84. Blending an Ambitious Career with a Meaningful Life
You’ve heard over and over that the key to success is to work harder and longer than everyone else—but you do so at the expense of your health and your loved ones. Or, perhaps you’ve determined the cost isn’t worth it. So you seek out a better sense of well-being but pump the brakes on your ambition. Can you really only have either a thriving career or a healthy personal life? Is there a third option?
In this episode, the crew at Focus on This talk with Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt Miller about their new book, Win at Work and Succeed at Life. They walk you through the intentional strategy that improves results both at home and at work, so you can take back control of your life and find freedom and margin and more opportunities than you ever thought possible.
In this episode, you’ll discover—
- 3 nonnegotiables to set as you design your Double Win
- Why the issue is not quantity of time but intentionality
- How to create breathing room when you’re in survival mode
- Strategies for proposing a Double Win experiment to a skeptical boss
Verbs: Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Verbs, here with Courtney Baker and Blake Stratton. What is up, guys?
Courtney: A lot of things. This is kind of a big day, Verbs.
Blake: Because it’s Monday. Right?
Blake: It’s Monday morning. Every Monday is just a huge day for you.
Courtney: Do you know what I love about this podcast? I love when we start off and I have all the energy and there’s just crickets.
Blake: You’re like, “Guys, guess what!” and we’re like, “Yeah.”
Courtney: Especially when we’re doing a podcast and we have these two people on. Come on, guys. Help me out here.
Verbs: I purposely did not say anything yet and show our cards in the intro.
Courtney: Oh, that’s good. Okay, okay.
Verbs: But, ladies and gentlemen, we are joined by Mr. Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt Miller. Rounds of applause.
Michael: Hey, guys.
Megan: Hi. So fun to be on with y’all.
Michael: Good to be with you.
Blake: It’s good to have you. We don’t typically have guests, but Michael messaged me on Instagram like 12 times. He’s like, “Can I get on? Can I get on? Can I get on? Can I get on?” and I’m like, “Okay. I get it.”
Michael: I wore him down.
Blake: It’s a special occasion, not just because it’s Monday and not just because we have two amazing guests, but they’re here for an exciting reason.
Courtney: Yeah. Rumor on the street is y’all wrote a book, and not just any book. This book is like the foundation for Michael Hyatt & Company. This is a really important book. I’ve read it. I’m so excited to be sharing about it today with everybody.
Verbs: The whole conversation today is just asking yourself that question: Have you ever felt you had to choose between the career you wanted and were going for or the life you actually wanted and what all that meant? There’s this idea out there that says you have to choose. It’s either an ambitious career at a cost to your health, at a cost to your family, or just your overall well-being, or a well-rounded life while playing it safe at work or not working at all.
So, the questions we’ll be asking today will be centered around that, but I know we have some stories as well, personally, we’re able to share in regard to the double win and what that looks like, or the need for the double win in our lives.
Courtney: I want to say at the get-go, I know both of you have been on a lot of podcasts lately, so we’re going to ask you some… We’re going to try to summon our “Oprah with Megan and Michael” kind of energy here.
Megan: Should we get our Kleenex?
Courtney: Yeah, get your Kleenex. We want y’all to dig deep. This is the home turf. You have to give us the really good stuff. I know y’all have been holding on. You’re going to really peel back another layer of the onion today with us, so it’s going to be really fun.
Blake: For starters, tell us, what is this book and why did you write it?
Michael: Well, the book is really a manifesto, and it’s a book that argues that something we call the double win is possible, that you can win at work, be über successful, but not at the expense of your health or your most important relationships or, as Verbs said, your overall well-being.
It’s very counterintuitive in today’s culture, because we have something we call in the book the hustle fallacy, which is now being advocated by a lot of celebrity entrepreneurs, that basically says you just need to work your butt off. If you want to get ahead, if you want to succeed, work your butt off, and maybe at some point in the indefinite future you’ll be able to kick back and actually enjoy your life. We say bunk. The double win is possible, and it’s possible now. We wrote the book to show people how to get it.
Blake: We don’t really use that kind of language on this podcast.
Courtney: Yeah, we try not to.
Megan: Family show.
Verbs: Nick is on the censoring buttons.
Michael: I used the two B-words one after the other: butt and bunk.
Megan: Okay. I think the other side of that… There’s the hustle fallacy that we’ve been sold as the way to get success, but the flip side is, for a lot of people, they look at that and say, “Man! I don’t want to make those trade-offs. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and have regrets that I compromised my relationships with my kids or my spouse or I wasn’t able to take care of my parents who are aging or I let a chronic illness run wild because I didn’t take care of myself,” or whatever.
