Jack Welch is Right


“There’s no such thing as work-life balance,” says former GE CEO Jack Welch, throwing cold water on what so many American professionals aspire to – having it all. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124726415198325373.html Well, much as it pains me to admit it, I believe that Jack is right about choices. Part of being a grown-up is making choices and taking responsibility for their consequences.

And yes, if you want to be the CEO of a giant corporation you may find, like thrice-married Welch, that other areas of your life suffer. Where I disagree with Jack is in his presumption that it is a choice between “work” and “life.” I prefer to talk about “life balance,” with work as a piece of the pie. Its relative size compared to the other slices will differ from person to person, and each person’s will change over time. Balance does not presume equal weight, nor is it static – it is dynamic, involves give and take, and it happens over time. As Barbara Sher says, you can have it all, just not all at once. In this more nuanced view of balance, you may choose for periods of time to be heavily weighted in one area of your life while other areas are in less prominence. Typically, when we feel out of balance it is because we have not really chosen the mix we are tolerating, or the choice doesn’t really reflect our true goals and ambitions. The key is to know what you want – the big picture, the short-, medium-, and long-term – and then make choices that keep you moving in the right direction. You can’t put it on auto-pilot; you must check in with yourself regularly to see if the mix really reflects your priorities of the moment. If not, it’s time for a course correction.