The Way We Work
April 10, 2013 by Guest Blogger

By Jon Glesinger

One of life’s greatest challenges has to be knowing when we have enough of something — to stop ceaseless craving and accept where we are with satisfaction.

In another post (“It’s Not About Balance”), we were discussing the issues of balance and the misnomer of work/life balance. Once we accept that balance is not really the issue — or at least that a 50:50 work:life ratio is not feasible and we focus on getting our priorities right — we can make progress.

More and more people are changing the way they work from full time, one company at a time, career-ladder climbing to a more open approach of freelance, interim or contract work — what we refer to as “Portfolio Life.” All generations seem to be involved in this shift — from Baby Boomers who refuse to be “retired,” to Millennials seeking to maximize impact and flexibility.

With this approach to career-building, the additional flexibility can allow non-paid work options to come alive. In fact, I believe that there are three key factors in Portfolio Life – Pay, Purpose and Play. Pay: we all need money and financial rewards for our efforts. Purpose: we need to be fulfilled, to feel that those efforts have meaning. Play: we need leisure time to refresh and refuel.

When people stop to think about their situations, they see the ideal intersection of those three areas in Portfolio Life — largely because it offers the independence and autonomy to adjust the ratios accordingly. By developing an approach to a career that recognizes when “enough is enough” in each of those three dimensions, you can make adjustments depending upon your desires and needs at any given time.

‘Enough’ is a variable, conditioned by life context and often driven by ‘in the moment’ decisions. In the developed world, money — or the conspicuous things it buys — are often taken as the glow of success. But it is a pale glow at best. The reality is, we do need money, but we need our purpose to be fulfilled, too. Long- or short-term goals and objectives will influence the ‘enough gauge’ on the dashboard of Pay, Purpose and Play meters.

The regular world of work can prevent this, since the demands on our time and energy are often too high to accommodate. But as Portfolio Life becomes more prevalent, so too will the choices of what to do with our time and when. For example, does the highly experienced engineer want to drill for oil every day? Or perhaps apply the same competencies and experience to drilling for water, thus saving lives instead? In order to do this, you have to understand what is “enough” at each point in time, and fine-tune as you go along. Needs change, and what may be “enough” to satisfy your requirements to earn money will no longer serve you well if your focus shifts to “purpose” or “play” down the road. Whatever we decide we will do, we have made a decision to allocate time and energy. As a friend of mine puts it, every decision to do something is an irrevocable use of time.

So, how does your Pay, Purpose and Play dashboard look? Have you ever looked? Chances are you have a flashing red light somewhere in there that needs your attention. I encourage you to take a look and evaluate where you are — and then make a plan to get where you want to be.

Do you agree that the independent ‘Portfolio Life’ gives you more flexibility to live a balanced life? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! You can also join the continuing coverage on Portfolio Life here.

jon expertalumJon Glesinger is the founder of Expert Alumni and gleXnet. Prior to founding Expert Alumni, Jon was Managing Director of Norman Broadbent’s Energy and Natural Resources Practice and Client Partnership Director for the BNB Group. Jon built an industry leading team that operated globally providing a wide range of solutions for clients in Executive Search, Recruitment, Corporate Branding and Advertising. He also developed a unique and highly effective method of engaging with clients on a consultative basis, redefining the way in which a multi-brand international company engages with its employees, clients and prospects.

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  • Gail Gibson

    Really interesting read however as a successful portfolio lifestylist it all about blend rather than balance. Balance is too perfect in my mind and blend softens the idea. Blending what you do, how you do it and with whom & when allows you to achieve so much more if a true portfolio life wiwithout the need to achieve perfection. Especially as a portfolio working lifestyle consists of choice, variety, flexibility, fulfilment & happiness!

    • jonglesinger

      Absolutely, Gail. Blend is a great word. And i agree with you. Balance is not the thing and finding the right intersection of all this things is where to be going. Perfection may elude us, but then, if we get the blend, or mix right, that can be perfect for us… Ever hopeful!

