burden of them getting well on me. I don't like dealing with them. I don't like the follow up visits. I don't like explaining things to them. And they're like, isn't that your job? What's going on here?

Igor Geyfman 2:25

His name is Mile by the way.

Robert Greiner 2:26

Miles. And so what about your job do you like cuz you seem very happy as an anesthesiologist, and he's I love in the room, the responsibility of someone teetering on in the balance of life and death, like they're there. You put them to sleep, they're like, you're never just out or awake, you're always like, there's always this pendulum. And so you have to keep someone like really balanced the whole time. They're on the operating table, sometimes for 16 hours. And he really likes the nerding out about the intricacies of making sure that the patients are like at perfect status within a procedure. And when they go ask other doctors that have the exact same job, some of them like the patient stuff, some of them really get into what is consciousness and exploring that and they all have the same job. But they all love, like very different parts of it. And it's those things that you find as you practice your craft that really create this aspect of work that keeps you going over the long period over a long period of time.

Igor Geyfman 3:28

And that's miles as loved in work.

Charles Knight 3:31

Yeah. Yeah.

Igor Geyfman 3:32

is like being able to ride that edge.

Charles Knight 3:36

I'm curious to the authors in the book. They're not, it doesn't sound like it because Miles didn't say this. They're not saying that you should. You need to find work that you love doing all the time, every time like day in and day out of the day.

Robert Greiner 3:53

They're saying the opposite. Yeah. Oh, St. Well, first, they're saying work is hard. The magic number is like 20%. If you love around 20% of your job, you're in a really good spot, and you actually get diminishing returns pretty quickly after that. And it's not, it's not a cure all, right. It's the thing that helps things be sustainable,

long term.

Charles Knight 4:12

That makes sense. Yeah. Because if they were saying like, Hey, you need to find something that you love doing. And if you find your follow your passion, you'll find a job that you love doing every hour of every day. I'm like that. I just think that's a myth. Like I think there's always going to be a part of our job. That is toil. I like that. I like that word. It's like work is toil. That certainly resonates with me, because there are parts of my job that I just do because I have to be legally bound to do it.

Robert Greiner 4:38

So you get to do the things later that

you love to do.

Charles Knight 4:40


yeah. And I have been I do this exercise with some people that I work with about designing your ideal week in is just imagine Sunday through Saturday. And with all the things that are on your plate, if you could ideally structure your week to do all of the things that you have to do. And that you want to do, how would you structure your week? Like, where would you block off time to do a workout? Or take the dog for a walk? Or do deep work and process email and do one on ones? And when people do that, I asked them, I was like, Alright, what are the best parts of your week? What are the highlights? Are you doing something every week that you love? Yeah, I don't think I use that word. But that, that totally resonates with me, Robert, you and I spoke at one of our onboarding training classes, that that's like a huge energy boost. For me, I love doing that. I rarely do it now, because we only have a handful of those a year. But I tried to find things that are like that, and disperse them throughout the year. So that have always got something to give me a boost. And

yeah, I like it. I'm a fan.

Robert Greiner 5:49

That's a really good point, you and I will give a dozen presentations, work related presentations over the course of a year ranging from six people to 130 people, none of that is mandatory. But very few people in our roles do that. It's something that we like doing, we get a lot of energy out of, and want to get better at. And we work that into our job description, right? Like those are things that needed to be done. But those weren't necessarily part of our job description. They said that in the book, there's a quote, they're talking about someone else, but I'll just read it, this person didn't find this work, she didn't happen upon it fully formed and waiting for her. Instead, she made it she took a generic job with a generic job description. And then within that job, she took her lab seriously and gradually, little by little a lot over time. And then she turned the best of her job into most of her job. And so that's what we're talking here. It's not immediate. But over the course of quarters and years and things like that, you can start to carve into your role, things that you really enjoy doing.

Igor Geyfman 6:51

Yeah, this is designing your job while you're in the job.

Robert Greiner 6:56

Yeah. And then about got your job becomes an expression of you. And if you can work that over time, then the the idea of the book is your professional life will be fulfilling and therefore will not negatively impact your personal life to the degree that it could

Igor Geyfman 7:12

throw a Greek word in there. Robert, you

remember that?

