My grandparents worked 12 hour days six days a week in Lancashire's cotton mills. My 64 year old father who is a company director flies out to Japan 8 times a year and runs around like a thirtysomething. So its little wonder that I have a strong in-built value around hard work.
For most of mankind's history, my proclivity for slogging would have placed me in a highly esteemed position. I am the kind of person who would have dug moats, gathered crops or hunted boar until someone told me to stop. In more recent corporate times, I would have been viewed with awe, a Duracell Man, a prized company asset.
However, these are not my times. Modern thinking about work and life renders me a saddo. A workaholic. Someone `out of balance' with possibly something worrying going on in my head, something I am escaping through work. All said, I am not `normal' and my example is not something to be passed on to others.
As a result, I have kept my problem secret. I store my night-time emails so they go out in the day. I implore my colleagues to `look after themselves' and get home on time every night, then secretly indulge in my private life of work.
So why did I do this? Well, its partly because I believe that it is hard work, more than anything else, that makes things happen. Talent is fine. So too are ideas or great skills. But alone these are worth little. Only when mixed with frightening levels of graft do mountains move.
Look at the evidence. Think of anyone who has made a big impact on the world, or even our sector. What marks almost all of them out is prodigious work rate. These people have the same time as the rest of us. Of course, they use that time well but they all work extremely hard.
Now, I have made a much smaller impact than most of the people I admire. I have established a successful organisation, Speaking Up, that has made a mark. And when people ask me `how I did it', the answer, more than any other, is that I worked and worked and worked some more. For a long time, it was my life from the moment my eyes opened till they closed again 18 hours later. That is what it took. It isn't like that now but for many years, this is how I lived.
The current obsession with work-life balance is, on one hand, a mark of a more civilised, gentler society. But I also think it is linked, in a way, to the wanting-it-all culture: `I can have my big job, salary and also have this amazing life outside work'. The truth is, I think, that it isn't really possible to deliver incredible results in your work and have a wonderful life outside work too. You can't have your cake and eat it.
My life today is a case in point. A lot of what I said right at the beginning is now a little bit historic (well, if six months ago is `historic'). Now that my two kids are on the scene, I am about half as productive as I was before. The time I had spare to work is now gone. I can't work at night any more because my kids wake us up. My `life' is coming ahead of work, probably for the first time in twenty years.
This means, for me, accepting that I can't move any mountains for at least the next couple of years. The stuff I would like to achieve, the new projects I need to throw every cell of myself at to make happen won't happen till at least my kids get beyond their second birthdays.
In the meantime, I am going along, doing OK, doing what 98% of us do all the time, rarely getting out of fourth gear. Its fine, its my choice, my kids need me but I don't pretend that I am really getting much achieved. Not really when compared to earlier times. It isn't what I would call a work-life balance, its putting life ahead of work.