“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
Work-life balance … you probably are tired of hearing about it. Not only is it a near hackneyed subject at this point, but the truth is that there is no real balance. It is different for everyone — which I am quick to point out in my second book, Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers, 2012). It all depends on personal circumstances. However, there are some “constants” to consider, which I explore in that book and which can help you achieve your own personal brand of balance.
It is good to know that thinking about balance is something that even Supreme Court justices must do. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Yes, the notorious RBG thinks about balance — so you have something in common with a superstar. Here’s how Justice Ginsburg described the importance of work-life balance in a recent New York Times op-ed where she credits her late husband Martin Ginsburg for his role as a most supportive spouse in the equal partnership they shared.
I have had more than a little bit of luck in life, but nothing equals in magnitude my marriage to Martin D. Ginsburg. I do not have words adequate to describe my supersmart, exuberant, ever-loving spouse. Early on in our marriage, it became clear to him that cooking was not my strong suit. To the eternal appreciation of our food-loving children (we became four in 1965, when our son, James, was born), Marty made the kitchen his domain and became chef supreme in our home.
As Justice Ginsburg explained in the article, it was the balance she and her husband struck in terms of domestic duties and childcare that allowed her to continue in her profession and climb the steepest legal ladder in the land. I smiled as I read the article and remembered hearing her speak for the first time. She is small and could be taken for fragile until you bare witness to her strength and resolve. She made me want to have tea with her, in little china cups, and soak up all of her incredible wisdom. My daughter had the same reaction when she was fortunate enough to draw a winning lottery ticket in law school, which entitled her to be part of a private conversation with RBG. “So cute, but tough” is what I remember from her description of this remarkable woman.
If RBG can talk openly about balance and achieve it, so can you. In this article, she confirms one of the basic tenets that I believe about work-life balance — that who you marry or who you choose as a mate can very much impact your career success. If both mates are devoted to career, something has to give. That “something” is complete independence. Complete and uncompromising independence has to be sacrificed in favor of team work, sharing and flexibility. In that respect, it is a lot like the behavior that will bring you the greatest success at the office.
Women helping women and men helping women are favorite themes in my writing. However, men need help, too, and it will serve you well to remember that helping your mate is part of achieving a balance you can live with.
Learn from RBG!
Did you have a super hero growing up? I can remember the Marvel Comic Book superheroes as if it was yesterday. For the younger among you, GI Joe and Wonder Woman might have been your heroes, and there were many others — something for everyone. We admired these characters for their strength and bravery and compassionate and independent behavior. They made us think that we could be like them — if only a little bit. We liked to be on the side of the super hero or super heroine because it was usually the just and right place to be. It made us feel good to identify with them.
Flash forward to today, and ask yourself about your heroes. Not super heroes — just your every day hero variety. They could be mentors and teachers, parents and other care givers, religious or world leaders, colleagues and friends, or sundry other people whose personal traits and abilities you admire. Ask who inspires you. Who has something that is special to you and makes you want to spend time with them?
Now, as Marshall Goldsmith, the leadership guru and one of my mentors, suggests in a recent video, emulate those personal traits and abilities. Don’t just admire them in others, but make them compelling standards in your own life. If they are your heroes, then why not try to be like them? Write down the positive attributes and put your own name at the top. Aspire to be more like those people. The reward will be that you will admire yourself even more.
Check out the video and ask yourself, “Who are my heroes?” Make it part of your plan for a successful and meaningful life. It is all about finding solutions to your life in other places — and other people.
Become your own hero! As Marshall Goldsmith says, “It could change your life.”