Robert Greiner 7:15

No, not at the top of my head. What did they say?

Igor Geyfman 7:17

The Greek word was? eudaimonia?

Robert Greiner 7:20

No, no, I don't remember that.

Maybe I just glossed over it.

Igor Geyfman 7:23

Yeah, but eudaimonia which they say sounds like a cleaning product actually means the fullest and purest expression of you and your most elevated state

Charles Knight 7:34

It's the good life.

Robert Greiner 7:35

And that's the aspiration. Right? Yeah,

Igor Geyfman 7:37

that's, that's the aspiration. And you're lucky if you get that 20% of the time they work,

Robert Greiner 7:42

the great thing is the encouraging thing, there is 20%. And that more than enough, that's all you have to hit. So it's not like it's got to be great every day.

Charles Knight 7:49

I think this makes a lot of sense, especially for us. We're at the stage in our career where we can adjust and adapt our job description, essentially, to include more of those things that give us joy that we love that we find meaningful, and that we derive meaning and value from when you're telling me about the story in the book about the anesthesiologist, right? That's miles.

Robert Greiner 8:13


Charles Knight 8:13

It reminded me of a story. I'm going to butcher it. I don't remember the details. But it was a it was about a janitor. It was about a janitor in a hospital actually. And I don't even remember where I learned this story. I think it was through maybe one of the meditation groups that I've been a part of. And I think there was a patient recovering in a room who was really just down on themselves just given maybe the prognosis that they received or the disease or maybe they just recovered from a surgery or something like that. And this janitor would come in and clean a clean the room, we're going every single day and would always seem to be cheery and happy. And the story is that they end up having a conversation and the patient asks the janitor, like, Hey, why are you so happy? You're a janitor, like you clean up trash, like you clean up the floors in places that are really messy, like in a hospital setting, and that person doesn't have the ability to change their job description, not in the way that we do. So I'm trying to offer this as a counterpoint. And maybe an alternative view of this. Finding love in work the janitor responded back with Hey, I'm not a janitor. Like my job is to create the most pristine, clean environment to accelerate health and recovery for people in the hospital. Whoa, that's like a major reframing of what their job description is and why they're doing what they're doing. Because the job description is a clean the floors, X number of times every hour every day or something like that. empty the trash and this person's like no I want to clean the windows so you can look out and see the beautiful trees in the just outside the room. I want to make sure that you've got a pleasant smelling room Because that's important for your recovery. And that's not changing your job description. That is a, that's something else.

Robert Greiner:

And I guarantee you, that was not the intention. When that job was started, that was something that was chisel away at over time and satisfaction that was gleaned from a job that was less than ideal. Most of the time,

I'm pretty sure that person did not go into that job thinking those things. That's a distillation of maybe yours, and a satisfaction that's grown out of what you work on. And that's, it ties into strengths as well. So for Dan Pink Cal Newport talks about this autonomy mastery purpose, if you're not in a position to choose your own destiny, you can certainly develop mastery over your craft. And that unlocks the autonomy side later, and helps drive the purpose discussion. That's a self reinforcing loop. So the point is to focus on mastery, like, I want to make this area pristine. There's a mastery component there that unlocked the other two pieces of autonomy and purpose, I think is how that equation works. So if you're not sure where to start, I think honing your craft focusing on that is, is the right place,

Charles Knight:

I would say they found purpose in what they were doing. And I think you can do that without mastery. Right? It's like they Yeah, they probably hated their job, maybe, I don't know, maybe they're grateful for it. But I guess maybe what I'm trying to say is that even if you don't love anything in your job, if you can change your job, like what we're describing, and do more of what you what gives you energy, great. And if you can do that over time, wonderful. But I think also it's, it's possible to keep doing the same things that you're doing. And think about reframing the purpose of what you're doing. Right. And maybe that's what I'm saying.

