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Joe De Sena and His Thoughts on Work-Life Balance

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

Remember when I apologized for being critical of Joe De Sena? I take it back. Yesterday I saw a post that Joe had written titled, "Finding a Balance is Bulls***. This is What You Should Strive for Instead." To summarize, Joe says work-life balance is unattainable (back to that in a moment). Instead, we should be striving for passion in everything we do. Kumbaya, Joe, kumbaya.

What's That Sound? Oh it's White Male Entrepeneurs Sharing Wisdom

Sigh. Do you know what I love most in the world? When white male leaders talk about work-life balance and passion. To be fair, I don't disagree with what Joe says. As a solopreneur who's trying to build her business, manage her family and her house, there isn't balance. Time is a zero sum game and there isn't enough of it in a day. Especially this year, trying to get everything done can feel like death by a thousand cuts. On their own, the individual tasks aren't necessarily difficult. But they're endless and they can be disruptive.

But Joe has what I don't have--a wife at home who I assume takes care of pretty much everything else in his life beyond his job, including his four children. Can you imagine having four children? Can you imagine being the mom of four children? So excuse me while I roll my eyes as Joe gets on his soapbox and quotes other successful white male entrepreneurs.

What Joe Got Right

Joe is one of those guys that falls in the, "stop making excuses and just do something" bucket. And many times I wholeheartedly agree. A huge part of my business is overcoming objections to kids being outside, no matter the weather or people saying, "oh, I could never do an obstacle course race." So I get it. Let's first focus on where him and I agree:

  • Being out of balance can improve your distress tolerance: Distress tolerance is one's ability to tolerate emotional disease or discomfort. This sounds like a fancy word for resiliency. Joe says that the discomfort of being unbalanced can improve our distress tolerance. I agree.

  • Don't waste time comparing yourself to others: I also agree with this. Many people do a great job of putting on a show of how fabulous their lives are. But you never really know what somebody is going through. You can look at somebody whose career or family life you envy, but what you see may not be reality. Give yourself a break. You're doing the best you can and don't always believe the glowing pictures you see of others on social media.

Why Joe Lives in La-La Land

These are the points where Joe lost me:

  • "If you do what you love, your work should just be an extension of your life": These are actually the words of Bert Jacobs, co-founder of Life is Good. Oh, Bert. If only it were that easy. Statements like this are condescending to anyone that is miserable in their job but can't leave. There are countless reasons why people are in passion-less and/or dead-end jobs. It's not that easy to start your own gig if your family is dependent on your steady paycheck. I'm all for shooting down excuses, but when it comes to providing for yourself or your family, passion sometimes has to take a backseat.

  • Find passion in all of it: Again, many people don't have this luxury. Most people don't enjoy being miserable but for many, getting out of their current situation can feel insurmountable. Additionally, any parent will tell you, taking care of kids is exhausting. This is especially true in 2020, where if you're lucky enough to have a job that can be remote, you and your family are stepping on each other all the time. If you're not lucky enough to have a job that's remote, then you're potentially scrambling to find coverage for your kids.

Here's the Reality

Joe's right--we need to forget work-life balance. In the intro to his article, Joe says that he's neglecting someone or something at any given moment, including a reference to one of his kids looking for a hug. With four kids, I can't imagine what his wife's day looks like. I could be wrong, but I assume she doesn't work because it would be extremely difficult to work full-time with four kids when you're married to a guy that is a self-proclaimed workaholic.

COVID has further impacted our inability to achieve work-life balance. Work-life balance isn't even on the hierarchy of needs when you're just trying to get through the day. If you follow Obstacle Fitness on LinkedIn, you know that I've posted a fair amount on the impact that COVID-19 has had on women and working moms in particular. Even writing this post I've had to go upstairs at least three times to tell my kids to keep it down, clean up a mess, and finally to go outside before things start getting taken away. Each time I come back down I have to get my train of thought back. Many women are trying to figure out if it's even worth it to keep working because with kids remote part-time at best (if you're lucky enough to have kids that are school-aged) are having an extremely difficult time getting their work done, and they're paying the price for it.

It's time that these successful male entrepreneurs acknowledge that they in fact have it pretty easy and many women would do just about anything for their definition of work-life balance (or lack of). Perhaps these guys should trade a day with their wives so they can see that they really don't have it that bad?

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