This past week, I saw The Family Man with one of my favorite actors, Nicolas Cage. In it, Cage wakes up one day and realizes what his life would have been like had he decided to choose love, family and companionship over greed, his career and the pursuit of wealth.
Without giving the plot away, I can tell you that the movie did something I thought it wouldn’t: it made me realize that the 2 — love and ambition — are not mutually exclusive.
Too much disclosure
Some time ago, my then girlfriend and I broke up, partially (but definitely not only) because she felt — rightfully so — that I was putting my career ahead of her.
You see, there were plenty of other reasons, but this became clear on Christmas. While we were parting ways for good, we exchanged gifts and the words in her card contained a low, but fair blow. She stated that she hoped that the New Year would bring good things… to my career. I looked at her with an expression that said, was this necessary? . In hindsight, it was her way of saying, “you will always put your career ahead of me.”
Behind every man…
This said, I spent the first half of this year being a good bachelor. In any case, as time went by, I became increasingly doubtful that any man could rise to the top of his field and have a woman by his side.
You see, on one hand, it’s true that behind every great man there is a great woman. No doubt, but this applied mostly in previous decades. Surely some of you will remember GE Capital’s former head Gary Wendt and his wife’s story. You see, Wendt may be the one man that can claim that he , and not Jack Welch, built GE. The reason is that it was Gary’s division (GE Capital) that financed everything that Jack’s company (General Electric) did. In any case, this makes for a whole other article.
The parallel to my article is that when Wendt and his wife divorced, she asked for the sun, stars and moon. Why? She claimed that it was her efforts that allowed him, to quite frankly, kick butt in the corporate battleground. Truth be told, she had a point, but did she really deserve 50% of Gary Wendt’s fortune? Again, another day, another article.
Which would you choose?
Leaving Las Vegas
The point is that Wendt’s wife was a wife in the throwback sense of the word, a housewife, and a great one at that. The key dilemma that The Family Man focused on was whether good ol’ Nicolas Cage could have been the same ruthless, cunning, wildly successful, and obscenely rich merger and acquisition guru that he was in the movie had he chosen love and family. I took particular interest in the plot because Nic Cage is my favorite actor, and I was on my own path to continue a career in M&A until my current gig came knocking, and because I myself have been tackling the family man versus single man debate for some time.
I challenge you to a duel
Here is what I have to offer you gents: if you are with a woman that has her own life, her own ambitions and her own dreams, then you stand a chance of having the best of both worlds. Why? Because many women can become a man’s lover, friend, wife, and mother to his children; but how many can also be a great peer, competitor, partner, ally, and critic? Exactly, not that many, and it is for this reason that the movie was not clich and really an eye opener.
Until then, I blindly assumed that it was one or the other, but the movie’s ending and final twist made me realize that my dream woman is one that matches my personality. If I content myself with mediocrity, so will she. But I content myself only with the best, therefore theoretically so will she. The same applies to work and your career. If you take your work very seriously and always seek to improve yourself, then chances are that only a mate with the same ferocious hunger, appetite and ambition would satisfy you as a partner, lover and friend.
Crossroad of life
Of course, this applies in theory; whether or not both partners in a relationship can truly walk the walk and talk the talk remains to be seen. What on earth am I saying? Well, relationships are surely more about compromise than about “my way or the highway.” So at what point does one partner take a hit for the lover?
This is a matter that traditionally left the woman holding the short end of the stick. Today, this is not so. Interestingly, one ’80s sitcom was the first to turn the table on traditional family roles; you may recall Growing Pains , in which the series ultimately ended when the mother found a job in a different city and the father decided to go along with it. Okay, so this is not empirical evidence of changing family traditions and a new work environment, but hey, this is as much “empirical evidence” as you’ll be receiving for now.
The point is that if you find this magical person that makes you go guga , then a slight shift in career is not the end after all. Why? Because this person will make you finally realize that as important as work may be, once you fall hard for someone, work will take a backseat to love and family.
And in this case, this person, or rather the feeling they provide you with becomes the ultimate vice. The only merger and acquisition that suddenly seems to matter occurs out of the boardroom.
Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at www.CourseToSuccess.com.