The flip side of the hustle fallacy is something we call the ambition brake. It’s where you purposefully decide you’re going to have to constrain your professional ambition or, I like to say, potential; that you’re not going to try to pursue your professional potential and your impact in the world through professional pursuits in an effort to have more balance, to make sure you’re not getting out of control on the things that matter most outside of work. But that comes at a huge cost too. Both of these options, the hustle fallacy and the ambition brake, stink. We don’t like them.
Michael: There’s a third way.
Megan: There’s a third way. One of the things we talk about in the book is this idea of establishing your nonnegotiables in three areas. I love to talk about this, because this is really what I did and I think, Dad, what you did as well, and this is where it all starts: this designing of your own double win. What we ask you to do is to start with your self-care, because that’s… Again, this is a performance strategy.
If you think about professional athletes, there are no professional athletes… If you think about somebody like Serena Williams… Nobody would imagine Serena Williams could have had the career she has had and continues to have if she were overtraining and not paying attention to the physical, emotional, and mental needs of herself. Right? She would be overtraining, she would be sidelined with injuries, and she would have had a short career.
Similarly, for us, if we don’t first attend to our own self-care in some really basic ways and establish what our nonnegotiables are… This is not like you’re going to do everything, but what are the nonnegotiables that are going to set you up to perform at your best professionally and in the rest of your life? So, that is the first area we want to look at.
The second one is your relational priorities. When you think about the people you love… Maybe that’s a spouse. Maybe that’s your kids. Maybe that’s friends, parents, your community. What are the things that are nonnegotiable to you that, if you look back on your life 20 years from now, you will have had to do and show up in this certain way for you to not have regrets?
For me, for example, that is I want to be able to pick my kids up from school. That’s not going to be true for everybody. This is totally subjective based on your values, what matters to you, etcetera. But that’s one thing for me. I want to pick my kids up from school. I also want to be sitting at the dinner table with my kids five nights a week.
That doesn’t mean dinner is fancy. That doesn’t mean we’re not sometimes eating Chick-fil-A or on paper plates or whatever. It’s mostly that I want to look my kids in the eyes, and I want to have this moment where we talk about what we’re grateful for, what was good about the day, because I think that is so important…again, for me. That’s in my area of nonnegotiables related to relational priorities.
Then lastly, professional results. What professional results for you are nonnegotiable? Where are you driving the most value through high-leverage investments in your business or in the company you work for? This is how, ultimately, this becomes possible: establishing these nonnegotiables in these three areas…self-care, relational priorities, professional results. It is possible to not do it all, because we all know that’s a lie, but to do all of the things that matter most. It is possible, but you have to start with this clarity and vision of your double win design to begin with.
Blake: Something that strikes me, if I can play devil’s advocate for a minute, Megan and Michael, is someone may be listening to this podcast and thinking, “Well, hey, Michael, I get that you wanted to make a change in your life, and, sure. Guess what. You already had cashed that big check. You already were in that position of power. You already had your wife’s support. You could hire the coach to help you,” and this and that.
For anyone who has a narrative running in their mind of “Well, that’s not me. I don’t have a partner. I don’t have a spouse. I don’t have leadership in my job where I could delegate whatever I feel like delegating. The issue isn’t that I’m too power-hungry or greedy. I’m just trying to put food on the table, pay the bills, and make my life work, and I’m drained just doing that much.”
Do you have any encouragement for them? Are there principles in the book you could highlight for them? What would you say to a person who’s maybe in a life stage where they feel relatively powerless to change the momentum of not the double win, of maybe barely a single win?
Michael: I know there are people in desperate situations, maybe somebody who’s newly divorced and trying to make ends meet and feels like they have to work two jobs just to feed their kids. Sort of Maslow’s Hierarchy. You know, “I’ve got to attend to their physical needs first before I can think about all this other stuff.” I get that. I think that just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something.
I kind of used that same rationale for almost two decades to say to myself, “I have to do this. I have to save for my kids to go to college or get married or retirement,” or whatever. I realize I’m coming from a place of privilege. I get that. But I think, again, just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something.
One of the principles in the book that I think is so powerful is this idea of constraints leading to freedom. When we don’t have boundaries, when we don’t have constraints, we think that will lead to freedom, but it actually leads to bondage. We have to put some parameters. Megan, to be honest, can’t do what I do with regard to self-care. She has five kids at home. I’m an empty nester. I have virtually unlimited time. But that doesn’t mean she can’t do something.
For me, I can take a couple of hours in the morning for self-care and for my morning ritual. Megan? If she can get 15 minutes, that’s heroic. There was probably a time when 7 minutes would have been heroic. So, the issue is not the quantity of time; the issue is that you’re intentional. Small hinges can swing big doors. So, find those practices, those behaviors in your life that you can begin with now. As you’re faithful, those will grow.
