Work-Life Balance

It Solves The Wrong Problem Really Well

I don’t know this for a fact, but I don’t for one minute believe that John Mayall has ever - ever - considered his Work-Life Balance.

John is 85 years old and from the end of July through August you can go see him play in the USA and from September to November in many more places across Europe. No this isn’t a one off - Mayall constantly tours (provided he isn’t ill). His latest (35th) studio album released earlier this year features Todd Rundgren, Steve Van Zandt, Joe Bonamassa and Alex Lifeson. He formed his first band in 1956, though it took another 9 years to release his first album that included John McVie and Hughie Flint. The links will fill you in if you don’t know who they are.

Shortly after his inaugural album, Mayall gave Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Jon Mark, Johnny Almond and countless others their breaks into ‘the biz’. In short Mayall is ‘The Godfather of British Blues’ ... which I guess is why they call him the ‘The Godfather of British Blues’.


In these modern times, we are all told to ‘follow our passion’. Sounds great, but the challenge is that people need money to get through life and few of us have a war chest of cash to live on. So an income is required. It’s hard, really hard to earn that income while trying to follow your passion. Aspiring actors bus tables (the flexibility of hours allows them to search for their ‘big break’), musicians have similar roles. However, most of us typically don’t have that flexibility in employment, so we give up and go get a ‘proper job’.

At the job, we provide our Skills, Labour, Knowledge, Talent, Time, Wisdom … and in return receive monies. ‘Job satisfaction’ is likely to be non-existent to low and the work is almost certainly not what we really want to do. We just need money to live.

Back in ‘65 (coincidentally the very year Mayall came out with his first album), ‘The Vogue’s’ put the problem to music …

Trading my time for the pay I get (up!)
Living on money that I ain't made yet (up!)
Gotta keep goin' gotta make my way (up!) 
But I live for the end of the day (up!)

… and of course Drew added the video 30 years later!

The problem is summarized in the graphic below. A business has a number of roles they define to get things they need done, done. (Jobs that need to be filled!) A job description is produced and candidates are ‘matched’ against their capabilities to do that job.

Meanwhile, candidates shape their resumes to suit what the business is looking for as closely as possible, (I touched on this aspect of the process in last week’s letter) and ignore that which is irrelevant to the role, simultaneously leaving out a raft of skills, talents, knowledge and wisdom that just will not map into those requirements, even though some of them might help the business. A lot.

With a more open, enlightened recruiting process there is so much more that they could do that just won’t be utilized, it’s hardly surprising that they feel unfulfilled.

Is There A Better Way?

Well, Ikigai is a well known Japanese model that essentially provides insight into any individual’s ‘reason to get up in the morning’.

People First has a similar, but different model. A long time before People First existed, I was part of Glexnet (Global Expert Networks) and we developed a model called Pay, Purpose Play. It served us well at the time, though since then I have modified and developed the model to include Passion.

The People First Model

As with Ikigai, consider 4 circles, but in this case map each to Pay, Purpose, Play and Passion.

The model seeks to understand how much, or little, those 4 circle overlap for any given person. The tighter the overlap, the more fulfilled the person is likely to be.

I would contend that a lot of people in the corporate work force have a map that looks a little like this.

Purpose is a little of an odd outlier, since in my experience it can take time to understand what one’s purpose is. But that aside, given the typical outcome above, it opens the door to solving the wrong problem really well and so enters ‘Work-Life Balance’ which if I was to (un?)fairly reduce to a sentence, it would be something like;

“Don’t spend too much time at work, make sure that you have down time, outside time, vacation time, family time …. any time that makes sure that you don’t get burned out, so we can have you back in doing the job we need you to do.”

The key to the 4P model is that each person seeks their own balance in the four circles.

Ultimately aiming as close to something like this as possible. At which point, thinking about Pay, Purpose, Play and Passion all start to fade away as the individual begins to feel fulfilled.

Does John Mayall feel fulfilled? Well, needless to say, I can’t speak for him - but I think he does. Is he the richest musician on the planet? Not by a long way. Is he the most well known? Not at all. But I’d wager he is one of the most fulfilled people out there. And not a work-life balance equation to be seen.


Many Thanks For Your Attention and please do forward the email to colleagues, friends and family that want to join us on this journey. It takes more than a village!