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The Optimum Optimorum of Work Life Balance

Updated: Mar 8

I had the privilege of studying under Professor Douglas Vickers at the Wharton School, an experience that profoundly changed my thinking.

Back in the early 1970’s it was the trend in business schools to teach students how to optimize everything subject to various constraints. The science of linear programming was in its infancy. So, for example a student was challenged with optimizing the asset side of the balance sheet subject to the constraint of the liability side or vice versa. Dr. Vickers contribution was realizing that the process of optimization should be dynamic and there should be a simultaneous optimization of both sides of the balance sheet which he called the Optimum Optimorum.

Years later, I encountered a philosopher by the name of Tom Morris who introduced the notion of “Creating a Robust Capacity to Enjoy the Process.” It was one of his 7 Cs for success, and then it struck me that Tom was applying Dr. Vickers ‘concept to life /work balance. His message resonated: why not align our daily pursuits with those we cherish and enjoy. While not every career can lend itself to that ideal many of the careers in the financial service industry do. If you are a wholesaler or a financial advisor, you have some degree of autonomy about who you select as clients. So, if you are resigned to spending forty hours a week or more with your clients, why not find clients who share the same values you share, have the same interest you have, and who are likely to enjoy doing the same things you enjoy doing.

The starting point is to take a self-inventory of yourself. What are the things that are most important to you? If family is the most important thing for you, then set your priorities to make the most out of your relationships with your parents, spouse, children and possibly grandchildren. Put important events with your family members on your calendar first.

Then make a list of the things you like and are passionate about including all your favorite interest. Next go through your list of clients and find how many of them have the same interest you have. Look for a way to enjoy spending time with your clients, specifically doing the things you have in common. Perhaps you can occasionally do your quarterly review on the golf course or standing in a stream with a fly rod or attending a football game or maybe call them and see if they are up for a run followed by a stop at Starbucks.

If you are conscious of this, then over time your book of clients will become more and more like a book of friends. People do not often fire their friends. If you are inclined to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with your clients, think about how much nicer that would be doing it with people you like and have a great respect for.

The old Mark Twain quote of “Find a job you love, and you will never work a day of your life” is an attempt to introduce this concept, but ignores the fact that in any profession, including ours, there is a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears involved. No one can reach the pinnacle of their profession without it. Yet spending a lifetime doing business with people you like can certainly make it all worthwhile and allows you to experience the optimum optimorum of life.



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