Work. Life. Blend.

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Fruit in blenderWork-life balance…BAH!

Confession – I don’t believe in work-life balance. And neither does my guest on this week’s episode of Good Life Project, Mitch Joel.

But, not for the reason you think…

Living completely out of whack with your priorities, allocating your energy in a way that destroys your health, relationships and ability to live well and give well is, well, just plain dumb.

Whoah, wait a minute? How can I not believe in work-life balance and still make that statement?

Simple, because work-life “balance” works on an assumption I fundamentally disagree with. That work is and should be something outside life.

That you work not out of a sense of joy, meaning, purpose, contribution, flow, drive, love and passion. Not within a culture populated by people you love, who are deeply connected by shared values, ideas, visions and energies. But because your work gives you the money to spend the few remaining hours of your “real” life, you know, the one outside work, finally pursuing those all those same things. Often unsuccessfully.

Um, no.

When you start with that assumption, you automatically lose. You assume that work must be so in conflict with life that it’s something that needs to be “balanced AGAINST life.”

You surrender the possibility that you can be so fulfilled and called by the work you do and the people you do it with, that the way you contribute to the world becomes a joyous, integral element of life.

Here’s the funny thing. Many people who contribute to the world in a way where their only compensation is money and stature often feel the need to “decompress” in front of a screen or a bottle. Or take a vacation to “get away” from the intrusion of work, to reconnect with the people and activities that matter most to them.

For me, those same people and activities are woven seamlessly into the way I contribute. My work.

Which is where we introduce the concept of work-life “blend.”

Wish I’d invented the term, but sadly I didn’t. Nor can I do it justice the way dad, husband, digital agency founder, blogger, podcaster and Ctrl Alt Delete author, Mitch Joel can.

He lays it all out in this week’s episode of Good Life Project. I’ve embedded the video here to make it really easy for you to watch. And, of course, if you’d rather take it on the road and listen, just subscribe over at GoodLifeProject and you’ll get instant access to the mp3 vault (and soon to launch transcripts).


Now, here’s my question…

Are Mitch and I waaaay off base?

As always, I’m open to the conversation.

And, what of the other “dark side,” where you’re so consumed by work you love, you “forget” about the people and activities (and health) that makes life so rich, but may not be well integrated into your “work?”

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

With gratitude,


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24 responses

24 responses to “Work. Life. Blend.”

  1. Love this. Work, Life, Blend speaks directly to me. I don’t believe in work-life balance either. Thanks for a great post.

  2. Dave Doolin says:

    Yes! Exactly!

    I like to tell my friends I’m perfecting my “work work balance.”

    That is, the balance between the work I have to do to maintain my (relatively low key) lifestyle, and the work I’m compelled to do as a part of who I am as a person.

    Sometimes these align, sometimes they don’t, but it’s good either way.

  3. Completely on target and you know it Jonathan.

    I just wrote about this in my chapter on How to become a pro at being homeless – the whole concept behind it is about living life on your terms – where you prioritise when you want to work, when you want to adventure and when you want to do both.

    Work-life balance is not real, loving work and life together is totally doable.

    Looking forward to watching the video, you’re rocking it JF (just please change your share this plugin to include your Twitter handle not @sharethis) then we share your stuff even more!

  4. Kevin Wood says:

    I love the idea of a blend!

    I think of your work as fuel for every aspect of your life, it should light the fire that brings your energy to the table in everything else.

    The notion of the two being separate is false. I think the traditional notion of work creates this. But, when your work is coming from the heart and driven by purpose, however that shows up, it tends to act as the focal point of your life.

    Your work should fill you up so you overflow into the “life” part. In the end it’s all life anyway 🙂

  5. Ali Davies says:

    Chasing work life balance is so last century. It is an outdated and flawed concept. There is only life. Everything else is an activity that we spend part of our life on each day, week, month and year.
    As much as I LOVE my work and business, I don’t want it to balance with the things I value more – e.g. my health, marriage, family life, living full on etc. I want my work and business to serve, support and protect those things – not balance with them.
    For me, it as about shifing from the quest for balance to designing life based on core values and your own definition of success and then re-engineering work and business to make that happen.

