Leave your ego at home…

design, work-life balance

Any time I interview for a job, I am always very clear that my ego does not come to work with me when creating the designs and messaging for an organization. What does that mean?

When I work for an organization I am a conduit for their vision. While I have the tools and skills and knowledge to bring their vision to life, it is ultimately what they design that is produced through my labor. To me, this is an important distinction because when the client makes changes, I will make recommendations based on my education and years of training, but I will design to their request. Too often I see designers, or people in general, who put so much of their ego into their work and cause so much unnecessary stress and drama.

I understand there are some professions where your ego is interwoven in your career, and those are not the professions I speak of. But if you work in an office for an organization that is ultimately not created by or led by you, your ego should take a back seat to the decisions you make. Corporations bank off your devotion to your tasks and your ego investment to squeeze you for everything you are worth, but the problem is often it squeezes you towards the last inch of your sanity. Ask yourself, is it worth it?

Companies will replace you if you are unable to perform. That is a fact of life, a fact of capitalism, a simple and true fact. So while you should use your knowledge and education and skills to earn a living within either the private or public sector, bear in mind the fact that while companies are looking out for themselves, you should take a page from their book and do the same. Use your skills and squeeze them for every penny you can, but there is not enough money in the world to give them your heart and soul.

Mental health is one of the leading issues amongst us today, even before the pandemic. The truth is that ego that you use to defend a menial decision at work, and start wars with your coworkers, is the same ego that will betray you if you let it take the lead. It will tear apart the balance of your well-being and can lead to unstable grounds that quickly turn to quicksand into mental illness.

I used to lead with my ego. I was passionate and invested and determined to do things my way. I wanted to be seen and heard and respected. It almost destroyed me. When I left the organization I was with that I had driven all of my ego, heart, and soul into the mission and the people, there was nothing left but an empty desk and a faint memory that I was there – which I am sure will fade in due time.

So if you work for an organization – you can have passion, you can have heart, but make your ego take a back seat. Lead with your skills and glow with your knowledge, but the most valuable asset is the one willing to pivot and reconfigure at a moments notice. We know that now more than ever since the pandemic started.

It is a tricky balancing act – keeping your ego in check whilst putting in your best foot forward. It takes practice and a conscious effort to check oneself. One way that helps me is to watch those around me. I am currently working on a few projects where it is abundantly clear that there are some egos fully rooted in their decisions, and I am tasked with the challenge of navigating those waters carefully. Stroking egos and gently guiding them in the direction that brings us closer to a compromise.

This was just a quick note to work healthy – keep your head up, shoulder’s back, and egos at home. Deep breathes. You got this.

Work-Life Balance Matters

work-life balance

Today my dog died. He was my best friend, my biggest fan, the sweetest boy you could ever meet. His name was Charlie Brown. He died at 5:08am PST in my arms. I wrapped him in a blanket, scooped him up in my arms, and held him as close as possible. I put my hand on his chest and kissed his little forehead repeatedly. I pet him gently, and told him how much I love him. How he changed my life. How I will never be the same because of him, and without him. And, that it was okay for him to go. I felt his last two heartbeats, and saw his last two little breathes, and then he was gone.

10 days earlier…

Work was hectic, the project I was working on was all-consuming, and I found myself working straight through the day with little to no breaks, and sometimes at night. In those 10 days, I took Charlie for granted. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to him or his brother because work and kid made life action-packed. I didn’t snuggle with him as much as I should have. I didn’t take him out for a walk like I usually do. By the time I realized he was sick, I think it was far too late. I looked for vet appointments, tried to feed him gentler food, held him and kissed him and begged him to forgive me for not paying attention. He looked at me with his loving gaze, like he always did. But this time, his eyes were heavy, his body trembling. He was in really bad shape and at this point, too far gone. It came fast and furious, and blind-sided me when I was already at my limit with stress.

It was just days prior that he went on a walk with me, that we snuggled on the couch, that he kissed my nose. I didn’t see it coming, so I let work consume me. But that’s all it takes, taking your eye off what matters the most just for one moment – one defining moment that changes everything. In those 10 days, I was too tired to take him for a walk. Too tired to play with him. Too tired to cuddle with him and watch our shows. Too tired to brush his hair, bathe him, or put him in one of his cute little outfits. I was too tired because I broke my own rule – I let work get to me. And maybe that is okay for some people. Some people thrive on work, their identity is their career, their purpose. Those people have a different work-life balance than I aim for. I work to live, I do not live to work. I work to provide for my child, my dogs, and myself. So that I can afford for my tiny family to be comfortable and happy, and have as much quality time together as possible.

There is nothing wrong with being committed to your career. There is nothing wrong if you want to work 30 hours per week, or 80 hours, as long as you know your limits. As long as you know what your priorities are. That is what we call, work-life balance. Knowing how much work you are committed to, and how much of the rest of your life you are committed to. What priorities you hold, how you want to define who you are and what you want to do with your time. There is no wrong or right answer. It is an individual decision that no one else can make for you because at the end of the day you are the one that has to live with the choice. It is your heart and your conscious; like they say, whatever helps you sleep at night.

The takeaway from this story is this… Take time to learn what you value, and what you prioritize. Decide what your work-life balance is. Take time to figure it out now. Do not put it off, do not dismiss it, do not wing it. Figure it out and decide what your boundaries are, and set those boundaries, taper expectations. Because all it takes is that brief moment in time, when you look away and lose something you hold so dear to you.

**And I know what you’re thinking, it was just a dog. But he wasn’t just a dog. He was my little guy. An adoption turned into family. He was the biggest momma’s boy you could imagine. He snuggled with me, he gazed lovingly at me, didn’t sleep when I wasn’t home, wouldn’t eat when I was away. He put up with my toddler climbing and petting and screaming at him. He didn’t judge me, or get mad at me, even when I was a jerk. He was always happy to see me, always excited to go for a walk, ride in the car, or just get head scratches. He wasn’t a biter or a barker or a chewer. He was with me during times when I was lonely, when I was sad, when I was lost. He was the sweetest dog, easy going, healthy until the end. He was one of my priorities, and I forgot, and I hate that.

Find your work-life balance. Make sure it is something you can live with. Life is short. Especially for our little furry loved ones.

Best of luck, friends.