Take out one of your business cards and hold it up in front of you with your business information facing out.It was the spring of 2001 and the front of my card said “CEO/Founder.” It had our beautiful company logo that inspired me on it, and a San Francisco street address I was proud of.
I was committed. I was all in. Everything was about the company. Everything revolved around the company.
I liked everyone who worked for the company, I spent most of my time at the office, and every relationship I was actively involved in was with someone who worked for me, provided services to the company and me, or was in some way working with or for the company. Even my wife worked there.
The back of my card was blank.
My business card was a perfect metaphor for my life; everything was about what you saw. I paid no attention to the back of the card. The side of the card about me, was blank, empty and of no personal concern.
At the time, I thought that was a good thing. I thought I was supposed to live and breathe the startup, and that 100-hour workweeks were a normal way to live. I left the office to change clothes, clean up and sleep. I was living the entrepreneurs dream.
And then it ended.
An eye-opening experience
After the final employee was gone, the assets liquidated, the house sold and the divorce underway, I started to realize that everything I had invested time and energy into was gone. The front was now as blank and empty as the back.
I had placed the entirety of my identity on the front of my business card. Everything was related to the business and now that there was no business, it felt like there was nothing left at all. Everywhere I looked and everything I saw was blank, it was empty, and the loneliness was life threatening.
Looking back, I’ve realized that investing everything in the front of the card was selfish and dangerous.
Today, I invest in both sides of my business card. I have deep relationships with friends who have nothing to do with my work or my industry. My wife has her own career and I have learned to separate my work and personal life.
We tend to think the most important side of our business card is the front — the business side — when the reality is the opposite. The front of your card — what you do — will come and go, the back of the card — who you are — is your constant.
Invest in the back of your card. Make sure you know the difference between your work life, your work friends and your personal life. The key to long-term happiness, security and quality of life is on the back of your card. Make sure it has more on it than the front. ●