Megan: What you’re saying, Dad, is really true. When I look back at times when I felt like I was in survival mode, like, some really hard seasons with our kids, what I would go back and tell myself… First, there’s no need to set a high bar. What you’re able to do is different than what I’m able to do now, but that’s really different than what I was able to do years ago when my kids were little and we were really struggling in some certain ways.
What I would tell myself, though, is that part of how you get out of that survival mode or how you make a really tough season where you’re stretched thin more bearable is that you give yourself a little space to think about how you can be intentional in a few areas, and all of a sudden, it creates breathing room. When you’re in survival mode, it’s like your life is on autopilot.
You’re not thinking about things like sleep and nutrition and movement and purpose in your relationships, because you’re just getting from one day to the next. I’ve certainly been there. I know what that feels like. But I think it’s more within reach than most people think, even if you are in a really tough season with a lot of limitations and constraints, to be intentional in some ways that maybe you’re not even thinking about right now.
What I love about this book is that I think it’s going to open your mind to some ways you can be intentional that maybe have never occurred to you before that are going to create freedom and space and opportunity in your life, ultimately, that are beneficial to anyone. So, that would be what I would add to what you said.
I kind of spoke to this earlier. This is a performance strategy at the end of the day. This is not just work-life balance, “cover of a magazine” kind of stuff. This is how do we drive top performance at work and at home, and how does the attention to the “succeeding at life” part of the double win (win at work and succeed at life) actually improve our professional results?
Here’s what we have seen at Michael Hyatt & Company. When we decided to experiment with a six-hour workday at the beginning of the pandemic and move toward that company-wide, what we saw last year was that we beat our profit goal by 50 percent…in a pandemic year. Now, I know that’s not true for everybody. There were all kinds of challenges people faced that were off the charts, but for us, I think the reason that was possible is because we constrained our workday.
Here’s what it makes possible. All of a sudden, you start making better decisions with how you invest your individual resources as an individual contributor and your collective resources as a team or a company. Instead of focusing on just getting through a task list or a to-do list or checking projects off your list, now you’re thinking about results and outcomes.
The whole perspective changes, where leverage becomes the primary orientation for decision-making. You know, are we going to get a disproportionate return on investment for the input of this amount of time or resources? In order to make constraints possible, those are the decisions you have to make, both at work and at home, really.
For me, when I was talking about prioritizing family dinner, that’s a high-leverage activity for me. Not every single thing I could do is going to be in that category, but I know my kids are going to remember that and are going to look back on that with a lot of meaning and fondness. That’s true in the business realm as well.
So, what we’re talking about here is that in putting in place a double win, you should expect to get better results, not see your results go backward. If you’re someone who’s trying to sell this to a boss who may be skeptical, the way I would recommend you do that is, first of all, to go to your boss and propose this as an experiment with some constraints on your workday. Maybe you want to leave every day at 5:00 or 6:00, or whatever that is, and not be available afterward.
Do it under the umbrella of “I think I can perform at an even higher level. Would you be willing to test this with me and see if I can produce even better results in a constrained amount of time, and if I can, then I can continue to do this?” What most bosses are thinking about are the financial results. If they assume this is going to compromise those financial results, then that could be perceived as threatening or problematic.
But if you’re fortunate, you’ll have someone who will be willing to consider an experiment, and what I think will happen is you will see your own performance up-level in a pretty dramatic way. That’s certainly what we’ve seen not only at Michael Hyatt & Company but with our business coaching clients. We have about 700 clients, and we’re seeing this happen with them as well.
Blake: Megan, as you sit from the CEO’s seat… I don’t know if you’ve talked about this publicly, but as a company, it’s public knowledge we’ve been growing from a staff perspective. Can you speak to the long-tail effect that you see? You mentioned leverage, but how could a leader see this as “You know what? Maybe this feels like a step back this month, this quarter…” Can you give some perspective on how you’ve seen that affect our culture or some of our clients’ cultures in a long-tail vision?
Megan: Well, first of all, I don’t think it has to be a step back. I do think it’s a process to work toward not only making this double win happen in your own life, as an individual, but also in an organizational context. It is a process, and I think it’s important to be realistic about that. But if I look at the long-tail effect of this, not only do I see that I have a team of people who are operating at their most creative…
Again, if I go back to that analogy of athletes, I have a team of athletes performing at the top of their game because they’re not overtraining. They’re coming to work with their best ideas, their best creativity, their most innovative thinking I could ever ask for. So, I’m getting that, which is huge for the future of our business. But when you talk about something, Blake, like you were just talking about with our team, the ability to not only recruit but retain top talent… I mean, how can people compete with this?
When you think about people coming from… When they’re looking at organizations and what’s available in terms of options, so few companies promise anything like the double win, that they’re going to have the opportunity to win at work and succeed at life. What we have found is that people are just clamoring to join our company because, at the end of the day, there’s only so much more money can do.
