” We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.” Dr. Bob Moorehead though often attributed to George Carlin

By Jan Norton
Ladder Against the Sky, LLC

In my “Twelve Hard Lessons for New Managers”, I note that the twelfth point is the most important:

“Above all, take care of your health, your family and your mental acuity.”

People tell me, “We know. We should stop smoking, lose weight, exercise more, and get more sleep.” Everyone knows the recipe. We don’t do it, but we know the recipe. Why don’t we do it? I would suggest it is because we are worried about what other people think. Most of those things take time away from what we think we “ought to be doing”. What’s more, we are probably right about what others think. They actually do think that we should be more dedicated to our work – whether that is a job, volunteer work or our household responsibilities. Consequently, I am not going to try to convince you to follow the recipe. I am going to try to convince you to let other people follow their recipe without your critical judgment. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Early in my career, I was a supervisor in a public accounting firm. Then and, probably still, public accounting firms were known for good pay, but hard work and long hours. It was early days for women in my profession. We were still under scrutiny. Could we hold up under the pressure? I was a new supervisor. I was assigned a bank audit in a nearby town. It was a large metropolitan area and my staff had varying drives to get there, but most of us had to drive an hour and a bit – both ways. We were working a normal 10 hour day.

Public accounting – then and now – is a highly competitive profession. The top scholars in accounting interview for positions in their senior year, and the lucky ones start to work shortly after graduation. One such new graduate was working for me. She graduated, got married the next week and got pregnant on her honeymoon. She was our first pregnant staff person in this office of the firm. She was in her 7th month, and I knew she was struggling with the pregnancy.

Our deadline was coming up, and we still had a lot to finish. I increased our hours to 12 hour days. The auditor came to me and told me she didn’t think she could do it. She was too tired. It was a long drive. I was sorry, but everyone else had to do it so she had to do it too. I didn’t say so, but I expected her to carry her share. I probably wanted to prove that a pregnant woman could do it. After a couple of days, she started having contractions and had to be put on bed rest. I felt awful. Was it my fault? Maybe. Fortunately, everything turned out fine. The mother and baby were fine. The job got done – on time. My lesson was learned. Not only are you responsible for maintaining your own health, but you must allow others to do the same with your support.

Have a healthy and happy New Year and encourage others to do the same.