ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - August 2000

Issue Highlight - Homeward Bound
--- Peter Block offers some practical reccomendations about how to create balance and harmony in your life.
These recommendations are guaranteed to work or your time back."

In This Issue...
The Economics of Choice
Children: A Blessing or a Lucky Taxbreak
Welcome to the Wild West
The Struggle to Have It All

Peter Block Column
Day In The Life Stories
Views for a Change

Heard on the Street
Letters to the Editor

Balancing Work and Life — A Profile

What Work Can Be — 100 Days A Year On The Road

  "In my line of work," says singer, musician and songwriter John McCutcheon, "I go onstage and get appreciation every five minutes. Not many jobs offer this kind of constant affirmation. The difficult part with my family was realizing that that wasn't going to happen."

  Balancing a life of performance, travel, creativity and celebrity with marriage and family is no small challenge. In his 30-year career, McCutcheon has released 24 recordings and earned five Grammy nominations. But he's worked equally hard to keep his priorities straight.

  He lives in Charlottesville, Va., rather than Nashville or Los Angeles. "I purposely live in a place focused on what's best for my family." There he cultivates an identity "more focused on my family than on my celebrity. I'm Will or Peter's dad, or I'm Parthy's husband."

  Flying into Alaska in 1993, McCutcheon was surprised to recognize landmarks after a six-year absence. "It occurred to me how quickly those six years had gone, and simultaneously that six years from now my oldest son would be gone. I landed, got my bags, called my agent and said, 'Right now, 20 percent of my gigs are gone.'" A year later he settled on a formula: 100 days of travel and performing, 265 days at home.

  McCutcheon balances work and life by following the same daily routines: "I try to maintain some semblance of normality when I'm on the road. If I get up in the morning and go to the gym, that's what I do on the road. If I go to some house of worship on Sunday morning when I'm home, that's what I do on the road."

  But traveling and performing are stressful, he says. "Everything is focused on getting to the venue and the preparation." He stays in touch with family via e-mail and instant messages. "I'll check the weather in Charlottesville and the local paper's online site for news and headlines and sports scores."

  Back home he's often immersed in mundane activities: gardening, teaching songwriting, driving to the orthodontist and volunteering.

  He also runs Appleseed Productions from an office in his home. A lifelong activist on issues of justice and labor (he's president of Local 1000 of the American Federation of Musicians), McCutcheon employs five others whom he calls his "co-workers." Balancing life and work, he says, is about "attitudes and how you relate to the people you work with. It's not just a cornucopia of programs and benefits."

  The foundation for balance in McCutcheon's life is his 22-year marriage. "It's been easier for me than most people," he says, "because I've had a very vocal and opinionated spouse. She is more than willing to say exactly what she needs and wants." He thinks he's got it right: "When you come home at the end of the day, at the end of a tour, at the end of your life, this is the audience that is most important."

  McCutcheon's balance is there in his music, from instrumentals on fiddle, guitar and hammered dulcimer to original ballads and children's tunes. "My kids have grown up knowing that dad loves his job," he says proudly, "and that you can make a difference in people's lives. That's what work can be."

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