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The Secret to Successful Work Life Balance


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Motivational Speaker Craig Harper

Craig Harper is an Australian Motivational Speaker, and it’s safe to say we are mutual fans of each other. Although this post is longer than the usual guest post, it’s really inspiring, and really, really good. Enjoy yourself as you read and remember what’s most important in life.

I opened my first business in 1990.

I was twenty-six, young, dumb and full of… enthusiasm and hope.
My first employee was a young trainer named Matt.
He was nineteen, good looking, built like superman and had the personality and the charisma to match.

He was cheeky and very lovable.
He was like the younger brother I never had (I’m an only child).
I took him under my wing and mentored him and in return, he became a great trainer, ate all my food and made me laugh.
Between the two of us we had no business skills, no admin or management skills and overall… no real clues about running or growing a company.
Lots of enthusiasm and hope, not much else.
It was enough.

We bluffed and fluffed our way through our first year in business and Matty and I spent the best part of twelve hours per day together; we trained together, ate breakfast and lunch together, spoke about the meaning of life and all of the relative variables, discussed the many complexities and attractions of the female of the species and got to know and understand each other well.
We even went to the States together for a training/working holiday… essentially, an excuse to visit lots of gyms, have fun and chase girls.
I think we called it a research trip.

It would be fair to say that I loved him and cared for him like a brother.

We had amazing times together and I loved it that he never had ‘bad’ days.
He was never grumpy, rude or unpleasant to be around.
He had boundless energy and it was always a joy to be with.
The girls loved him and the guys wanted to be him.

You may have gathered by my use of the past tense, that Matty is no longer with us.

One day I was at work and the phone rang.
On the other end was a client of mine who is an intensive care nurse.
She was crying so much that I could hardly understand what she was saying.
My heart sank and I felt instantly sick when I realised that she was telling me that Matty had been in an accident and that he was on life support in the intensive care unit in which she worked.

I remember that day well; I had a million things on, appointments all over the place and no free time. I was immersed in my ‘very important’ schedule doing my very important things.
Doing all the things that mattered.
I thought.

One short phone call made me realise how un-important my to-do list was.

Instantly I had all the time I needed because my little brother was dying in hospital.
No time issues, no motivation issues, no hurdles.
Nothing or no-one would stop me from going to be with him.

Suddenly all that really mattered was my friend.
My very important day and all of my worries, challenges and responsibilities seemed like insignificant, meaningless crap (in the perspective of that moment and that day).

Isn’t it weird how we humans often wait for sickness, tragedy or even death before we begin to get some real perspective on what really matters?
In my experience, people are never more real or uninhibited than when they, or a loved one, is seriously ill or near death.
Isn’t it a shame that we (some of us) wait until moments such as those before we really discover what matters or tell our loved ones how much they matter to us.
Absolute honesty and open-ness.

A few years ago a friend of my died from a neuro-muscular disease.
I visited him in hospital about six hours before he passed away.
He was emaciated and could barely speak but I could talk to him… and I did.
It was weird but I had this absolute clarity and certainty about what needed to be said (and not said).
What do you say to a person that you love who is living his last day?
You say what matters.
You don’t talk about bank balances, investment portfolios or fashion.

What’s crazy is that we let ’stuff’ (pride, laziness, apathy, stubbornness, insecurity, fear, embarrassment) get in the way of what really matters; friends, family, loved ones - relationships. We let our own issues stop us from telling those we love how we feel and what really matters.

We say that our loved ones are the most important thing in our life… but look how we (sometimes) treat those we love:

We resent them.
We blame them.
We stay angry at them for years.
We refuse to apologise or forgive… we’ll wait for ten years until they say sorry; after all, they started it.
We feel sorry for ourselves.
We run them down.
We assassinate their character.
We find fault in them but never ourselves.

People matter the most.
Not money, not assets, not things… not stuff.
Friends, family, relationships.

But how often do we damage relationships because we think (or at least behave like) other things matter more?

The truth is that we neglect and even destroy important relationships and we hurt people we love because of our pride, our stubbornness, our selfishness and our need to be right. We tell ourselves we’re right, when we’re actually wrong and we hold onto emotional crap for years… we hurt others, we paralyse ourselves emotionally, we kill relationships, we make ourselves sick and in all of it, there are no positives to be found!

We rationalise and justify our stubbornness to make ourselves feel better about what we do.
We don’t want to acknowledge that it’s us… but it is.

After all, it can’t always be the other person… can it?

Last week I got an email from a girl in the U.S. (she was the catalyst for this post). She had read one of my posts and told me that upon reading it she realised that the person she was hurting the most with her resentment, anger and bitterness towards her mother, was herself. And even though she had ‘a reason’ (not a very good one!) to be angry with her mum (mom)…after nine years(!) she had decided to forgive her and offer love.