  • salesgamechanger

    I scale and manage sales teams. Invariably, over the long haul, those reps who have achieved a portfolio balance outperform those who have not, those who focus too much on the prosperity side. It seems counter-intuitive that the workaholics wouldn’t outperform the rest of the team, but in most cases they don’t. I’ve worked for myself, I’ve worked for others, I’ve been in established companies and involved with start ups and it seems like it always rings true. One Chaorman of the Board I reported to had absolutely no balance in his life–he shunned his biological family and tried to pretend his workers were his family, it was all about his company. He demanded the same from all of us and we ended up zombies–it took me years to decompress. He eventually lost his company and had little to fall back on. Now when I’m hiring I look for a healthy balance, and encourage the culture. I very much enjoyed your thoughtful and compelling article–it helped me look back with introspection.

    • jonglesinger

      Great reflections on your experience – thank you for practical reinforcement. I hope there are plenty of Chairpeople listening to this! You are right, the approach is counter-intuitive, but I would venture to suggest that it is counter intuitive to the people who taught and modelled these things. As you have practiced, the whole idea of Portfolio Life makes sense and works.

  • Decibel Places

    I have had what some would call a tough life, and at times others have said I lead a charmed life. In my early 50s and 10 years into my 4th or 5th career, I am earning enough money.

    Money is a funny thing, it seems the more you get the more ways it finds to spend itself. I am currently spending about $4K/month for healthcare for my uninsured spouse who has a chronic condition. She cared for me when I was disabled in the early 90s. That is one of the Yin-Yang realities in my life.

    As an only child, I became sandwich filler when my mother’s health worsened, and I picked her up from dialysis 3x a week and made her dinner, until she had to move to assisted living. I used to reflect on the fact that 20 years ago I bought diapers for my daughter, now I buy diapers for my mother. Somehow I was able to balance work with that obligation.

    I give back by volunteering my technical and personal skills. I built and manage a few web sites for animal rescue and consumer mental health advocacy; I am also a facilitator of a DBSA group and my story overcoming my disability has helped others.

    I became involved in my local synagogue, and I find it deeply satisfying spiritually: although I was raised a Reformed Jew, and dabbled in pagan UU stuff, the Orthodox tradition now resonates for me on a deep level. Of course I donated a web site for the congregation, and it brings in the occasional donation, and even better it has engaged some members who had drifted away. I was elected Secretary, which makes sense since I am kind of the Information Officer. We are fighting a legal battle with con artists who negotiated an illegal deal with a now deceased member; they claim our property, but it looks like we will prevail in the trial.

    It’s not a perfect balance, and sometimes my own needs are put on a back burner, but I think I am living as balanced a life as possible.

    • jonglesinger

      What a great testimony. You have clearly worked hard, met challenges and responded by giving back in a very real way while being able to see that as personal benefit. Yes, there are many people like you who do at times put their own needs aside, but I also know that many times that does in fact result in personal gain anyway when improving the lives of others! This is a great component that we really want to drive. People’s experience and competence can very often (and should?) be used not only to earn money but also to drive purpose.
      My often used analogy is that the people who can drill for oil have what it takes to drill for water. This can be applied in may ways and you are doing that.

  • greatpoetrymhf

    Pay, purpose and play: Where I find the BALANCE is to expand those to PAY, PURPOSE, PLAY, PASSION, and PERSPECTIVE. .

    I am a senior-entrepreneur….I work at my passion knowing the perspective….the visualizing of the goal completed allows me to PLAN. Each step to the goal completed is easier whilst working from the end with a time line. Breaking it down into doable minute steps (baby steps).
    Perhaps, because I was in the mad world working at the crack of dawn, I only knew work for years. JOB’s When I switched perspectives to this is my choice, my chosen avocation…WORK was perfection.
    Willingness, Organization, Relaxation, Kindness.
    I had a new work ethic. I was “willing to be willing” to listen to the other person’s perspective. I was gathering the best from the best. If I wanted to learn, I went to night school. I learned more languages.
    On a project at the newspaper where I worked, I found out “passion” punches through the rough spots. Find out where someone’s hot button (passion) is and allow them to teach you about it.
    When we completed the Friday newspaper on Wednesday noon…all the advertising spaces sold…all the interviews and photos laid out. WE LEFT EARLY.
    My passion is my family. The more I traveled the more I learned we are all one family. I had better be open to learning from you and be kind to everyone along the way…You never know whose Mother is the lady you let in front of you at the bank.
    Seeing the situation from another’s perspective takes the pressure off and the burn out is less. I wanted always to “be of service”. Not just self serving to my wallet but to put love in my work.
    In summary, I lenjoyed this article introducing PAY, PURPOSE, AND PLAY…I will now incorporate them into my passion and perspective.

