One question we are always trying to answer in the world of entrepreneurship is how do we achieve this so-called “work-life balance”? For those of you who have never heard of this concept, it is the process of planning and ensuring that your work does not interfere with your family or leisure time or vice versa. Although I used to take this question into consideration, after adding university to my work-life balance formula, I found myself thinking that perhaps this intermingling is not such a bad thing. Maybe it is actually the key to our success in the business world. While pondering the source of this breakthrough thinking, I look beside me and see my co-worker: a service dog named Barkley.
I must first tell you a little bit about my relationship with Barkley because it brings me to the foundation of this “work-life balance” conundrum. As my co-pilot for over two years, Barkley’s official title is Mental Health Service Dog. While I coped with mental health issues, Barkley was brought into my life to assist me with my day-to-day activities. How does he do this? Well, Barkley knows me extremely well and is able to sense if I am feeling “off”; it is at these moments that he snuggles up next to me to provide me with ease. He also creates a sense of familiarity as no matter where I go Barkley is with me, which enables me to feel comfort in venturing out to complete the tasks or attend the events associated with school, work, or life. I also live by myself at university so he is a source of companionship in this occasionally quiet apartment. His outwardly goofy nature can brighten my spirits on the hardest of days.
But putting this all aside, his presence has brought me to the conclusion that perhaps work and life do not have to be polar opposites. In fact some of the best companies that I know of use this interaction to their advantage because it fosters authenticity and creates a differentiation strategy. Authentic companies resonate with people on a deeper level and are therefore able to connect with people in a way that other brands cannot. In essence the more authentic your company, the better your business.
Now that I have started a communications company, I do not hide the fact that Barkley is in my life or why he is there. If I did this I would not be my authentic self or the unique creator of this brand. I don’t know about you, but I can easily tell when others are not being themselves. Putting myself in a client's shoes, it would make me question a collaboration as I have not been able to experience the “true” them. It is for this reason that when I attend a business meeting Barkley is always in tow.
Barkley has also taught me that you need to draw upon your lifestyle as a tool for your work. Although differentiation is a good strategy when it comes to your offerings, it is the similarities that put your relationships with your co-workers and the public over the top. In the research that I do at university in the field of animal studies, it is said that companion animals are one of the best ways to break the ice (trust me – with Barkley’s personality this is never a problem). Knowing this, I use it to my advantage when first meeting with people.
But overall, the heart of what I am trying to get at here is like a partner in a business venture, Barkley and I have created a synergy in our lifestyle both inside the office and out. We draw upon our life for our work and vice versa. Although I believe that it is good to take the advice of other people when it comes to business, sometimes you just need to go with your gut and do what you think is right. You need to find that place where both you and your team are able to excel and truly showcase what your company does best. I am not suggesting that everyone needs to have a service dog, but rather I am encouraging you to figure out what is the Barkley in your life? What is the thing that gives you the edge you need? The most important lesson that Barkley has taught me in the last couple years is that when you know it’s right or if you have a feeling about something, trust your intuition. When Barkley decides he is going to do something he goes for it and gives it all he’s got. If he stumbles, he picks himself back up quickly and tries again. With all of this in mind I now return to the “work-life” balance conundrum. I do not think that it is something that does not exist, but rather it’s a concept that needs to be reworked. Work and life do not have to be balanced because they can reside together in perfect harmony. It is when you find this harmony that you will be able to show the world your greatest potential.