Updated: Nov 27, 2019
Whether intentional or not, the values conveyed by our parents, grandparents, caregivers, and siblings have a significant influence on our work-view.
Our upbringing can shape the professions we choose, how we feel about work-life balance and of course, the purpose of work.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlighted the research of Iona Lupu. Her research shows that our upbringing can have an enduring influence on our work and career decisions — and that what we subconsciously learn from our parents plays an important role, specifically in how we think about and manage work-life balance.
Before I jump into the story of what two hippies taught me about work and life, I want to ask you...
What were you taught about work? Was it something to endure until retirement or could it be fulfilling?
How did your parents balance work and life?
Are these values true for you today?
Alright...without further digressions...here's my story...
When I graduated university with my Arts Degree, I got my first job…
working for my mom.
The job was helping her sell women’s accessories at gift shows and markets.
The reasons I chose it were simple:
she paid me cash, I didn’t have to work in an office and I had no idea what else to do!
(Not knowing what to make of myself became the recurring theme of my career but more on that in another post…)
Growing up I witnessed the opposing career paths of my parents.
When they first got married they worked together like a couple of hippies selling plants in flea markets.
They kept me in a basket under the table!
It was cool, fun and they made great cash.
But then my father had to get “real” and took a job at his father’s distribution company.
My mom continued selling stuff at markets, progressing from plants to purses.
Dad did not find personal satisfaction in his job yet stayed in the family business for three decades until a year before he died.
He stayed because it offered prosperity and security to his family— a luxury he didn’t want to give up. That said, when he died, he was utterly satisfied with his life. Over the years he cultivated multiple channels to build a meaningful and joyful life.
On the other hand, my mother loved her work.
She enjoyed every second of back-breaking schlepping for 30 years. Even today, though she doesn’t have to work, she still does the occasional sale just for fun.
Her work gave her joy, pride and excitement—benefits that could not be quantified.
From my adolescent observation, there seemed to be two divergent paths one could choose.
Security OR Engagement.
I think many of us see it in these stark terms. You get one or the other.
If you’re REALLY lucky, both.
But as I got older, I realized the picture had more shades.
It wasn't just black and white.
My father found alternative ways to infuse his life with meaning and purpose.
He got involved with the synagogue, establishing the Out of the Cold program there. He joined a men’s meditation group, where he explored his spiritual side every Monday. He subscribed to the ballet, symphony and numerous jazz series.
It wasn’t unusual for him to go the the first act of a jazz series at the North York Performing Arts Centre and then high tail it downtown to see the second half of a ballet. On the same night.
When he passed away a year shy of his sixtieth birthday, he had no regrets about his choices in life.
He had squeezed out every drop.
My mother took her profits and invested them. First in a pre-construction townhouse, then in a condominium. Her work, which had always been centered around enjoyment, became her nest egg.
We often think we need to choose security OR enjoyment.
But is it possible for more of us to have more of both?
I believe it is and I've seen it happen in the most creative ways.
It may take a new perspective- identifying new channels to fulfill your needs.
You may need to alter your viewpoint and get creative but it is possible.
Your friend in learning and growth,