Who will remember how late you worked?


“I took a red-eye to New York for a 45-minute meeting.”

Absurd, we both agreed.

My friend’s a partner at a “Big 3” consulting firm.

22 people flew from across the country for this meeting.

He’s 43 with 3 kids under the age of 7 and lives in LA. (So smack in the middle of the Magic Window.)

I couldn’t help but wonder, what did his kids think?

“20 years from now, the only people who will remember you worked late are your kids.”

This Reddit post hit me and a lot of ambitious professionals like a ton of bricks.

AND – I don’t think it’s that simple.

Instead, let’s look at a continuum of work. On one extreme you have:

1. Always work late and never see your kids

There may be several reasons to do so.

Covering your family’s basic needs.

Putting a roof over their heads.

Food on the table.

Building a rainy day fund.

But most of you reading this post have already accomplished this. And much more.

So what else keeps you tethered to your laptop, late at night?

Is it:

Pure pride in your craft?

Earning enough to live a dang good life?

Making an impact?

Playing status games. And winning them.

Yet once you cover your basic needs, you’d be foolish to ignore the costs of your success.

Which takes us to the other end of the spectrum.

2. Never work late and spend tons of time with your kids

One shouldn’t assume that this is the best outcome either.

Yes, there’s the Magic Window when you are the center of your kids’ world.

And they adore every bit of you.

(I’m in it. It’s pretty fucking rad. I’m also told it ends around 10 years old.)

But work brings more than a paycheck.

It brings structure. Purpose. Accolades. Meaning. Impact. Self-worth.

And negotiating both ends of this spectrum is a tricky dance for any ambitious parent.

3. But be careful of self-justifying behavior

“I do it for the kids.”

I work my butt off – for the kids.

It’s a common response.

“My hard work is how they get the iPads, vacations, summer camps, 529s and this nice house we live in.”

And while it’s true – “I do it for the kids” often obfuscates a deeper motivation.

Ambitious people like the taste of success, because it feels good.

Damn good.

But like a red-eye for a 45-minute meeting, success typically has an associated cost.

And cloaking your desire for success with “I do it for the kids” is a brilliant act of psychological jiu-jitsu.

So to you, ambitious person, I say:

Why are you truly, working late?

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