You can be promised more money at a great job, but if it’s going to mean you have to work 20 percent more and you’re going to miss important moments in your life and you’re going to risk being sick or having a chronic illness flare up, or something like that, all of a sudden… At some point, you kind of just tune out to that. It’s just not worth it anymore. What we’re offering people is something that’s better than that. It’s even more meaningful, because it sees them as whole people, and what we do as a company is only benefit from that.
When people are thriving in their whole lives, that backs up to the operating results of our business. When people are struggling outside of work, when they’re struggling with relationships falling apart or kids having trouble or their health, that also backs up into the business in terms of performance. So, from my perspective, it’s like a triple win for the business. The business absolutely benefits from this double win concept in so many ways.
Verbs: Michael and Megan, it has been fantastic having you guys on Focus on This. I know we’ve said a lot throughout this episode, just grasping the concept of the double win and applying it to our lives, but if there was one thing we could offer to a listener to walk away with after listening to this episode, what would you recommend they would do, if it was just one thing they could apply to their lives?
Michael: I would say: acknowledge that work-life balance is possible. I know it’s super popular… It’s advocated by many that that’s a myth. I’m here to tell you it is not a myth. Here’s the problem with thinking it’s a myth. As long as you think it’s a myth, you won’t pursue it, for the same reason you wouldn’t go try to find a unicorn. If it doesn’t exist, what’s the point? But if it exists, if there’s a third way that can get you out of this impossible choice, just acknowledging that will set you on a journey to find it, and that’s where I’d start.
Megan: I love that.
Verbs: Megan, what about you?
Megan: Once you’ve done that and you’re fully open-minded to the fact that this could be possible for you, I would get out a piece of paper and spend some time (maybe this is a Sunday evening or Saturday morning early before the kids get up) and think about what matters to you in the areas of these nonnegotiables I talked about: self-care, relational priorities, and professional results.
If you couldn’t do anything else in these categories, what do you feel like is truly essential for you? Just start to think about that. Most of us have never sat down and thought about that. It really begins with a vision. The double win begins with a vision. It begins with a vision that it could be possible for you, but it also begins with a vision of what that might mean to you.
What’s amazing is once you start to get those two things in place, the resources, the “how” parts of that, almost magically start to become clear to you. Things will start to pop up that you’ve never thought of before, and you’ll start to see a path. Of course, in the book we really get into the details of how to do this, but that’s what I would recommend.
Courtney: Now, if you’re wondering, “Okay, I’m in. I’m sold. Hook me up. How do I get this book?” you don’t have long to wait. The title of the book is Win At Work & Succeed At Life. We say this all the time on this podcast, so you’re really familiar with that terminology. We call it the double win. The book comes out on April 20, and you can preorder that at winandsucceedbook.com.
Let me tell you why it’s really important to preorder. We have a really exciting event we are having on April 20. We have special guests who are going to be there. It’s going to be a huge deal. Michael and Megan are going to be guiding us through a whole event that day, but you only get access if you preorder the book. You can do that at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, wherever you buy your books. Go buy your book, and then go to winandsucceedbook.com to get access to the event.
Verbs: The good news is you don’t have to choose between the work you love and the life you want. With intentionality and planning, you can define and achieve your own double win. Michael, Megan, Courtney, Blake, any final thoughts for our Focus on This listeners?
Courtney: I want to say one thing I’m really excited about is for especially women who are early in their career… I talked about early in the episode the message I got early on was “You have to work really hard, and then maybe one day you won’t have to work quite as hard.” I think a lot of times, women, we look ahead and see, “Oh gosh. I don’t know how to have this career and have a family, and if I choose the family path, I can’t keep being successful at this career, because they don’t work together.”
You get into that ambition brake even before you need to pump the brake. You pump it in your early 20s because you’re like, “I can’t go anywhere for this.” I get so excited for a new generation that will see there is another way. There is that third option. It literally gives me chills. So, if you’re listening to this episode and you know somebody who’s in that stage of life, get them this book or send them this podcast episode. Let’s seed this new message. Let’s start combating the hustle fallacy, because it’s everywhere.
Michael: Courtney, that gets me excited too, because my hope (and this is a big hope) is that this would spawn a movement of people who are tired of being the victim of this impossible choice and are willing to try something different and take back control of their lives so they can experience this winning at work and succeeding at life. I’m here to say it’s absolutely possible. You can do this. You may have to start small, but everybody listening to this can do this.
Verbs: Thank you for joining us on Focus on This. This is the most productive podcast on the Internet, so please share it with your friends. Remember #focusonthispodcast. We’ll be here next week with another great episode. Until then…
All: Stay focused!