What it means to be a Happy Guy
David Leonhardt used to live in the hyperfast lane. As a public spokesperson for the largest consumer organization in Ontario, David lost himself in the fast flow of city living. Giving last-minute media interviews was the norm. Until one day, when his first child arrived on the scene, his priorities shifted and he downshifted to a saner life. Now, he is president of The Happy Guy Marketing, which offers multilingual SEO and website promotion strategies to companies around the world, and ghostwriting services for books, articles, and websites. He also runs Canada’s social bookmarking website, Zoomit.
Here is his story.
What struck me is how many people said to me how much they wished they could do what I was doing. Of course, they could; they just had not really looked at their priorities. Events compelled me to look at mine.
CLH: When did you realize slowing down was a good idea?
David: Sometimes events make decisions for you, or at least compel a person into a greater clarity of vision. In my case, my wife and I were living in a an 850 square foot apartment condo in the very center of downtown Toronto, in which was also housed my home office. I was working as the public spokesperson for the largest consumer organization in Ontario, CAA Ontario…but working out of home to be effective 24/7. To give some idea of how fast-paced this workstyle was, I would very often receive calls from network TV saying a cameraman was on his way, and could I meet him on the sidewalk in front of our building in 20 minutes to comment on some issue of the day. Yes, they would send the cameraman first, call me second, hoping I was avaialable…because pretty much always made myself avaialble. Each time I would begin the 20-minute scramble to get into business clothes and brief myself on the issue…especially since half the time it really was just a cameraman without even a journalist to pump me with questions.
Then along came child #1, and this arangement would no longer do. We needed more space for Little Lady. I needed a private office area where I could speak on the phone without gurgles, crying, and laughter in the background. I needed to better divide my attention and, more to the point, reallocate work hours to childcare hours. Most of all, kids need room to run; they need land, not a few square feet of carpet. This last point really was the deal closer.
CLH: How did you go about making the change?
David: We moved out to the country. I wrote a humor column about it. The new house is a lot less fancy, but so much bigger, plus it came with a few acres. I quit the job. There was no way I could be effective in my employed job without being in a downtown condo, and I wanted to continue working out of the home to be near my kids as they grew up. I set out to become a motivational speaker, as I had already published my book Climb Your Stairway to Heaven: The 9 Habits of Maximum Happiness. I discovered I was a good writer, an OK speaker, but a sucky promoter of speaking, and I had to find something elese to do, which is why I let my career path wander to where it has been these past few years).
CLH: What strategies have you developed to remind yourself about the importance of balance?
David: The best part about working from home is the flexibility. I know I work a lot fewer hours than before. I definitely still work crazy hours (evenings, parts of weekends, bits in the early mornings sometimes). But now it is by choice. I work those hours because when the kids have a field trip, I’m there. When the kids get off the schoolbus, I’m there. When there are errands to do, I don’t panic about when I’ll do them; I just do them. When the kids have a PD day, I’m usually with them. When one is sick. I’m there. And I know I take more vacation days with them than anybody I know, except my teacher brother. The crazy hours I work allows me the flexibility to take off all sorts of crazy hours. My top goal working for myself from home was to be near my kids as they grow up, so I maintain that as my priority almost on every occasion. Then I fit my work into hours that otherwise might be wasted watching TV.
CLH: What advice can you give others who struggle with maintaining work/life equilibrium?
David: Decide what your goals in life are. It is crucial that your career enhance your life. If your life is enhancing your career, you have it backwards. You cannot have it all, so make sure you have what’s most important to you. When I left my high-powered Toronto job, I spent some time making goodbye phone calls to all the people in government, industry, media, etc. with whom I had been working. What struck me is how many people said to me how much they wished they could do what I was doing. Of course, they could; they just had not really looked at their priorities. Events compelled me to look at mine.
CLH: Thank you for your thoughts, David!
David: Thank you!