    • jonglesinger

      I am so glad you have enjoyed the article but more so that you plan to incorporate Pay Purpose and Play… I like the way you have distinguished between Jobs and Work, this is the subject of another article I am working on and have been talking about. There is a real upward trend going on in the way that work is being done and one of the outcomes will be that people will not so much have jobs as be doing work. This change brings about huge opportunity to adopt principles and objectives in their lived beyond the point where you once were when you only knew work… Thank you for your comments.

  • Shane Ram

    Unfortunately, moving from full-time to contract etc still does not lead to freedom. It is extremely difficult to find that freedom because in these options, your income is still only dependent on you (YOE- Your Own Effort). Real freedom and balance comes when you have a form of income that is not dependent on you (OPE – Other people’s Efforts, OPI – Other People’s Ideas and OPM – Other People’s Money). It is possible to turn your purpose/passion into a viable business.

    • jonglesinger

      I do see what you are saying, but I am not sure I entirely agree, Shane. Importantly, the context of what line of work you are in is a major feature and back to that question of ‘Enough’ based on your needs, goals and objectives at any given time… Personally, I think that if you are dependant on other people’s money, ideas and effort then you are not free at all… Of course, philosophically, there is no getting away from those elements, but we can seek to control that within the context of our own Pay, Purpose, Play intersection

  • Ron (@ronald78910)

    When you follow your passion when choosing a career, pay, purpose and play all fall into line and you no longer are a wage slave!

    • jonglesinger

      This is true, Ron. In our world though, it is very hard to be able to choose the right career and people often end up on the wrong ladder. That does not mean we shouldn’t try and reinforces the need to evaluate. I am sure that many would suggest that passion does not always pay the bills, but we sure can be better focussed… Being a wage slave is a great analogy and can be applied so easily.

  • beeitsolutions

    Balance is a very relative concept and can’t excist without IN-Balance. By trail an and error we find the balance! But because we change, and the world arround us, we have to adjust our balance/IN-Balance to fit the specific needs/circumstances.

    So question is not: When is Enough, Enough? That means that there is an ending! And that is not the case it is a flexible proces of adjusting in a permanent changing world!

    With warm regards,


    • jonglesinger

      I see where you are coming from Ruud. I agree though and had not intended to suggest that ‘enough’ was an end point. you are exactly right, things around us are changing and therefore, as the context changes, so does enough at any given time. So this is all a continuum and we need to be evaluating along the way. Appreciate your comments…

  • normaleebeaton

    Balance is a very interesting concept to discuss. May be like any deep searching concept the answers are never ending.

    What is balance to one is not to another. What appears to work for me, and I can only speak for myself, is to find peace and meaning in what I do and then the balance is there.

    I will be looking for more posts from you. Life is a journey and the learning is awesome.

    • jonglesinger

      This is the thing… Enough and balance are so different from one person or family to another and at different times we will no doubt look back and think how un-balanced we used to be. Of course, we may well have felt balanced or that we had enough at that time. Context is crucial. Peace is a great place to be… Keep learning!

  • Laurinda Handlik (@LaurindaNYIntro)

    In theory, to balance equally would be wonderful. But, in reality, for me anyway, almost seems impossible. I have started a company working from home in order to help create that balance. However, working from home created many others stresses – like: not being able to shut the office door and drive home – Always in the office working from early morning to early morning. Yes, I can run when I have to but always have to make it up at other times. Constantly being interrupted by others in the household when they are around. No more steady salary – It’s totally up to me now, I can’t take too much of leisure time because I have to answer to my clients and the bills on my desk.

