You will use it constantly to describe the choices you have to make in your business and personal life.
You will try to explain to your friends why you cannot go out this Friday or to your significant other why you have to travel or cannot pay a certain bill right now.
If you have children of a certain age, then you will have to explain why they may not be able get the same things as the kids next door whose parents work full-time, salaried jobs.
But, one thing I’ve learned (and still learning) – the hard way – was to never make the mistake of sacrificing what’s most important…
Don’t Make This Mistake…
Before I even started dating the woman who became my wife, I had a very long talk with Kathryn. I had to explain to her that RealVibez was my girlfriend and priority then, so she would have to be comfortable with that sacrifice.
I made it clear that achieving my overarching goal of inspiring others and building a company that would change the world for better was more important than anything and I was willing to sacrifice everything for it.
She said she understood and then started working on the graphics for us (she studied digital arts in college). That impressed me.
Kathryn will be the first to admit it is extremely hard being married to an entrepreneur – especially one with an undercapitalized venture, with delayed investors and one who was too slow to make some tough decisions.
I made the mistake early on in the life of RealVibez where I decided to shut out all things not connected to the company.
My dad sat me down and said that I wasn’t eating breakfast or dinner with them and not even going out with the family when invited.
I was consumed by work and getting things done.
I tried to explain that nothing was more important to me than achieving my goals, but dad pointed out that achieving those goals and having no one to celebrate them with would still be a failure because I would be successful, wealthy and lonely.
He then said that each of the relationships we share are like glass balls and you must learn to juggle them all.
I replied by saying that I decided it was smarter to put some of the balls in a bag and rest them on the shelf for now.
Dad then said that when I take the glass back out of the bag, they wouldn’t be as shiny anymore and may never be the same again. So he warned me to be careful.
I decided to work on changing my approach that day.
I Blew It
I recently went in search of articles about what famous entrepreneurs said on their deathbeds after reading Steve Jobs’ book by Walter Isaacson. I realized that despite what some people felt about him as a person, he wasn’t lying there thinking about the guy he yelled at or the person he called an idiot or the one he fired in the elevator.
He was thinking about his family and the ways he changed the world.
I know hindsight is always 20/20 and understanding what successful people thought at the end of their life could help to shape my approach to my life today.
I found a 2013 article from my good friend Mike Michalowicz who had asked me to endorse his book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, years ago. It was about Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, entitled What Sam Walton Taught Me About Life.
On his deathbed, the man who created the single largest retailer in the world and wealth for an entire family that is yet to be matched (check out how many Waltons are worth more than $5 billion), said he blew it!
Mike explained it:
He was a full-time, always-there business man! He would do anything to grow his business, and it gave him immense fame and fortune! But that’s where the problem lies, because when it came to the rest of his life, Sam wasn’t nearly as dedicated. He was never really “there” as a father, husband and friend. He had the wealthiest pockets, but the poorest soul. And in those last minutes of his life, he realized where he had failed.
Kathryn has said to me that my willingness to sacrifice anything usually leads to me sacrificing time as a husband and a father more than anything else.
It sounds a bit like Sam Walton.
…Even up until last last week. It was the night before we were to fly back to Orlando with the kids and 2 checked bags that I informed her I was extending my ticket because of potential investor meetings. She would have to fly by herself.
This was the second time this happened.
I justified these things by pointing out that my role models are Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Michael Lee-Chin and Russell Simmons (only 2 of them have managed to keep their wives while building their legacies, so that meant Kathryn and I only had a 2 out of 5 chance of staying together).
Yes, I actually point this out to her repeatedly. And yes, we are still married.
(Very few women could be married to me, I know).
She is a trooper, flying by herself with a 2 year-old and a 9-month-old, 2 checked bags and a stroller. I knew we didn’t have the money for me to fly with her and then fly back the next day and did not want to put it on a credit card.
But I should have. I realize that now.
The Permanent Fix
Mike puts it in very clear terms, which I will now start applying as much as possible:
It is better to have an incomplete business life than an incomplete human life. I try to keep that in mind as I work on my business. While it’s still important for me to achieve professional success, I no longer let it define me. Instead, I focus on building loving and meaningful relationships, because I know that on my deathbed, it will be the people I loved who will be there, providing me comfort … not a business or a bank account. Sam Walton is proof of that.
Because, at the end of the day, all the money in the world and all the success at inspiring other people, will never make up for the time I miss with my wife and my children.
As much as I do not want to fail – not because I care what others think – but because I know I can accomplish these goals, I need to adjust my thinking. I have, and I will…one day at a time.
Have you ever made the mistake of sacrificing family or important relationships for success? How has it impacted you?
This post is written by David P. A. Mullings, a Jamaican-born entrepreneur who aspires to be a positive role model. He is co-founder of the RealVibez Group, a media and entertainment firm, and Keystone Augusta, a private investment firm. You can find him on his website as well as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.