Napoleon Hill on Work/Life Balance: a Message for 2015.

Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill

You may know the author Napoleon Hill because of his book Think and Grow Rich. It’s one of my favorite inspirational/ motivational reads and is one of the best-selling books of all time. Even though it was first published in 1937, the book’s primary message—that you can get what you want through visualization, honest effort and a positive attitude—still rings true today.

But if you ask me to name my favorite Hill book, it would not be this classic. I actual prefer a far lesser known sequel to Think and Grow Rich published 40 years after the original. You see, in 1967, an 84-year old Hill had come to a slightly different conclusion about what success really meant and wrote a book titled Grow Rich—with Peace of Mind.

After a lifetime of hard work, fame and riches, the elderly Hill began to whistle a slightly different tune about the role of work in our lives and explains it in this book. Sure, he said, strive to be successful—but have a life, too. Hill’s not pitching a Tim Ferris-style 4-hour workweek here, but suggests that one of the best ways to achieve real happiness is to “make a time budget”.

Spread out over a 24-hour day, Hill’s time budget looks like this:

  • 8 hours a day for sleep and rest
  • 8 hours a day for work at your profession
  • 8 “particularly precious” hours “devoted to things you wish to do, not have to do.”

Now, it is duly noted here that Hill does not account for the time-consuming chores and errands that are a part of our lives. But even with that caveat, it’s easy to agree with his assertion that we need to find time for “play, social life, reading, writing, playing a musical instrument, tending a garden, or just sitting and watching the clouds or the stars”. My personal list includes meditation, downtime with the family, prayer, writing and running. Your list can include any activity or non-activity that makes you happy.

Hill is very serious about putting our “precious hours” to good use and I feel confident that, had he known about them, scanning your Facebook page, texting ad nauseam or playing video games would not have made the list. Yet, he does believe it is up to you to decide what these activities might be, amplifying his message with this passage:

Do not let a day go by without taking some time for yourself — some time you spend in pure pleasure, as you see it.

Hill also points out, that should you have the ability to do so, you should aim to work less than 8 hours a day as you become successful. Success shouldn’t mean spending more hours at the job, but less. In Hills words, once you meet a modicum of prosperity: “You should increase your hours of pure enjoyment. Do not allow these hours to be eaten away by business or anything else.”

The bottom line is that, yes, we all (or at least most of us) need to work and make money. But in the year ahead, let’s remind ourselves—and those close to us who need reminding—that success is measured by more than our status at the office or the money in our bank accounts. Success is measured by the richness of our lives.

This post originally appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos, December 31, 2014.

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