Work vs. Life: What is Your White Whale?

What do you want to be remembered for?

Well, we sure can talk the topic of work/life balance to death can’t we? I’ve written about it before and countless others have done the same. What is it about life that makes us always question it? Why are we compelled to second-guess our existence and our purpose?

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately – thinking about life, about my future, about the past and what has gotten me to this point. Sort of that ‘what does it all mean’ way of thinking. Thinking like this can drive you nuts. Obviously, the meaning of life can be interpreted a million different ways – in the end it’s a personal thing, you give your own life it’s meaning, no one else can tell you what it is.

Work vs. Family

Jun Loayza – great guy, passionate entrepreneur, motivated, and dedicated to success. He wrote a post yesterday asking ‘Which would you choose: Work vs Family‘. In it, he talks about the sacrifices an entrepreneur has to make – which includes, at times, neglecting family, friends, and significant others. Jun is a guy that wants to be remembered for something great – he wants to establish a legacy that will be remembered long after he leaves this place we call Earth. Is there anything wrong with that? No, it’s inspired – it’s something we all want, to be remembered, to validate our existence. No matter how big or small of an impact we strive to make, we all want to make a difference, we all want to live a life worth remembering. At it’s core, the meaning of life is to give life meaning, right?

How do you want to be remembered?

But Jun’s post got me thinking about my own life – his thoughts, while passionate and well thought out, scared me a little. I want to be remembered for something great, just like everyone else. But is it worth pushing yourself away from the people that really matter? Is establishing credibility amongst people you’ll never meet more important than the support from those who love us, care about us, and support us? Maybe being remembered isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – or maybe we’re focused on the wrong thing, maybe we should worry more about how we will look back and remember ourselves instead of worrying about praise and glory from everyone else.

Yesterday, I went and saw the movie Adventureland with my girlfriend (great film – highly recommended). I won’t spoil anything but near the end of the movie one of the characters is pondering the question ‘Why does any of this matter? I’m just going to be forgotten eventually’. He raises a point about Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, when he says, ‘Herman was one of the most prolific authors of all time, but in his obituary, they remembered him by calling him Henry Melville. Even the greats aren’t remembered after they die’. To this, James, the protagonist says – ‘Herman wrote an allegorical novel about an unstoppable white whale. The guy wrote an 800 page book about whaling, he must have been a pretty passionate dude. I would be honored to be called Henry when I die.’

Prioritize your legacy

What does it all mean? To me, it means that being remembered isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – but doing what you love, living a passionate and inspired life, and living for yourself – that’s what it all boils down to. The people that matter the most will never forget you. Think about the people you love, think about your parents, grandparents, and best friends. They have probably already done things in your lifetime that will make you never forget what incredible people they were. Isn’t that all that matters? Isn’t being remembered as someone who was passionate and who lived a good life for themselves and the people they loved really the most important thing?

Embarking down the path of the startup life takes commitment, it takes passion, it takes sacrifice. We all have our own ‘White Whale’, whatever it may be, there are things in life that we have to accomplish, things that we have to conquer, both personally and professionally – priorities can be different for each and every one of us. To some, work and life is a balance, to others, work and life are one in the same and must be integrated.  But in the end, don’t live your life to be remembered as the guy who wrote Moby Dick, live your life to be remembered as someone who was passionate enough to write 800 pages about a whale.

Call Me Ishmael…