    • Tiare says:

      I second all the comments on how life shouldn’t be segmented into “work” and “everything else”. I far prefer the terms “blend” and “harmony” over “balance” because life is more like a mixing pot of ingredients rather than a scale.

      To me, the ideal life would consist of ingredients that blend together and complement each other. Each ingredient in your life – family, work, health, spiritual, relationships, etc. – should cohesively support each other to create one delicious life!

      In order for the ingredients to work together, they need to be focused on a single recipe – the blueprint which you create for your life. Your values should determine your goals and actions. This alignment is what makes every bite of life yummy.

  6. […] balance. I now realize that it’s because I’ve been looking for dead ends! I stumbled upon this: and thank goodness I did because the author re-framed for me the idea of what “work” […]

  7. Jennifer Smith says:

    I totally believe this is possible if you start early enough or are able to make the leap from “work-life” balance to the blend approach. Working on my leap now!

  8. I haven’t watched the video yet, but I disagree with the basic premise. After struggling with productivity for a while, I realized how much I had bought the whole idea that I should always love my work, be passionate about it. Truth is work is often enough just that – work. Hard, onerous stuff that requires grit and discipline. Sure, I’m lucky enough to do something I enjoy and learn from – writing about health. But sometimes it’s just stuff I have to get done – whether or not my heart is into it. When I recognized that sometimes I wouldn’t be “into” my work, it made it easier to develop the discipline to get things done efficiently to enjoy the other facets of my life more.

    It’s great when you can find something you love to do and earn money from it. But often enough, you simply have to work – get it done. And often enough, this division makes it easier to not get lost in your work at the expense of family.

  9. Mike Martel says:

    I like the concept. Work – life balance came from the Industrial Age where we worked for the man until we could manage to retire to our golden years dying a couple years after. We were supposed to find something in our off hours to take our minds off the grueling work in the factories so that we came back recharged to make more for the man.

    I totally agree with work – life blend. Life is too short not to…

  10. Loved your post. Life long, I’ve been “workaholic” and wondered why the name had such a negative connotation. “Life balance” was never something I particularly sought as I felt balanced and grateful to be doing what gave me great pleasure.

    However, the full disclosure of this 73 year old is that I was never quite clear when I’d crossed the line into desperately needing time off. I remember my secretary pouring me onto the plane heading for Club Med vacations when I spent the first 3 days in hibernation on the beach before I cared to talk to anyone.

    Today I would admit, I still have the same tendencies when doing what I love helping people target and experiment with more satisfying life styles. Retirement has slowed me down. MS, too. Knee surgery, too. These gifts, and aging, make living in flow more of my new norm. While pre-60 I considered myself invulnerable, today I am faced with my own limits. A journey it has been.

    My regret is that during my working life, I really did not clearly identify, nor pay attention to my needs, to my own work/rest cycles. To have done so, this life balance thing, or healing space requirement, would have been achieved, in my own way, on my own terms. However, I do not regret being stubborn enough over the years to create a working life that made me happy, financially stable, and left me with wonderful memories.

  11. Terri Clark says:

    I have done projects where some people thought I had gone over to the dark side, but I was having a great time doing the project. Sometimes people want more from us than we can give them, and that can be sourced from any number of things. If I was consumed with training for a marathon would my friends still be upset because I wasn’t going to dinner with them? Probably not! After dinner out, I often work a few more hours. Family, friends, hobbies, work, and quiet time are all part of the amazing package that is me!

  12. Rashmi Priya says:

    I think almost everyone except a few used to balance work and personal life both before the word “work Life Balance” was even coined. To live a happy and fulfilling life one must do what he loves and spend time with family and friends, the most valuable assets in our life.

    Work and life both are balanced when we prioritize what do do and when to do.

  13. Wow, what a difference 1 year makes… I can see now that even as I preached about W/L balance I was often left scurrying to find any spare minutes for my non-negotiables (soul/vitality/family/art).

    It wasn’t until The Good Life Project experience that I was able to fully align my work within the bigger frame of all of those things. Now I get to create my dream role in my dream company every damn day of the week, and I’ve been able to create more EPIC SHEEEOT in the first 5 months of this role than I was able to in the preceding 6 years.

