Why Work/Life Balance and Success Cannot Co-Exist

Why Work/Life Balance and Success Cannot Co-Exist

Often times when I am consulting with candidates as to their motives for exploring a new opportunity, more often than not the idea of work/life balance surfaces.

Source: Huffington Post

My assessment is that most companies promote a work/life balance philosophy, and it is probably actually available.

You show up every day at 8 AM, you take an hour lunch, you check off all the boxes, you leave at 5:00 PM. Monday through Friday. Fifty-two weeks a year, less your vacation and holidays. Mission accomplished.

That’s all well and good.

But please don’t talk to me about work-life balance and your dissatisfaction with how you are compensated, or your lack of advancement opportunities, in the same breath.

Just the other day I read a comment somewhere on LinkedIn from an engineer who was complaining that if he had to do it all over again who would choose another profession because the civil engineering profession does not pay well, and one is not able to earn a six-figure income until he is well into his 40’s.

To that, I call BS.

I can reasonably suspect that that same individual would feel the same way in any other profession. No matter what your profession is, if all the doors are closed and locked then you’ve got to kick some doors down and make shit happen.

There are many talented and driven civil engineers, who are making six-figures in their 30’s. And if they are making north of $100K in their thirties, and they maintain that same drive, they will go places. Their annual incomes will surpass the $200k mark. They often become shareholders. They morph into amazing executive leaders who will then set the example and challenge the next generation of engineers to one-up them. I’m telling you this because I’ve seen it happen. And I suspect you have to.

The most successful people I know…in recruiting, in civil engineering, in my social network where I live, and in my circle of friends and family, do not work 40-hour work weeks. Keep in mind everyone’s definition of “success” is not the same.

Source: Danny Kennedy Fitness

If your definition of success does not involve the sacrifice of your time in doing the things you want to do, then you can work that 40 hour work week and still earn a decent living. Don’t get me wrong. If you enjoy working 8-5 and enjoy managing from the middle and would rather sacrifice income for time that’s awesome, there is nothing wrong with that, and in fact, I applaud you for recognizing that about yourself. And if that is the route you take, be the best damn middle manager there is!

Personally, my definition of success is consistently delivering results over a sustained period of time that supersede my peers in my industry. And by my peers, I mean my circle of trusted, high earning, civil engineering recruiters whose friendship and advice and trust I lean on heavily, but with whom also I love to compete against.

We inspire each other.
We trust each other.
We share ideas with each other.
We encourage each other.
We celebrate each others’ successes.
We lift each other up when we are down.
We do business together.


This unspoken competition leads to some wonderfully satisfied clients, who by the way define success in the same way I do. This leads to a generous income which allows me to not only take good care of my family both in the present and future but to contribute to my community in ways that I would otherwise not be able to if I was so concerned about work/life balance and working a 40-hour work week.

If your definition of success is in the same ball-park as mine, but you also believe in what would be the universal understanding of “work-life balance,” I’m not quite sure you can have your cake and eat it too.

That’s my two cents.

But more importantly, I would love to hear YOUR two cents on this topic and have a constructive and engaging conversation!

#civilengineering #engineering #success #worklifebalance #40hourworkweek #recruiting

  • Jim Worrell
    Posted at 16:26h, 24 March Reply

    If success is money, position, and status, please leave me out. I have known many who had that concept of success, including paying big bucks to add a MBA to their graduate degree, whether they had any management skills at all and wanted a resume booster. These were, for the most part, unpleasant people to work with. I worked in a very interesting construction specialty and enjoyed my job very much (I am now retired). The pay was okay, but I had many perks- including a company vehicle, expense account, and working in an environment where I wore many hats and was expected to make most of my own decisions without being micromanaged. Also being in the field 30-40% of the time and working alongside the underappreciated working craftsmen and supervisors were big plusses. I have no regrets.

    • Matt Barcus
      Posted at 08:38h, 25 March Reply

      Hi Jim, good morning, and thanks for sharing, I appreciate it. Like I said, everyone’s definition of success is different and it sounds like your success goals have been met – you had a career you enjoyed, that was fulfilling, and you are now retired! That’s awesome! Part of the equation of success for me personally does indeed revolve around money, and I’m sure yours did as well, it has to be…but not in a bad way! You wanted to retire comfortably and have enough funds in retirement to experience all the things that life has to offer, and it sounds like you accomplished that. And you probably wanted to enjoy life along the way, have the ability to give to charity, etc. For some people, success is indeed position, as you mentioned, and that’s okay also…nothing wrong with someone aspiring to be CEO of a company, or starting their own business, or doing everything they can (morally speaking) to rise to the top of their organization. In fact, every company wants people like that in their organization, right? In my opinion if they rise to the top and humbly enjoy the status that goes along with that, that it okay also, but if their motivation is purely status, then I would agree with you in that they are not worth talking about because they are doing it for the wrong reasons, and if their pursuit is purely status, often times ethics are broken. Thanks again for sharing your opinion, I appreciate it, and enjoy your retirement!!!

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