After no contact for nine years she made a thirty minute phone call and changed her life (and her mum’s life) for ever.

I have printed the following with her permission.

“Craig, I realised what a fool I’ve been and how I have wasted years being angry at my mom for no real reason. Last night we met and had dinner for the first time in nearly a decade and I have never been happier in my life. I believed that I needed therapists and doctors, when I all I really needed was to forgive my mom and let her love me. We spoke for seven hours, hugged, cried and I got home at three o’clock this morning. To me, family matters more than anything and I had let my anger, my arrogance and my numerous issues and insecurities cloud my judgment and my reasoning. I was so resentful I was making myself sick, making my life a misery and hurting my family.”

How’s that for some new-found self-awareness?
Go Girl!!!

Perhaps sometimes we’ve just gotta say… what matters is not how much money I earn or how much power I wield… what really matters is the health of the relationships I have with the people I love… and I’m going to invest the time, energy and heart into those people.. because they’re worth it, they’re important and they matter the most.

Matty survived (in a coma) for about a week and in that time I saw him every day, talked to him, hugged him and wondered about what could have been. When I hugged and kissed him goodbye for the last time (before they turned off his life-support) I cried like a baby, realised that I had wasted too much of my life investing energy into things that really didn’t matter and neglecting things that did.

Like the people I love.

I know that this is a reflective and deep post and I know it doesn’t fit into the typical Velvet sledgehammer, get-yer-crap-together mould…. but it is my belief that too many of us waste too much energy on things that don’t really matter.

So… what (who) really matters to you… and what are you doing about it?


Craig Harper (B.Ex.Sci.) is an Australian motivational speaker, qualified exercise scientist, author, columnist, radio presenter, television host and owner of one of the largest personal training centres in the world.


He can be heard weekly on Australian Radio SEN 1116 and GOLD FM and appears on Australian television on Channel 31’s ‘Living Life Now’ and Network Ten’s ‘9AM’.

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On March 28th, 2007 at 10:18 am, GP said:

A case of “cherish what is dear to you while it’s near to you… dont wait til it’s gone”. As is human nature; we’re reminded of it on those occasions when it smacks us in the face

Thanx for the reminder; since I started out with a “stressed type” feeling with all the “stuff” that needs to be done today… cherish who i come into contact with today… All there is is now.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled innkeeping :) Thanx for the wake up call
GP in Montana

On March 28th, 2007 at 1:23 pm, Julie said:

Great post!

In reference to the girl and her mother, I once heard someone say that to not forgive someone is like poisoning yourself. How right he was. Funny how some people will live in daily anger towards another person as if they are “paying them back” while, in most cases, the other person has put the situation out of sight and out of mind and went on with his life.

On March 28th, 2007 at 2:35 pm, Polli said:

Wow. I’m a fan of Craig as well. This was such a powerful piece.

On March 28th, 2007 at 3:30 pm, Alex Shalman said:

Sorry Wendy, I already read this over at Craig’s site. Enjoyed it never the less and will be hosting it in Sunday’s Personal Development Carnival.

On March 28th, 2007 at 4:10 pm, Ash Hunt said:

Wendy, what an amazing story.
Craig is absolutely right. We do lose sight of what is important in life.
Thank you for sharing this great article.
Like you, Craig has an awesome writing style and a fantastic blog.

On March 28th, 2007 at 4:30 pm, Dylan Emrys said:

I had a wise friend once tell me “As soon as you make the revenue in a relationship more important than the relationship, you begin to destroy it.”

I really like that, and think of it often with regards to my husband - if he’s not doing something (or doing something) and it starts to become so important to me that I neglect US, I notice and make changes in my own attitude.

I also use this idea with my clients - if they are stressing about what to do with their baby, but forgetting about the BABY, I gently help bring into focus the most important aspect - their relationship.

Thanks for this pieces. Beautiful.

On March 29th, 2007 at 6:33 am, Alex Shalman said:

Dylan, I like your views on revenue and relationships. Did you blog about it?

On March 30th, 2007 at 6:49 pm, lee said:

Craig! Wow! I remember when my father died, how all of the “stuff” of life seemed so trivial in comparison with the last few hours of his life. But it’s not always the sadness of death that makes us wake up and see our beautiful and loving world for what it really is. Two years before my father died, my children were born. I remember waking up the next morning thinking “I’m a daddy!” Although my father’s death taught me (again) what’s really important (love and family), it was my children’s birth that finally explained life to me, that finally allowed me to become me. Sorry for the long comment, but your post really struck a nerve. Now I know what I’m writing about tomorrow! God Speed!

Mentions on other sites...

  1. Career and Kids » The Secret to Successful Work Life Balance on March 28th, 2007 at 6:15 pm

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