The Legend of Work-Life Balance

In the 1989 film Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams’ character Mr. Keating introduced to his young wards the following quote from Henry David Thoreau:

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

This quote provides the framework to examine the ever-popular tug-of-war over work-life balance. In this corner, Nigel Marsh – author and TEDtalk guest – speaking to those of us naive enough to still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and yes, work-life balance.

Marsh is kind of like your favorite Uncle, who takes a liking to you and doesn’t want to break your heart, saying over and over again, “There’s still hope.” Over in the opposite corner is Jeanette Mulvey, managing editor at Business News Daily. In her article, “The myth of Work-Life Balance,” ( she’s more like your perfect, straight-A, valedictorian big sister yelling “Wake up, dork! ain’t no such thing!” Observe:

“I recently saw an ad for a company that will turn your humdrum basement into a plush and impressive home theater. The ad said, “Because You Deserve It.” Save the “deserving” stuff for those poor souls trying to stop a nuclear meltdown in Japan. The rest of us need to suck it up.”


You know, of all the sources out there perhaps the most surprising piece of advice that has achieved clarity on this topic is Lou Holtz.

Wait, Lou Holtz?

Yes – Lou Holtz, former College Football coach and current ESPN Analyst. While coaching at Notre Dame, he made sure everyone of his players knew how to embrace the WIN: What’s Important Now.

If we all could live that philosophy each and everyday, then we could prove that the key to work-life balance is not in giving up, or dismissing it as if it were nothing more than the business equivalent of the Tooth Fairy.

By acknowledging, no fervently embracing the importance of right now, whether it be family, friends, work or even some happy solitude – then we can truly achieve a healthy outlook on business and life. And then, perhaps we can follow another one of Keating’s favorites from Walt Whitman, by sounding off our own barbaric Yawp’s from the rooftops of our world.


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