    On the other hand – What I create or do is mine not my employers. I make my own rules. I do have the ability to work from anywhere. And even though I do get to see my kids more – I do lack the quality because of stress from having my own business.

    I will make it a point to put actions into place to be able to close my office door and walk away and refuel.

    • Jon Glesinger

      Firstly, Laurinda – good luck with your business. It is a big step that brings many rewards and challenges that are hard to prepare for.
      As I say in the article, I don’t think that balance is the issue, but getting the priorities right and as you say, making a specific effort to determine the best intersection for Pay, Purpose and Play.

      • Laurinda Handlik (@LaurindaNYIntro)

        Thank you – you’re right!

  • Detlev Artelt

    Like always in life a good balance would help.

    If this is your work / life balance or the balance of your weight or any other.

    You have to focus to get things done but as well you need to spend time with the family.
    BUT if you do mainly things you like and enjoy – balancing will be much easier.


    • Jon Glesinger

      Quite right, as others have said, the balance can be found. Of course, we don’t always enjoy everything we do, but if we have a clear view on why we are doing things it will help.

    • Mary-Margaret Walker

      I completely agree Detlev!

  • Bic

    It’s difficult to live a balanced life in a 9-5 setting when you are bipolar. ‘Portfolio Life’ has given me the ability to build a career around my condition where I only work whenever my energy level and mood allow me to, something a traditional workplace cannot easily accommodate.

    • Jon Glesinger

      There are so many people who have specific needs that are not met in a standard 9-5 workplace and I am convinced that as Portfolio Life becomes more achievable there will be benefits in every aspect of the supply and demand supply chain.

    • Judith Kavanaugh

      I feel you Bic. Though I no longer have the work part of the equation my playtime teaches me these same lessons. When I look back at my working years I did the portfolio life to work around bipolar and autoimmune energy fluctuations. Choosing contract and temporary work over full time gigs. I lived the portfolio life before it was cool as an adaptive response to changing energy levels and moods.

      We all have fluctuations in energy and resources so a constant review is necessary to a life of sanity and purpose no matter our challenges. For me these lessons came as a matter of career survival.

      Priorities become real clear if any of the areas are removed from your life. Work, Family, Spiritual or Play. I visualize a child’s mobile when I read your article each area separate from the other. If you put more weight on any category it directly affects them all. The one thing disability teaches you about priorities is to simplify and streamline. The more stuff you own the more it owns you energy wise.

      Sure that Lexus would look great in your garage but how many little league games are you going to miss to have to pay for it. Or in the case of someone with chronic pain or fatigue those knicknacks make the living room look great but how much energy does it take to keep them all dusted and straightened. Life is an exchange of energy whether you are a CEO or fighting a chronic disease.

      You have pointed out a Universal problem and the essence of life. At the end We are defined by where We put our focus whatever our lot in life.

      • jonglesinger

        Your comments are really appreciated Judith and really add pure experience to what I am writing about. Adversity is a massive teacher by necessity. So often we see people coping with situations that we never consider ourselves capable of dealing with. Of course, we never know what we can deal with until we actually face it. Usually (in my experience) people adapt and there are many lessons to be learnt from people like you who have had to adapt to survive. Thank you for your words – with your permission, I am sure I will quote you!

        • Judith Kavanaugh


  • http://http:/ Jo Greenwood

    It’s hard to balance everything and I learned this lesson the hard way a couple of years ago and came very close to burning out. Since then I have adapted my lifestyle which pretty much matches what you are describing as Portfolio Life.

    I work from home, I work for myself and I work on my own terms to allow myself sufficient time to spend with my family. I still have to do a LOT of juggling and balancing finances is trickier (hopefully not forever!). I would never go back to the ‘day job’, my flexible working pattern is too important to me.