Robert Greiner:

I think maybe purpose draws people, I think that's super rare, though, I would say like the this idea that you have, or a probability that you have a passion that you're born with a just inherently and it's something that you're good at. There's a lot of things I'm passionate about, like golf, I'm terrible at but it's something you're good at something you'll love your entire life. And it's actually useful, like the combination of those things are really slim. And the argument, I think, is that you build passion over time, by focusing on mastery. And if you're if we're extrapolating this to a team or an organization, you can articulate through messaging through some of the rituals we talked about in prior episodes, this idea of purpose. But like we've seen with the anesthesiologist example, like though, that comes in different flavors for different people, like you really can't control that, you really can't affect that too much as a leader, but you can help with the mastery and autonomy side. And so I think that's a very healthy place to focus. Both personally, I'd the individual level, and then at the team level as well.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, that is so true, like meaning and purpose cannot be given to a person that has to be discovered by the individual. Yeah, yeah, like that, as leaders, we do have the ability to influence and encourage the autonomy and the mastery side.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. And then towards the end, they use an analogy of weaving a thread, but say the world's not gonna doesn't care about what you like, or what your purpose is, like the only person who can stop and be attentive enough to identify those is you and how do you weave those intelligently into the fabric of your work like that sole responsibility is on the individual. And then if you are leading a team or an organization, having the discussions to probe and help your people think about those questions while focusing on that mastery competence side and giving delegation and autonomy to do their jobs and do it well, without micromanagement or things like that are, I think right in the sweet spot of how operating as an effective leader what that looks like.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, so back to work life balance. I tell people in our onboarding class, that's a myth. Like there is no such thing as work life balance. What do you all say to that? I think it's let me give you the more I say it's a myth. But it's a very useful thing to talk about, because it is a source of pain and difficulty for people. But I just think it's the wrong mental model for discussing something deeper, which I in my onboarding class, I talked about perma V, actually. And I say hey, but more useful mental model is thinking about well being overall using perma v which we've talked about before. But what do you all say when people come and talk about work life balance? You talk about autonomy, mastery purpose, do you talk about balancing work in life? How do you typically respond when you see somebody burnt out or struggling to juggle life? What's your typical go to advice?

Robert Greiner:

Igor, I'll let you go first dude.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, so this is advice that I give to myself in my inside voice, but then I also share with others on my team that are processing through this sort of thing. And one of the things that I noticed with myself is that feeling of being tired or whatever it actually doesn't always tend to come with like the number of hours that you're working I think it connects to things that like, give you energy, and let's take Miles, then this anesthesiologist, if he had to spend most of his time on nothing and say most of us, and let's say 20 hours a week, working with patients explaining the drug, cocktails of that he uses to them and checking in on them. And that's all he did, he'd probably be burnt out, but you stick miles in a room for 60 hours. And he's just turning the knobs when keeping people in that perfect sense of stasis. And he'd probably be full of energy. And so my advice is to find the things that are energy producing, and invest more. And it sounds like counterintuitive advice sometimes because somebody comes to you, okay, look, I'm burnt out, I think the most natural advices reaction is, oh, let's figure out a way for you to work less. And, and I think that's part of it. But it's part of doing less of the things that burn you out and finding more things that give you energy, and like leaning into those. Because if you spend more time into energy producing activities, they're actually going to help you build resilience in the areas where stuff that's draining that you may not be able to like very quickly pass off. And those energy producing things also may not be work related. They may be things in your personal life, maybe working out or even like volunteering. In fact, for me, I really enjoyed like working with kids, and volunteering for this organization locally, to help kids learn engineering, and those sorts of things. And even though that added quite a bit of time, every week, overall, I felt like I had more energy when I was back at work. Because I was really even though I was spending more time doing stuff, I didn't feel that way. And so that's probably my advice is find things that give you energy and lean into those. Because you don't always have the power to reduce your energy draining activities, especially right away, like overtime, that's probably more plausible. But those things normally aren't just like a switch, you can turn off. So that's mine. And

Robert Greiner:

so you're you're deeply aligned with the direction of the book.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, yeah. And, and I had this attitude, I think before a book, and when I read it in the book, I was like, yeah, this makes complete sense. To me,

Robert Greiner:

