One of the best ways to balance your life may be to try slowing down a little. Stephen Covey, who wrote the popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Considering how many people spend a lot of time every day at work putting out fires, Covey may be right. After you’ve been in business for a while, you learn that not everything is an emergency.
By slowing down a little, you can take time to make the right decisions. You can even stop and take a moment to say no. I find that sometimes I just can’t take on another responsibility and have to say no. You can do the same — say no if you feel you’re being stretched too thin and can’t afford to divide your time up any more. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day. After seven hours of sleep, you need to divide up your waking hours into business, family time and everything else.
It also helps to not only set some rules but stick to them as much as possible. For example, if someone calls me about setting up a meeting on the weekend, I politely remind them about my rule not to do work on weekends unless it’s a major emergency — then we set a time to meet during the week.
Another example of one of my self-sustaining rules is all about how to retain your agency and identity and, yes, your money, too. Surprisingly, I’ve found that this rule overlaps a few areas of life, and you can apply it broadly.
I now stick to a rule that I won’t take on other investors. Instead, I fly solo. It’s not that I don’t like helping friends, family and other investors that I know. It’s just that sometimes it requires time and effort that I don’t always have and headaches that I’d prefer to avoid. That’s why people warn you not to invest other people’s money unless it’s your job.
I started investing on my own, with my own money. Then, around 2005, a lot of my friends, along with friends of friends, started saying, “You’re making so much money, you’re doing great, you’re buying Ferraris, driving a Rolls-Royce and own high-rise buildings. Why don’t you share the wealth?” So, I thought, why not bring them in? There were about 10 people, including both friends and family, that came in with me and invested. But as much as I liked these people and wanted them to do well, I found that I had to do a lot of babysitting. Investing takes time and patience. People would be emailing me constantly asking things like why I had not yet doubled their money or how much they could make. And often they had very high expectations. And when I asked them for a management fee to pay for the extra time I was putting in, they complained. I’d hear things like, “You’re worth $100 million and drive a Rolls-Royce, and you’re charging me a fee?” I would tell them, “It’s a business deal, I want to do everything properly, and I’m spending my time on the property.”
Over time, I found it to be too much of a headache and went back to doing my own investing. The truth is, while your intention is to help people, when you’re dealing with money, it can also become a liability. This is because when you take somebody’s money for an investment and you have fiduciary responsibilities, you become a partner and have to answer to them. Overall, they were happy, but in this case, I had one partner who was emailing everybody in the group and questioning my fee and asking me why this property didn’t go up as much as he had expected or as much as I said it could go up. The answer is simple: Investing is not an exact science. I was doing the best that I could, and my intentions were always good. I was not out to screw anybody — that’s not who I am.
I had one unfortunate situation in which I helped someone make a lot of money, but when they reinvested a large portion of it in another venture of mine, they lost a lot of their investment. They were very upset with me, but I could not guarantee them, or anyone else, that a deal is foolproof. I have a tremendous track record of success, but it’s not perfect. No investor can guarantee success every time. In the end, they still made money on their initial investment but not as much as they had hoped for, and it cost us a friendship.
The goal of a balanced life is to feel good not only about your business but also about your family, extended family, your hobbies, your charitable work and your “me” time. If you can find the time to do all of these things, plus some exercise to keep your mind and body fit, you have achieved a balanced life. But as my wife says, “It’s not easy, and we’re still working at it.”
When you’re young, you may be focused on one and only one goal, but as you grow and your life expands, more things will matter in your life. If you don’t recognize all of your needs and try hard to include and balance the different aspects of your life, you’ll likely have some regrets.
Keep in mind that being rich in life doesn’t always refer to having the most money but instead refers to getting the most out of life. That comes from finding your balance.