    • Jon Glesinger

      Fantastic, Jo – we hear this all the time and the regularity of people having a Portfolio Life is on an upward trend (even though they may not call it Portfolio Life). Do you have any good or important experiences to share on how you have made it through?

  • lavaheadza

    I have been contracting from home for 12 years, and will be looking to get back into the business environment for a while now, circumstance and curious again after all this time.

    • Jon Glesinger

      You have an interesting transition ahead… Hope it goes well and that the three-Ps will all be fulfilled.

  • Liz

    I think it’s important to remember that your priorities and needs can change over your lifetime. You might have to sacrifice today to create free time in your future life. It’s important to not just evaluate your life once but regularly and seek a balance over the long-term, not just what your life is like this week.

    • Jon Glesinger

      I couldn’t agree more. The thing you point to here is regular evaluation. So many people are blindly pursuing careers and very often, even would find that they are on the wrong ladder if they only took a look from time to time at short, medium and long-term life matters. Do you have a specific methodology.

  • Miriam Slozberg (@msmir)

    Unfortunately a lot of people who are busy in all aspects of life, family, kids, work, etc have very little time for play and end up burning themselves out. There are ways to manage a busy life and to fit play into it as it is very important or you will not be productive at all in any area of your life.

    • Jon Glesinger

      Quite right, Miriam… As I say, it is very often a case of making sure we even put play on the list of things we need. How do you do this?

  • Tom Royce

    One of the battles for a new entrepreneur is finding that balance while achieving your goals. When you are ramping up, the effort has to be extreme, and that is understood. However, success sometimes can create even more pressure to focus on the pay side when purpose and play should be fulfilled. The fear of “it all falling apart” will blind the entrepreneur from their true goals.

    • Jon Glesinger

      You can say that again, Tom! The glitter and appeal of being an entrepreneur often blinds people from truly examining the pressures and commitment that is required to succeed, there are very few overnight successes out there!
      Wild you have any that’s or advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on how to get the three-Ps to intersect effectively?

  • tulleuchen

    I agree that sometimes we bite off more than we can chew. Though I’m not sure at least for myself to know when you’re doing too much or not enough. Yeah its’ not simple. You could be doing too much right now for you to handle, but you may be paying for mistakes in the past where you spent much time doing too little. So you are in a deficit. For governments this seems to be OK. For individuals, going into a deficit is unsustainable (not to say that for governments it’s sustainable) and will pretty much sink you unless you work your butt off in the near term. This is especially true for people who have families. If you are single, you can more easily pare down your life and catch up and take the hit, because it’s only you. This is much harder to do and you can’t save as much when there are kids involved.

    • Jon Glesinger

      I appreciate your thought train here! Priorities are the key factor and raising families are indeed a huge factor – in fact, family is a purpose. Raising good kids to be great adults is so important. A lot of time we may well be doing all the right things, but to have regular check ups on this is important and can help to affirm that as unbalanced as life may feel at times, we do have our right priorities.
      Of course, we are very often driven to over emphasis our financial needs because we want rather than need.

  • Paul Falardeau

    Certainly a work/life balance is defined differently by each person, but I really like how you talk about the concept of “Enough”.

    There has to be a limit somewhere. My personal view is that I was not put on this earth to spend my time working my life away. I am more of a “Purpose” driven person.

    Thanks so much for this article. It was a great read.

    • Jon Glesinger

      Thank you, Paul. I think very few people who have worked hard will really look back on life and wish they had worked more. Many will wish they had pursued their purposes more. It is tough, but worth the effort. Great to hear that your purposes are such a strong driver.

  • Christopher Ford (@FordandAssoc)

    I agree. It’s not simply black and white any longer for many people. For those of us who live the “Portfolio Life,” I don’t know if it’s as simple as the three-P’s either. We need all three – pay, purpose and play. But we need to balance those accordingly with everything else we’re doing in our lives.

    • Jon Glesinger

      Exactly, Christopher, it is a balancing act that is driven by priorities. Recognising the contributory factors is crucial.
      I agree with you, there are many more points than the three-Ps but by and large, everything fits into ontpe of the three categories. Rather like trees and branches…