I feel like I'm most balanced in my personal life when I'm professionally exhausted. And I don't really, sometimes don't even need 40 hours a week to do that. But I definitely need something interesting, challenging, difficult to work on, with a sufficient degree of autonomy. That's actually one thing, if you want to really burn me out at work like ultra fast, it's to take away autonomy, like I really rebel against that. So that's a key, if there's a thing that I love about work, it's the ability to have to chart my own path. And so if I don't have that, in my professional life, that my personal life suffers as well. Even if I don't have that much on my plate, like a border collie, in that regard, that balance that you said, Charles, I think the term balance is the right term, our definition, our connotation of that when we talk about work, life balance is out of whack. We don't mean what it really means, which is a ongoing adjustment and tweaking of the things you have in your life from a holistic, like mental health perspective. We just mean workload and number of hours per week. And so there's definitely it's definitely a more nuanced discussion, I think, is my response to your question. A practical thing, though, I do recommend, and we talked about this before, too, is sometimes you just need to take a break, though, take a week off, if you can reset sometimes too, and really use that time to recharge a little bit. And then you can come back, having missed a week or two of meetings and think the world goes on without you. And you can see you like Igor said, you may not have the power to remove all the stuff you don't like doing from your job. I don't know many people who do. But there's probably some things that kind of go on just fine without you. And if you're anything like me, you hold on to stuff because it makes you feel like you're important and needed when you actually don't need to do it at all anymore. And so if you can stop doing some low energy things, that would be good. Another thing you could do is look forward in your calendar four, five, six weeks, right? You have probably hardly anything going on there. And so this stuff that kind of creeps in, how useful is it? And maybe there's some tweaking to do there. So from removing the bad aspect. I think I'm in line with y'all as well there.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I think what I typically do is tell people to take some time off, but I don't emphasize the time off piece. I actually emphasize the re entry piece. It's like Alright, take some time off. Now before you come back and you jump right into back into the same old meetings, the same old responsibilities. What are you going to what do you want to change? And that's where that ideal week kind of comes into play a little bit and it's interest because some people when I give them that exercise, they immediately latch on. And they think very holistically, and idealistically about it. And they it looks pretty good. And then it's something that we can incrementally work towards. But like what you said, Robert, about finding that the tweaks here and there as time goes on, it's one of the co founders of our company would say its work life wobble, not a work life balance, which I always like the wobble, I think that more accurately captures the our day to day experience. But there are some people with some with a break, even with a break, you take off some of that immediate pressure, you ask them, What is an ideal state for you to be in when you return, they draw a complete blank. And I want to know, I guess maybe it's working 50 hours instead of 50. Now, I think we can do better there in it. And I wonder if in, in some situations, people who feel like they're out of balance, if they feel like they lack the power and the authority to do anything different. And if you're burnt out, I think probably most people feel that way. I know when I'm burnt out, I feel like I have no control. I was like, I really have no control to change what I do when I work, how much I work. And so that that's why it's a it's a tough place to reason in that situation. But there's I when we when I'm talking to people about ideal week, and we identify a really high priority thing that is an urgent that people want to do, but they seemingly can't, I asked them a simple question is, hey, if they have kids, I asked if you had to take your kid to the hospital at this time, either planned or an emergency, you would drop whatever you're doing, you would go do it. Right with conviction easily, hopefully. I'm sure maybe there are people out there that that wouldn't there are certain things that we are absolutely willing to say, takes precedence over any work related thing. Hands down, no debate. But we need more of those sorts of things. Right? Why does it have to be Oh, I got to go to the doctor. And that that allows people to feel like they have the pass to skip a meeting, or to move or recurring meeting.

I don't know, it's just very interesting how we don't do that more often. For things like

Robert Greiner:

I think we do conflate, like not being able to set boundaries or having boundaries put upon us professionally. Like we think they're much more immutable, non negotiable than I think they are almost in every job. Yeah, I think you're right.

Charles Knight:

What I like what you said is, Hey, take two weeks off, the world keeps going the project or the program or the business didn't come to a grinding halt, because you left, that's a good reminder that I think can help to loosen some of those rigid, fake, you know, boundaries that we place around how we need to spend our time. Anyway, rambling a little bit. But hopefully some of that made sense.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, I think we're aligned. So we have some practical tips here. Definitely figuring out what you love about your job. And I think in the book, they talk about just keep a log, when you do something and you get a feeling of I hate this, I dread this, write it down. And when you get really energized and your sense of time collapses, and you don't know where the three hours went, that you just spent working on something, if you get really energized about something, write that down, too. And over time, you'll have a pretty good understanding of the things you enjoy the things you don't, you probably already know, you could probably get 80% of the 80%. Correct. Right off the bat. And simplistically, try to do more of the things you love, or at least find the things you love, and then do less of the things you don't, the ideal week is a great exercise to figure that out some of the five year planning and those types of things could be helpful to it, it makes you think outside of the here and now which I think is good. Take some time off if you can, if you're a leader, try to spark these conversations within your team, you should make probably know what aspects of everyone on your team, what they love and what they don't. And doesn't mean you have to do anything about it right off the bat. But it would help to know, and I think over and this is a thing that is built and cultivated and tweaked over time. These are not big shifts that are made immediately. But this is a journey.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I agree. 100%. Cool.

Robert Greiner:

Any other thoughts on this one?

Igor Geyfman:

No, I just I think we're in total alignment on the approach here. And I do agree that Charles it is good to take that break, and then re enter with a different approach. Because if you just think that time off isn't gonna solve your issue, and you take a week off, two weeks off, and you come back and if it's the same mode, you're very quickly going to find yourself back in the same place. You were before you left.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, you let me tell a quick story on where I learned that this was after my first sabbatical. Gosh, maybe this was five years ago, I took three months, I spent a week in the mountains meditating in silence. You all remember that? And right after that, about a week later, I started back at work. And so coming from this had been out of work for For three months, I was in the mountains, very introspective, very silent, very slow paced, jumping right back into management team life with recurring meetings and pressures and stresses. And the first meeting that I attended, on the very first day back, I physically felt ill like I felt nauseous, and I had a headache. I was like, Wait a second, like this. Some of this is just re entry period. And I had an extreme break right now this this is not two weeks, this was three, three months. But I had a necessity, I needed to think it's like, hey, do I really need to, to do this the way that I did it before. And I really started to experiment with changing things up. And some of it was just changing my mentality about the meetings that I was going into some of them it was like, No, I probably don't need this meeting anymore. But it certainly was, Robert, to your point. It's not like I just declared calendar bankruptcy, and declined everything. I didn't do that. But but it is interesting, we get used to we get used to a certain pace, a certain degree of stress. And if we're resilient, we can handle some ups and downs. If we're not, that's when we get into burnout. And taking a break can help us to see how out of whack we were. When before we're taking that break. And we owe it to ourselves and the people around us and to our teams and our families and friends to to be thoughtful about how we're showing up. Which is why I love any holistic view of a person when we talk about well being or work life balance or anything like that. So I enjoy the conversation. Thanks, guys.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, yeah, it was good. So one more leadership is the thing, which I haven't read. This is the most confusing one. So I'm looking forward to it.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, I think it'll be good. I think it's an important one to to, I think read because some people might think that leadership is out of their reach, because they don't have one of the common traits that's connected with, quote, being a leader. And so I think this chapter turns that on its head,

Robert Greiner:

okay, if they go down that path? I think I'm gonna agree.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I was gonna say that seems to align with Robert, your philosophy for sure that you've talked about here.

Robert Greiner:

It's not so much a philosophy as it is universal law of physics or fact that leadership is a series of behaviors and behaviors can be learned. Yeah. Like, and anyone has those. If you have the ability to exhibit a behavior and learn from feedback, then you can be a leader. Yeah, no problem. So I haven't read it yet. But I will have the next time we talk and that's the perspective I'll bring. So there you go. Cool. Yeah. All right. Good talking to you.

Igor Geyfman:


Charles Knight:


Robert Greiner:

Enjoy your long weekend.

All right. Bye. That's it for today. Thanks for joining. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @wannagraabcoffee or drop us a line at [email protected]

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