“Dan, I know you love spending time with your family, but don’t let that get in the way of your career.”
He flew me one thousand miles across the country to sit me down and tell me this. I knew that moment was the beginning of the end of a decade-long relationship working in corporate America.
I was never a huge fan of being on the road as frequently as they might have liked. If the trip added value for everyone involved, I was totally on board, but I wanted to be a good steward of company resources.
In the end, it wasn’t just about travel. He was coaching me on how best to climb the corporate ladder. If I wanted to advance, it wasn’t enough to do good work. He advised me on creating the right image to promote myself in the organization.
FOCUSING ON MY WHY
I left the meeting with a pit in my stomach. I pulled out the pictures of my wife and son that I always carried with me in my laptop case. I thought about what it would mean to them if I could make more money. But I also questioned whether money could replace my presence if I had to travel more to provide the extra comfort the money would bring.
I work hard and strive to glorify God in the workplace. I’m also active in ministry in the church, helping others grow in Christ. Yet my greatest ministry is to my family—to be a great husband and leave a strong legacy through my children.
My family is my why. I can’t get around that fact.
I decided to create lists of the things I was and was not willing to compromise. These lists would mark me in the corporate work environment because they were different than the lists of many others who valued career advancement more than I did.
Being a great employee is important to me. I was never against working hard and getting promotions. I just knew that I needed to maintain a good work-life balance. So I first made a list of things I wanted to define me in the workplace. It included things like:
- Reflect the creativity of the Creator who made me in his image
- Work as unto the Lord
- Lead as Jesus taught us to lead, as a servant-leader
- Ensure that all people I worked with felt honored and respected
I know my work and leadership is well respected by my peers. That’s always been important to me. It means I’m being a good example for Christians in the workplace.
Then I compiled a list of things I wasn’t willing to compromise on:
- Being away from my family up to 50 percent or more (preferably far less) of the time
- Putting on a false image to impress someone else
- Working in a way that put my needs before the needs of others
Making these lists exposed a conflict in values between me and my employer. I knew I wasn’t willing to give up easily on who I feel Christ called me to be.
FINDING MY SWEET SPOT
I lasted a couple more years in that work environment. They weren’t easy years. But I didn’t just drop everything and walk away. I continued to think and pray about what my future work might look like when the end eventually came for me there.
Since we’ve parted ways, I’ve started working on my own. I’ve been able to create my own rules for how I work, rules that align completely with who I believe Christ called me to be. And I’ve been able to grow a small start-up into something special by focusing on the things I feel are really important. I’m even starting to hire other freelancers to help me carry the load.
The other day, one of my new freelancers asked me about getting caught up on some work over the weekend. I told her I was okay with her working on the weekend as long as she never let it interfere with her family time. She came to work for me because she was looking for a job with the flexibility that allowed her to earn some money and continue to be a stay-at-home mom. She needs to keep her family first, far ahead of any work I give her. I think she responded by calling me a “top notch guy” or something like that.
Some things just aren’t worth compromising.
Note: This post originally ran on 8/23/15 at The High Calling. Photo by Dan King, Saturday morning selfie with 4 of my 5 kids… part of my why.