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“平衡工作与生活论”新解

Brian Dumaine 2012年12月07日

“平衡工作与生活”这类人力资源套话你可能早就听得多了,埃里克·辛诺威的新书《霍华德的礼物》却提出了新的见解。这本书记录了作者与哈佛商学院传奇教授霍华德·史蒂文森之间的思想交流和碰撞。后者曾经遭遇中风,但却从鬼门关捡回了一条命。 

    2006年的一天,在哈佛商学院(Harvard Business School)开创了著名创业课程的霍华德·史蒂文森教授在哈佛校园中走路时突发严重心脏病。幸运的是,他倒下的地方附近就有一栋大楼备有心脏除颤器(整个哈佛校园只有两栋建筑备有除颤器),而且恰好有一个人知道如何使用除颤器,还把除颤器拿到了他身旁。不仅如此,那一天正好有一辆邮政速递车驶过附近,而且两英里外就有一家非常好的医院。于是,这位66岁的教授在鬼门关走了一遭又回来了。一位医生说,“这种事发生的几率只有百分之一”。

    后来,朋友埃里克·辛诺威到医院看望他时,问他这一生中有过什么遗憾。除了摔倒时弄脏了最喜欢的运动衫,史蒂文森说,“一点(遗憾)也没有”。作为咨询公司Axcess Worldwide的创始人兼CEO,以及史蒂文森突发心脏病时的哈佛筹款人,这一事件让辛诺威意识到他差点错过了一个巨大的机会。多年以来,史蒂文森和辛诺威曾无数次畅谈生活、事业、家庭和创业;如果不是2006年这一天史蒂文森从鬼门关转了回来,辛诺威或许再也没有机会感谢这位长者曾经给他的种种金玉良言,也不再会有机会把他的想法记录下来,造福于人。

    这就是辛诺威(与美林·米德合著)的新书《霍华德的礼物》(Howard's Gift)的由来,发人深省。这就像是写给MBA学生的《相约星期二》(Tuesdays With Morrie)。这本书的长处在于,它不像很多这一类的大部头书那样试图灌输过于简单或浅显易见的建议,而是通过深入的对话,探讨真实职场问题和追求令人满意事业的不同途径,史蒂文森称之为“一生的工作”。

平衡工作与生活有很多层面

    辛诺威写道,史蒂文森对于“平衡工作与生活”这个套话很不满意,认为它太过简单化了。他将生活比作像是“走在奥运会赛场的平衡木上,手里抛着鸡蛋、网球和尖刀。”他说,我们至少都有7种生活:家庭生活、社交生活、精神生活、肉体生活、物质生活、业余生活和职业生活。

    史蒂文森认为,我们大多数人都试图在所有领域都获得A+——这样的追求固然好,但却不可避免地会让人耗尽精力。正如书中引用一位企业家的话称:“每天早晨我醒来时,就会想今天我会让谁失望。”生活是动态的,人们总是在不断地作出抉择,在7种生活中寻找妥协和平衡。史蒂文森说,关键是要经常在人生的不同阶段,思考哪些生活具有更高的优先性,然后随着境遇转变,调整重点。

    要想知道在这7种生活中将重点放在哪里,必须要搞明白在人生的不同阶段,什么对你是最重要的。有一次,辛诺威和史蒂文森谈起了一位成功的企业家朋友,这位朋友已经卖掉了自己的公司,拿到了一大笔钱。他实现了工作、家庭和高尔夫运动的平衡,可以做任何他想做的事情——但他仍感到茫然若失。

    Howard Stevenson,a professor who started the now-legendary entrepreneurship program at the Harvard Business School, was walking through Harvard's campus one day when he suffered a massive heart attack. Luck had it that he fell to the ground near one of only two university buildings that had a defibrillator and that someone who knew how to use it just happened to be there to bring it to his side. Not only that, an EMS vehicle that day was driving nearby and an excellent hospital was only two miles away. The 66-year old survived -- as one doctor put it: "a one-out-of-100 chance."

    When a friend, Eric Sinoway, visited the professor in the hospital, he asked him whether he had regretted anything in his life. Besides ruining his favorite sports coat during his fall, Stevenson said "not a one." This made Sinoway, the founder and CEO of the consulting firm Axcess Worldwide and, at the time of Stevenson's heart attack, a fundraiser at Harvard, realize that he had almost missed a huge opportunity. Over the years, Stevenson and Sinoway had spent hours talking about life, careers, family, and entrepreneurship; if Stevenson hadn't made it on that fateful day in 2006, Sinoway would have missed a chance not only to thank the older man for all his sage advice but also to record his ideas so others could benefit.

    That was the genesis of Howard's Gift, Sinoway's new, thought-provoking book (written with Merrill Meadow). Think of it as Tuesdays With Morrie for MBAs. The strength of this book is that it doesn't try to hit you over the head with over-simplified or obvious advice, like so many other tomes in this genre. Instead, you follow in-depth conversations that delve into real-life career issues and use them to subtly examine different ways to achieve a satisfying path -- pursuing what Stevenson calls your "life's work."

Adding a few additional layers to work-life balance

    Stevenson, writes Sinoway, scowls at the term "work-life balance," arguing that it's much too simplistic. He likens one's life to "juggling an egg, a tennis ball and a knife while walking on a balance beam -- at the Olympics." He says we all struggle to live at least seven lives: the family self, the social self, the spiritual self, the physical self, the material self, the avocational self, and the career self.

    Most of us, Stevenson argues, try to get an A+ in each of these categories -- a noble pursuit, but one that inevitably leads to burnout. As one entrepreneur quoted in the book said, "I wake up every morning wondering who I'm going to disappoint today." Life is a dynamic process where one is constantly making choices and compromises among those seven selves. The trick, Stevenson says, is to constantly assess which groups take priority at different points of your life, and then shift the emphasis as your situation changes.

    To know where to place the emphasis among your seven selves, you have to figure out what's important to you at various stages of life. At one point, Sinoway tells Stevenson about a friend of his, a successful entrepreneur who had sold his company for a large sum of money. He had managed to lead a life where he balanced work, family, and his golf game, and was at a point where he could do anything he desired -- but he still felt lost.

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