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Work Life StyleSurvival Takes Balance

Last night I returned home from two back-to-back business trips that kept me out of the office (and home) for nearly two full weeks. With only two work days left before my next trip, I have discovered that once again I have overscheduled myself.

Strangely enough, it was an industry-related gathering—the annual meeting of the Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute (TLMI) and FINAT—that offered me a resounding wake-up call. Surely my schedule is a fraction of what most of you face month after month. You must agree, folks, that if you're a sympathizer because of similar or worse circumstances in your own life, it's pretty sad. Allow me to explain.

Admittedly, the joint TLMI/FINAT meeting was hardly a trip that one could call torturous (even if The Breakers in Palm Beach, FL, seemed a bit ostentatious), so I really can't claim that I spent my time "slaving" away at the sawmill...this time.

However, work for most of u—no matter how it's spent— frequently involves time away from loved ones or time that could be spent making a difference in another person's life.

The TLMI/FINAT keynote speaker was Dr. Beck Weathers, a Mt. Everest co-survivor with John Krakhour (who wrote the best-selling novel Into Thin Air). He retold his version of his near-fatal adventure. Tragically, nine others on the same trip will never tell their individual stories. For a man as driven as Dr. Beck Weathers (who, incidentally, is a mountaineer during his off-time and, during long and odd office hours, is a highly successful cardiologist), his wake-up call came when he performed the act of literally opening his eyes after being left for dead at the peak of Mt. Everest.

Now physically ravaged as a result of the Everest climb—with an amputated right arm, partially amputated left hand, and a disfigured nose—Dr. Weathers refused cosmetic facial surgery beyond what was necessary. He wished instead to confront daily his mirrored image and to be reminded of what he almost lost—not merely his life but the chance to be with his loved ones. Before the Everest climb, he was all too willing to spend his time either working or Everest training. Not now.

It appeared as if the audience had received his message loud and clear as it rose to give him a standing ovation for sharing his gripping experience. Could the listeners have recognized a shred of his experience in their own climbs to the top? To have come to such a psychologically eye-opening realization—just in the nick of time—required far greater recognition than the simple (albeit miraculous) feat of physically opening one's eyes.

Clearly Dr. Weathers communicated that finding balance is a survival skill that will take a person through this adventure we call life. Some could extrapolate that Dr. Weathers' near-death experience is something to be carried into the business world, where survival skills of the most basic sort will keep a company alive in a desperate dog-eat-dog competitive world.

Such interpretations are not wrong. In fact other speakers seemed to support this notion. Mike Fairly of Tarsus International delivered a presentation on the growing globalization of the label industry by means of multinational demands for label products wherever packaged products are consumed. Economist Dr. Joel L. Prakken addressed the survival of the label business within a world economy. Robert Olwig offered advice on how to capitalize with a new marketing survival tool provided through the Internet. And Peter Schutz, formerly the CEO of Porsche, shared how he and others can survive in an increasingly tighter labor market by adopting management styles that achieve extraordinary results from ordinary employees.

My compliments go to Suzanne Zaccone (Graphic Solutions) and John Eulich (Mark Andy) for planning an excellent program. I don't know about anyone else in that TLMI/FINAT audience, but I appreciated the reminder that Dr. Weathers offered: Work and life need balance. In the end, each of us individually must judge their true measures.

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