“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
Just read a very inspiring story in this week’s BusinessWeek, the “Hard Choices” column, in which the former Chairman & CEO of global ad agency Y&R, Hamish McLennan, discusses his decision to resign from his post to seek a better family life. Awesome that he had the personal conviction to do something as bold as this, and was courageous enough to be honest about the trade-offs many successful people in any field, business or otherwise, face on the path to achieving that success. Cool to see a man in his mid-40s at career peak step back and get perspective, what a lucky family he has!
Below are a few excerpts from the column that get to Mr. McLennan’s thought process and important conclusions (click on link at top for entire article).
“I’m ambitious: I’ve spent 25 years being a racehorse. You strive to get to the top of your game, and you enjoy it—but it can become all-consuming. The reality is that you can’t have a global role and spend much time with your kids. We have 186 offices across 90 countries, and I have to spend up to three weeks a month on the road. It’s hard for anyone in an executive role to strike a balance: You have a constant tension between wanting to excel at work and wanting to bring up a great family.”…
….”But you can’t let your job define you. My wife and I started talking about me giving up my job last fall. We were so far from home, and we didn’t want the children to lose their connection to family and friends back in Australia. There wasn’t one single moment when it suddenly struck me that I had to give up this job, but my daughter is 13, and my son is 11. They’ll start to be out the door soon. I don’t want them to leave home and say, “Well, you had a great career, but we don’t know you.”….
….”At 44, I’d rather be known as a good father than a good CEO. I haven’t resigned from the company—we’ll cook something up in Australia—and it’s not inconceivable that I could move back to New York when the kids are through high school. I think I’ll be a better executive and a better person if I do this now.”
A cynic might say “big whoop, he’s already made his money, so what if he’s getting off the fast-track,” I reply that it’s admirable, nonetheless. There are many execs who could slow down because financially they’re more than secure, but few who do. In this echelon of corporate America it’s often not about the money, it’s also the ambition, power, and ego, and about never having enough. To that end, I’d argue that while a lot of young professionals say they plan to spend more time on family, relationships, etc. “when I have enough money/security/achievement” many unwittingly create situations that feed the “never enough” because of the lifestyle choices they make. I applaud Mr. McLennan and hope his story will inspire others to reflect on their own situations as well!