Many years ago, when my two boys were still teenagers, I got so caught up in writing books and striving for success and fame, that I lost my bearings. I began to act as though my time was more important than my wife’s or my children’s. I had become obsessed with traveling and giving workshops and doing whatever I could do to ensure that my book about how to be a good man, “Awakening from the Deep Sleep,” would hit the bestseller list.
That spring, after many months of me being gone promoting the book, we had scheduled a family vacation to the ocean. Not only were my wife and children going, but my cousins were joining us, as well. Wouldn’t you know that three days into the trip, my assistant back home called me to say, “You got a call from Oprah. They have an opening on the show and they want you to be on it… But the opening is just two days away – in the middle of your vacation.”
Without hesitating or consulting my family, I called Oprah’s producer and made arrangements to go to Chicago the next day. Only hours later, did I think to tell my wife how excited I was. She was gracious about my leaving, even helping me to rush out to buy a new suit to wear on the show. I was so excited that I didn’t think about the fact that I was leaving her alone with the kids and my cousins. I was totally clueless about how easy it was for me to set aside my core values to pursue fame and fortune. And the irony of it, of course, was that my book was about how men should shed their self-centered behavior. I was becoming a case study for my own book!
It wasn’t until I returned a few days later that it dawned on me: I had been so seduced by my success that I had totally put my own need for fame ahead of the family’s need for our time together. It has taken me a while, but hopefully I have come to my senses. I now recognize how easy it is to go off course. How easy it is to forget that success and fame are not what matters most. Or to remember that in the end, family is what is most important.
I’m sure that this story may ring familiar to many people in leadership positions. A major challenge for people in the limelight is to keep their bearings and their perspective. One important way to do that is to be in constant communication with your family about how they are experiencing you. Do they see you as being excessive in your striving for success? Do they feel that you understand how they need you even more than the public needs you? If the answer to these questions is negative, it’s time to self-reflect and to consider what really matters in your life.
Today I try to keep in mind how seductive success can be. I try to remember how easy it is to let the pursuit of success overtake everything else in life. The Oprah episode was a moment of realization about the importance of making choices that prioritize time with family. They were so much more important than striving for success.
Note: From “Balanced Leadership in Unbalanced Times” by Robert Pasick PhD,