    Amazing what a little alignment can do for us spazzes who refuse to believe “you can’t have it all”. The frame of our lives expands by demand… allowing room for all of the above and so much more. We just have to be working cooperatively with ourselves.

    Radical concept! hahahah. So easy to miss. (damnit)

    Much love, brother -kc

    Loved this line:

    //When you start with that assumption, you automatically lose. You assume that work must be so in conflict with life that it’s something that needs to be “balanced AGAINST life.”

  14. […] then, as Jonathan Fields recently wrote: “You surrender the possibility that you can be so fulfilled and called by the […]

  15. Caleb says:

    I’m going to disagree with you. While I do believe that our work should be something we are not only good at, but passionate about and share the values of the company we work for (or run). I think “work life balance” is still important.

    I think it’s easy for entrepreneurs to get caught up in their work because it’s easy to do and doesn’t seem like work. I could’t honestly spend 15 hours a day “working” but if I fail to spend time with my wife and daughter or my friends I’m failing at having a well balanced life.

    I’m astounded when I hear about people working 50-60 hour work weeks. I started my own company from the ground up and have rarely put in 50-60 hour weeks. Sure, I have done this at times, but it was temporary.

    We need to make sure we are allowing ourselves to spend time with the important people in life, exercise, travel, and eat well! It’s simply not possible for work to be completely seamless with our family life and personal life. I do however believe work shouldn’t be “work”. And I agree we shouldn’t feel like we need to get away and “decompress” but at the same time if we don’t take time to do those things we are only going to hurt ourselves and the ones closest to us.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Caleb, actually totally agree. And that construct isn’t at odds with the idea of work-life blend. In fact, it’s very much in tune with it and it’s the way I live my life and build my businesses. Whether it’s done in a way that’s “seamless” or in a way that’s woven together differently, the bigger message is about honoring all elements of life and working in a way that’s deliberate and that aligns effort with essence.

  16. Joseph says:

    Hello, Jonathan. Mabuhay! from the Philippines.

    I’m just watching the video. I have encountered this before in one of the coaching workshops I facilitated. In one session, a participant had an a-ha moment and shared that he understands it more as “Work-Life Harmony”. He used “harmony”, and it may have similarities to blend, I feel it does have some differences in value and “process” (like coffee “blend” as opposed to “harmony” of the coffee’s taste. I’m still trying to figure it out deeper. And I do believe that one really has to find that harmony/blend “in life” as a whole, with all its components and complexities. “Balancing” feels like there is fragmentation, and being fragmented seems like an awful way to live.

    Just though I’d share. Thank you.

  17. […] Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance’, provided a recent post on the subject. In ‘Work. Life. Blend’ Fields confesses he doesn’t believe in work-life balance, as an introduction to a guest […]

  18. Kevin Rhodes says:

    Ever notice that great people live unbalanced lives? It costs a lot to do that, and the creative fringe are willing to pay the price – not to be great, but because they’ve got something that keeps them up at night. They think “getting a life” is overrated. They work too hard and don’t know when to quit. They spend too much money, mostly their own. They’re often not likeable, or fun or safe to be around. They’re also the creative leaders we need in our world – especially right now.

  19. Tam says:

    I think we should consider for a moment that not everyone has the luxury of carving out a career for themselves that also speaks to their true passions in life (though it would be wonderful if that were the case).

    For many, the need to put food on the table requires seeking employment in jobs that don’t always excite – and many of those jobs keep our society running day to day (assembling the components of our phones, cars, food… driving our busses and trucks and trains).

    Yes, we should bring our best selves to these roles, but I think it’s fair to say that sometimes life outside of ‘work’ is the place we are most delighted and replenished – and ensuring our society enables enough of this time is incredibly important.

    Education and a supportive family, social, and financial environment can put us in good stead to choose work that is also aligned with our joys and passions passions, and it is wonderful to strive for this. However the way the world currently works means these things are typically only afforded to the lucky few.

  20. Here and Now says:

    […] of living a life that is something between directing a symphony orchestra and walking a tight rope. Living a whole life, where there is no distinction between work and life has its own challenges. It requires being very […]