In 2011, Mike Gamson was promoted to SVP of Global Solutions at LinkedIn.
It was a position that would put him in charge of guiding the professional social network’s spread throughout the world, and today he oversees roughly half of the company’s 10,000 employees, across 30 countries.
He had joined LinkedIn in 2007 as a general manager and its only executive not based in California. After his promotion four years later he had become one of the top people at the company.
He came home one day after one of his many trips abroad, he told Business Insider, and said to his wife, “Hey, I think this LinkedIn thing is really going to end up working.”
While that would normally be cause for celebration, he saw it as a hurdle to overcome. He and his wife had a young child and a baby, and his wife’s career was based in the US at the time. The more LinkedIn grew, the more he would be abroad.
“I saw the choice of don’t be very successful at work,” Gamson said, or “don’t be very successful as a husband [and] don’t be very successful as a father.”
He found his solution in advice from his and direct boss CEO Jeff Weiner.
“I used to think about trying to achieve balance in my life, between work and personal,” Gamson said. “I no longer think that is a goal. Instead I aspire toward achieving harmony. ‘Balance’ connoted equality, and for me my personal life is so much more important to me, ultimately, than my professional life. Trying to balance the two is a fool’s errand. But harmony is a melodious integration of disparate parts. How do I take two things that are separate and bring them together in a way that is pleasing to both?”
Gamson and his wife considered this harmony over balance approach, and each wrote down things they considered to be the most important aspects of their family and career.
They considered each other’s lists and decided that they would travel as a family during the years when LinkedIn was rapidly expanding around the world, since this expansion would not continue at such a rapid clip forever, Gamson’s wife would be able to continue her work through her laptop, and their kids were young enough where they didn’t yet need to worry about switching school systems. They lived mostly on the road for four or five years, with their home base in Chicago.
Now they have three children — ages 2, 7, and 9 — and they all have more manageable schedules. “Still, today while we don’t do it as frequently, we travel as a family more than any other professional family that I know,” Gamson said.
Their decision was made possible by Gamson’s executive’s salary and his wife’s ability to work without an office, but his lessons apply to anyone: The idea of “balance” is a myth. Strive for harmony instead.
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