"I blew it" the final words of Sam Walton on his deathbed, the hugely successful entrepreneur, businessman and constant contender for the top of the worlds richest rich lists. The man who built Walmart into a multi-mega corporation from a small general store, revolutionising the retail industry into what we recognise it as today. So how exactly did he blow it?
The truth is that in those final moments Sam Walton suddenly realised where he had failed. He had made his business and fortune the priority all of his life, and no-one could deny or do anything but applaud his entrepreneurial spirit and depth of success - in business. Yet in those last moments he realised that wasn't what his life should have been about. He knew he had never really been there as a father, husband or a friend and that an incomplete business life would have been far more preferable than an incomplete 'human life.' What Sam Walton taught us about priorities in those last minutes of his life is far more valuable than anything he ever taught us in the world of business.
I wanted to talk about this today because back at the end of last year at the Hacking Happiness conference it was a subject bought up by a fantastic organisation called The Happy Start Up School. An organisation who are on a mission to change the way that we grow our businesses and take care of our futures. Whether you are an entrepreneur at heart or are looking for better connection in your daily working life I think their ethos can give everyone a lot to think about.
Don't get me wrong, it's not about saying that people with great entrepreneurial spirit, passion and drive to get up every day, work so hard to make success happen and achieve professional success are doing something wrong. Instead it's about helping people achieve that kind of success without sacrificing their own lives and the happiness and wellbeing of themselves and those around them.
With a reported 72% of workers currently unhappy and disengaged in the work place the Happy Start Up School believe that the companies of the future have a responsibility to create environments with a sense of purpose, a strong culture and happy and engaged employees. Plus you'll be surprised just how many companies are beginning to adopt the same mantra.
Evan Williams, former CEO of Twitter who once adopted the work at 100 miles an hour even if you're running on empty approach is now a proponent of ensuring you have a good work-life balance. Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook leaves work at 5:30pm to ensure she is home in time to have dinner with her children. It's no longer about burning yourself down to the ground to succeed.
The Happy Start Up School have realised that companies with a purpose at their heart will create meaningful work that their employees can engage with and that this in turn will lead to better long term success. They encourage people to think of their legacy strategy not their exit strategy - what do you want to be remembered for? For the speaker at the conference being a great dad was far higher on the list than wealth, business and professional success. Make yourself rich in the new currency of time and balance and not just money.
I believe that whatever our professional path or journey we can all learn from these foundations and ideas and use them to move forward with a far more balanced approach. It might seem idealistic but I truly believe that balance is more important than burn out.
As demonstrated by the graph above, if we think about what we do well, what we want to do, balanced with what people will pay for - somewhere in the middle is that optimal happy place that will enable us to lead a fulfilled professional life without completely sacrificing who we are as people.
Not only that but our fellow colleagues, customers and the teams in which we work will sense that purpose, that authenticity and transparency and engage with us far better than before.
So as Richard Branson quite famously advocates, work hard but play even harder! Make everyday unique and when opportunity knocks, open the door and make every single second count.