A life lesson in working to live

Do you "live to work" or "work to live?" It's a question that every independent creative needs to ask themselves.

Years ago, at the age of 35, I found myself being defined by my doctor as a "heart attack waiting to happen." I was working an average of 70 to 80 hours a week - sometimes much more with late nights and working on weekends. Work consumed my life. My personal life was almost non-existent.

I had allowed myself to become the "design department" for an advertising agency client that suddenly represented at least 80% of my business and income. When the principal of the firm said "jump," I leapt into the sky without questioning the command. I was doing some great work, but I wasn't sleeping, not eating well and my blood pressure was dangerously sky high. In fact, when my physician checked my blood pressure - three times - he thought his equipment was broken.

The doctor sat down and asked, "What the hell is going on in your life?"

I told him.

He responded that I needed to resign the major, all-consuming client immediately or I was going to have serious health issues, possibly a heart attack. I was stunned - and immediately my mind went to concerns about money.

It was frightening to request a meeting with the owner of the business to inform her I could no longer handle all of her design work. However, she understood completely and actually apologized for her business causing me undue stress.

I was a little freaked out about the loss of income due to resigning the account. Still, within a very short period of time, I had five new clients with a very manageable project load. The income situation balanced out; as did my blood pressure - which dropped 30-some points in a month without medication. My personal life showed great improvement as well.

The entire situation was a great life lesson. It helped me re-evaluate how I, as an independent creative, had been letting my work rule my life - instead of enjoying the life available to me as a result of being my own boss.

This piece was originally posted on the Creative Freelancer Conference blog. Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, will make his presentation "Reaping the Rewards of Creative Independence" at the Creative Freelancer Conference, to be held August 27-29, 2008 in Chicago.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives