You’re Not a Work-a-holic, You’re a Work-a-Like-It!


Why do CEOs, young executives, entrepreneurs, skilled craftsmen, nurses and the many others of us work so hard and such long hours?  It’s not because we have no choice, it’s because we like it.  We like the possibility that we can accomplish something great for the world, our community, our family.  Maybe, with just a little more effort and more time we can do something that will have lasting meaning and that will make a positive difference to others.

I distinguish here the Work-a-Like-It from the myopic, money-driven Work-a-Holic sitting at a trading desk in an investment bank whose sole aim is to work themselves to exhaustion for four or six years in order to retire with a pile of cash and spend the rest of their days on a beach somewhere drinking rum and coke. One is driven by the opportunity to do something great for the world (and their loved ones), the other is driven by greed and callous selfishness.  There will always be these two types of people in the world.  I’m just glad I spend my time with the former and not the latter.

But those of us in the Work-a-Like-It category have a big problem.  Our problem is not motivation, it’s TIME!

Time may be relative, but it still flies.

And unfortunately, no matter how hard we work, how efficient we are, it still seems like a race against time.  But the reality is, everyone has the same time, 24 hours, no more and no less.

“Wisdom is not how smart you are, but how well you use the time you are given.”

So how do we use time wisely?  I am definitely not an expert, but I have been observing for the past 40 years how I and others spend time and trying to understand what makes a fulfilled life.  And what I use as my guide, the Peace of Mind Square, I learned from my tutor, Tom Willhite, although the concept is as old as (you guessed it) time!

Do this little exercise, right now.  Get a pencil and piece of paper (or use your iPad) and draw a square about 4 inches (or 2 cms) on each side.  Label each of the 4 sides differently:  Health, Wealth, Relationships, Spiritual.

Now, if we are truly wise and live a life of balance, our square would be, well, square, and secondly,  close to 4 inches on each side.  The first time I did this exercise, way back in 1973, was a real eye-opener for me.  This is how my square looked; definitely out of balance.

What are your strongest sides?  Your weakest?  If family and relationships are weak, or wealth, your life, like mine, is out of balance.  The analogy to a car with one or more tires out of balance is very clear.  The faster the car speeds along on unbalanced tires, the more it tears itself apart.  It’s the same for human beings.  The faster we go the more we tear ourselves apart.  But with greater balance, speed naturally increases.

Here’s a suggestion.  Sit down with your family at the dinner table and do this little exercise.  You will remember it as long as you live, just as when I first drew my Peace of Mind Square.

I’m still working on balance.

John R Childress

Author of LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture, and FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution, available from Amazon in paperback and eBook formats.

See the review of LEVERAGE in The Economist (January 9, 2014.

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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