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Please Everyone

By David Gardner - Dec 3, 2014 at 3:02PM

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A great framework for investing and for your life.

This article originally appeared in Motley Fool Stock Advisor.

In his 2008 book Total Leadership, author Stewart Friedman does a memorable job debunking the concept of "work-life balance." I'm a sucker for iconoclastic writing that replaces threadbare thinking with new language and new frameworks, and to me, "work-life balance" was cruising for a bruising. Friedman gives it a nice offing.

Don't picture a balance, the Wharton professor says. Banish from your mind any thought of some big scale in the sky whose one side is labeled "Work" and the other "Life," with poor louts like you and me constantly trying to tip it one way when it gets overweighted on the other. An exhausting notion.

Instead, Friedman writes, go for "four-way wins." Look at all four key aspects of your life: in no particular order:

  1. your family
  2. your career
  3. your community
  4. yourself and your deepest strivings

With all four in mind, make decisions that give you a win across all categories. Sound difficult? Well, it can be! That's where innovation comes in. Insisting on locating all four wins in any scenario will lead you to crazy ideas like flipping your whole schedule, or deeply personalizing your work, or involving your kids, or whatever extra step you wouldn't have thought of if you were limited to trade-offs. Rather than treating these parts of your life as opposing forces to be balanced against each other, Friedman teaches you to weave them together and align them so that you seek abundant rewards across the gamut.

For anyone who's read John Mackey and Raj Sisodia's excellent book Conscious Capitalism, perhaps you, like me, see the same thread running through Friedman's philosophy. The former is a new business philosophy -- which my brother Tom Gardner and I love -- that reframes businesses as enterprises seeking to please all their stakeholders. Not just shareholders. Or management and employees. Or customers, or suppliers. Nope, the answer is all of the above. Both systems of thinking share a form of creative problem-solving that soars above the everyday trade-off mentality employed by most of the rest of the world.

I have now met enough great entrepreneurs building enough long-term value in the markets to know that the convictions of these visionary authors are justified and well worth adopting. So rise above the conventional wisdom and take it from a Fool: Whether you're thinking ambitiously about your start-up or more holistically about what kind of leader you want to be to those around you, please all your stakeholders. Go for the four-way win.

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