Work Life Separation


We get a quick note on the weekend.

“Sorry to bug you about work on a weekend, but I need…”

Or a text late at night.

“Hey, sorry, I know it is late, but can you send along…”

And there was an email early in the morning.

“Sorry, this is last-minute, but can you give us a call right away…”

These requests were simple. They took just a few moments of our time.

We enjoyed being able to respond. It didn’t even feel like work.

There was a time when we thought we needed work life separation.

There was a time when we thought this divide was important.

There was a time when work felt like work.

Over the past few years the work life separation wall has slowly been dismantled.

Brick by brick, the need to be distinct and have boundaries has faded away.

The work life separation wall has become a smeary, messy, blended tapestry.


When our work, and life is about helping others, both happen at interesting hours, times, and moments.

It doesn’t feel like work. It isn’t distinct from our life. It just is.

We live and work at weird hours when there is a need. There are no office hours.

We aren’t counting the days until we retire. We just live.

We live and work in various locations, and at various times.

We meet the needs around us throughout our entire journey.

There is no longer a need for the work life separation.

The absence of that artificial barrier sets us free.


Reclaiming (y)our Life

Listening to people can be revealing. If you listen (really listen), people will tell you a lot about themselves. Listen to the story they are telling. Listen to the one that they may not know they are telling.

While connecting at a conference, a story came to light.

“Carl, glad to hear that all the girls are doing well, still hard to believe your kids are that old, because you are so much younger.”

During the same conversation, we began to talk about running. I extended an invite to run with our group later that day.

“I am running more, but I am so old compared to you guys. I could never keep up.”

And later that day.

“Since I am so much older, I don’t have the same energy I used to.”

The real story was pretty clear.

As the group run was finishing, this person was finishing their run (ironically we all finished at the same time) and we were all standing in the lobby. I had a choice. Should I let their story continue or was there an opportunity to engage in this storyline?

“You know I couldn’t help but notice how much of your dialogue is about your age, how old you are, especially compared to others.”

“Is it that obvious?”

We reviewed our earlier conversations and that pattern that was previously hidden from them became clear.

“I didn’t realize how many times I said it.”

“Why do you think you are so defined by your age?”

“I think that so much of my life was defined by the roles that I have played: spouse, parent, and professional, that now I feel that I am trying to reclaim my life.”

“What do you mean reclaiming your life?”

“There are few decades of my life that went by so fast, and I was so focused on others, that I lost myself.”

We continued to talk. I could relate to this feeling of losing yourself when the demands of life, work, family, and career are competing to define us. We also talked about the role that these words are playing in the current reality. How the focus on age, and being older in some ways is not helping. Those words are trying to create a new limiting definition.

We agreed on two things:

1. We would be more aware of any self-limiting dialogue.

2. We would continue this journey of reclaiming our life and check in once in a while on the progress.

As we were about to part ways, I couldn’t help but ask one more question.

“How old are you anyway?”

It turns out that their perception of some vast age gap between us, was only four years.

Here are a few pieces of advice.

1. Listen. Listen to those around you, and your own words. How are you shaping your future reality by the word you use? What stories are you and others really telling?

2. Reclaim. Identify areas where you need to reclaim your life. What are those things that you had hoped to do, but your roles got in the way?

Keep me/us posted on your progress either in the comments section or via email on the contact me page.

(P.S. Just last night I read this story which may help all of us realize what is still possible, despite our age. And I thought running into our 80’s was possible…)

The Decade of Training

Wander Tag(Image Courtesy of

Through a combination of coaching conversations, and reflections on my own life I have noticed a pattern. Many of us wish we were further along in our lives, careers, or relationships. We speak as if there is some place we should be, but we are behind in the race. We speak with regret and sadness as if we are currently missing out and life would be somehow different.

“I have been in this job for 6 years now and am in a rut and it feels wasted.”

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and moved from job to job and didn’t make progress.”

“School was not a focus for me, and I wasted those years.  Now I have to go back again.”

“Just imagine where I would have been if I didn’t squander those years.”

These conversations made me think of that quote from J.R.R. Tolkien. Maybe it is okay to wander for a little while, because those years are not always lost.

Instead of seeing those years (however long it has been) as a waste, maybe a perspective change would help. Perhaps we could view that time as the Decade of Training.

The Decade of Training helped form who we are today.

The Decade of Training helped us create goals and start to pursue them.

The Decade of Training helped us try different things.

The Decade of Training helped us know that failure is part of the journey.

The Decade of Training helped us learn to get back up and keep moving.

Those years in the Decade of Training are not necessarily lost, unless you give up and assume that it is too late to pursue the goals for your life, career (or second career, or third career), or relationships.

Most of us today will live into our 90s. To put that in perspective, when we reach 60, we will still have 1/3 of our lives ahead of us.

The real question is now that you have been trained, what will you do with it?

Keep Your Story Fresh

“What do you do with all that random information?”

A close friend asked me the other day. I must have been spouting off about some random facts that I had learned, but the details today escape me.

Apparently, my habit of trying to learn everything about anything I can get my hands on can be a little annoying if you are on the receiving end of my latest rant.

Within a week, during a routine drive time conversation with another close friend they experienced a question from a colleague after presenting to a large group.

“How do you know all that random information that you somehow weave into your presentation?”

“I need to keep my story fresh” they replied.

Those words resonated.

I need to keep my story fresh.

If we are going to stay relevant, current and in demand the old stories won’t do.

We have to learn, grow, develop, and stay teachable.

The seemingly random facts.

The new interactions.

The new class.

The new book.

The new experience.

They all join together to keep your story fresh.

To my first friend, I finally have the answer about my random rants and continual need to devour any information that comes my way.

“I am keeping my story fresh.”

To my second friend, thanks for the words we all needed to hear.

The List, the Life, and the Legacy

The List

Today is the first time I am removing someone from my subscription list.  Why am I telling you?  It is important to the story.  The removal is not for anything they said, or anything they did.  Removing them is more of a painful housekeeping process because they passed away this week.  It seems like the right thing to do, so these posts are not just one more detail or item to be dealt with by the family.

The Life

I have a friend who is currently writing a book called What Will They Say?, about the lessons learned by attending funerals of 30 strangers.  Over the past year I have attended a few funerals/life celebrations and yesterday marked another.  During these events, I find myself sitting there amazed at what you learn when people talk about those who have passed, and wondering how to apply some of the lessons you learn from others’ lives.

Yesterday was no exception.  I learned about generosity combined with grace.  I learned about a person who led in all aspects of life with a quiet perseverance that impacted many of those around them.  I learned that despite being taught to take the safe route and to avoid disappointments in life by not dreaming, this person went to college, started businesses and the packed service was a testament to someone who impacted many.

The Legacy

Their passing was not a complete surprise, some illnesses are not swift and take us over a period of years.  Because of this, there was some preparation for the recent events including the passing of the company to one of the children.  A month or so ago, while celebrating the transfer of a business it became clear that the end was near and the night included celebrating the contributions and impact of this life.  Unlike yesterday, they were still with us.

This event had a greater impact on me than imagined as I watched a business person, spouse, parent, and friend pass down a legacy to each group.  I witnessed the gracious generosity of a less celebrated form of leader: one who is gentle, cares deeply, and does the right thing. 

I will be taking them off the list today and it is harder than I thought.  Perhaps that is part of my own grieving process to write about this, and challenge myself to live differently today.  We don’t always know the impact we have on others (for good for bad) and while reflecting I wonder if this person knew how much impact they were having on me.  Their impact on me was subtle, but there is something to be said about the impact of a life well lived.  Maybe that was the best lesson of all.