Indra Nooyi, the Pepsi Company CEO recently reignited this timeless debate about whether one can really have it all. She specifically says that women, in particular, cannot have it all. She said, "I don't think women can have it all. I just don't think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all."
Her comments created a virtual uproar of dissent. However, they should give us pause and force us to question, "What is it all?" The premise of the question itself needs to be examined because it implies that having it all is some sort of destination; that you can somehow get "there" where you now can sit back and say, "Man, I have it all." Life, as we know, is the journey, not the destination and curve balls like death, disease, loss of a job can and do derail the best laid plans. Most things in life are quite simply out of our control.
As adults, we are forced to make decisions daily about how we spend our time and we have to decide what's important. The notion of "having it all," is a misnomer. Rather, the question that matters and that we should ask is this: Can you have what's important? Can you have a fulfilling and rewarding professional and personal life?
In the United States, we are blessed to live in the greatest country on earth. We can, and for the most part do, have what's important. There's a reason millions of people want to emigrate to America. We have what's important; the freedom and safety to make choices; we have opportunities. We need to put things and our lives into the proper perspective; honestly, we have it pretty easy.
When we send our daughters to school in the morning we don't worry about whether a group like Boko Haram will kidnap them for having the temerity to want to learn. When we express our faith, or even our lack of faith, we don't worry that we will be persecuted for our beliefs. When we vote for our leaders, we can do so with the confidence that if our candidate loses we won't be arrested, tortured or executed for treason.
It's just that we have this false idea of success; we focus on money and power. At the end of the day, these are false idols. Sure, they have their place, but if that is our singular focus we will always come up short. What do money and power mean without health, without personal well being, without family, without love?
The trick is to not let others dictate to you what "having it all" means for you. I recently went for a bike ride with a friend who thoroughly thrashed me in the mountains of Colorado. As a former professional cyclist, I have always taken pride in my fitness on the bike. In years past that would have really bothered me and I would have started training in earnest. I literally would have started doing intervals until I vomit and obsessively checked my weight on the scale. I would have taken time away from my family to race and train. This summer, however, I really don't care. I made a conscious decision that I was going to relax more, ride with my wife and son more and not obsess about my weight and fitness. I'm still reasonably fit, just not at an elite level and I'm OK with that. The truth is that I was on my bike doing what I love in a beautiful place with a friend; that's nothing to complain about.
If we change our thought process where we focus on the journey and not the destination, if we focus on our own personal ideas of a fulfilling and rewarding life, rather than the arbitrary and unattainable concept of "having it all," then we can start to be content with our lives.
To me, having it all means that I have respect from my colleagues, love from my family, personal health and integrity, financial security and time for an occasional quiet moment. That's what matters to me and my family. We just have to figure out what's important to us and focus on those aspects of our life. We're human; we're going to make mistakes both personally and professionally.
Indra was right, we can't have it all, nobody can. And even when you think that you do, life has a way of throwing us curveballs. Like Mike Tyson said, "Everybody has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth." So let's change our perspective and focus on leading rich and rewarding lives; who could want more than that?