Nigel Marsh: Work Life Balance is an Ongoing Battle (Full Transcript)

Full transcript of author Nigel Marsh’s TEDx Talk: Work Life Balance is an Ongoing Battle at TEDxSydney conference.

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Book(s) by the speaker:

Fat, Forty, and Fired: One Man’s Frank, Funny, and Inspiring Account of Losing His Job and Finding His Life

Overworked and Underlaid: A Seriously Funny Guide to Life


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Nigel Marsh – Author

Wasn’t Bred fantastic? I thought that was just really terrific, but it’s left me feeling slightly technologically challenged, because I haven’t got any satellite videos. Truth to be told, I haven’t got any slides either.

What I thought I would do is I would start with a simple request. I’d like all of you to pause for a moment, you wretched weaklings, and take stock of your miserable existence. That was the advice that Saint Benedict gave his rather startled followers in the fifth century. It was the advice that I decided to follow myself when I turned 40. Up until that moment, I had been a classic corporate warrior. I was eating too much, I was drinking too much, I was working too hard and I was neglecting my family.

And I decided that I would try and turn my life around. In particular, I decided I would try to address the thorny issue of work-life balance. So, I stepped back from the workforce and I spent a year at home with my wife and four young children. But all I learned about work-life balance from that year was that I found it quite easy to balance work and life when I didn’t have any work. Not a very useful skill, especially when the money runs out.

So I went back to work and I have spent these seven years since struggling with, studying and writing about work-life balance. I have four observations I would like to share with you today.

The first is, if society is to make any progress on this issue, we need an honest debate. But the trouble is so many people talk so much rubbish about work-life balance. All the discussions about flexi-time or dress-down Fridays or paternity leave only serve to mask the core issue, which is that certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged on a day-to-day basis with a young family.

The first step in solving any problem is acknowledging the reality of the situation you’re in. And the reality of the society that we are in is there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like. It is my contention that going to work on a Friday in jeans and T-shirt isn’t really getting into the nub of the issue.

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