In a year of hectic and competing schedules, I’ve found myself tucking into work-life-balance content more often than I’d care to admit. I’m that audience member that jumps straight to the “how do you find the time?” question at all the networking and panel discussions. And while being “that person” isn’t necessarily bad, I might be hyper focused on the wrong question. What if achieving balance isn’t the benchmark?
I’d like to introduce you to a dear friend, Jase Rodley. I asked Jase to give us his working title and he confessed that he has trouble finding appropriate labels for himself but the most consistent are along the lines of Dad, expat, SEO consultant, traveller, marketer and investor. I’d add athlete to his list of labels as he’s just recently completed an incredible trail race in the mountains surrounding his home in Andorra. With an ever-expanding title, Jase is certainly no stranger to the work-life balance discussion. But his stance may surprise you.
Get to know Jase:
Q: First, Tell us about the trail race you recently completed:
My first trail running event ever was Skyrace Arinsal in July of this year. My event was 15km and 1,415 metres of positive elevation gain. It's not far from home actually, with most of the event taking place on a ridge line that starts behind where I live in Andorra.
Distance-wise it doesn't seem too difficult but the course itself is technically challenging. The climb up involves slick rocks, root and some mud, then large rock slabs that you need to hop between. Somewhere around 2700m there is an actual rock scramble/climb. I was ok getting up that section but I had to give a few of the shorter runners a hand here and there.
Descending is equally as tricky, with a steep, loose and dusty section, then through some slick tall grass and wet, slippery rocks. If that wasn't enough of a death trap, you later get to finish off the knees with some large "step downs" among the rocks.
The views are spectacular though - I know it's not a bad place to be. The flatter meadows on the descent are beautiful and running past horses is pretty cool.
Q: What was going through your head during the last five strides before crossing the finish line?
Hubris mainly. I had plenty of moments of "mental ruin" during the run, but knowing the end was near I remember thinking "I could have run further".
Q: Why did you sign-up for the race?
My wife gave birth to our first child in February this year. When she was 10 weeks pregnant with him, she ran the 10km/750m positive gain Andorra Solidaritrail, which was an amazing achievement in my book. She wanted to do the event again, 5 months after giving birth. I knew that would be difficult, so choosing to do something difficult seemed to be the best way I could think of supporting her. The theory was my training would motivate her to go out and run on the days where she was low on energy. I'm not so sure the theory panned out but we both finished what we set out to achieve.
Q: Will this race or races like it become an annual thing?
I don't know. I've decided to do the Skyrace Arinsal again next year, some 16 minutes quicker. I love running on technical trail - to me it's like mountain biking but a pair of shoes are much easier to transport around the world than a bike. The problem is, I don't enjoy any other type of running. Running on the flat sucks. Running uphill sucks. This and I'm torn for time - running is crazy time consuming.
What I like about these types of events is that they're designed to be hard. So trail running in itself is a difficult thing to do (at least in Andorra where almost everything is steep). I'm lucky in that I have a fairly good base level of fitness, but where I need to train is my mental toughness. "Pissing with rain? Go for a run. Sore from squats? Go for a run. Terrible sleep last night? Go for a run. Snowing lightly? Just get on with it and get it done buddy." This event got me out of the house on days when I otherwise wouldn't have gone outside.
Q: Do you cross-train? If so what else do you through in the mix?
Yes, I lift 3 days a week Stronglifts 5x5 style, then do some accessory stuff and functional movements to "manage" past injuries. Usually I'll do some rowing before lifting (sprinting, not meandering) and when I can't be stuffed running a half reasonable distance I'll do 10x50m hill sprints (I live around 1350m above sea level) and tell myself that's a hard days work. In theory I'm a mountain biker too, but this year was ridiculous for riding bikes - I built a brand new bike and must have ridden it a dozen times. I just didn't have enough hours in the day.
Q: Name three areas of your life that you're fired up about:
I'm going to be a difficult interviewee here and come in with my 4 priorities (instead of 3). For me, life generally breaks down for me into health, family, wealth and adventure. Anything else is not a priority.
You'll note here that "competitive events" is not a priority. In theory it could improve my health but I think we all know that competition causes plenty of injuries. Just because something isn't a priority doesn't mean I'm not interested, just in this time-poor period of my life, I need some constraints. If it doesn't fit in these 4 boxes somehow, chances are my short-term answer is "nope".
Q: ARE THESE PRIORITIES YOUR PASSIONS?
I don't see these four priorities as passions. I'm passionate about super-slack short travel all mountain bikes, amazing mountain views, Porsche 911s, Datsun 510s, foods with high calorie counts and so on. Anyone who knows me well knows that I try and keep emotion out of the core decisions I make. To me, passions are often fleeting, but true priorities persist.
Q: DO YOUR PRIORITIES EVER OVERLAP? IF SO, HOW OFTEN?
Yes, absolutely. Without my mental and physical health, I'm useless to my family, will find it more difficult to build wealth, and adventure will have been a dream long since passed. Wealth helps me to provide for my family, but this is more closely tied to freedom of time than all out money. I don't want private jets and 10 Lamborghinis, I want freedom of time which feeds back into my family and my health. Adventures tie into my mental and physical health and give my family something to bond over. To me, they're heavily interrelated.
Q: How did you log training time with the other priorities in your life demanding attention?
Caffeine. Earlier this year I was waking up around 6:30am, running for around an hour and a half, having breakfast with my family at 8:00am. At 8:30am I'd begin working through until 1pm when I'd go to the gym, then have lunch and be back at my computer at 3pm until dinner around 7:30pm. I'd watch a TV episode with my wife then she'd go to bed early and I'd relish in the 9:30pm-11:30pm time bracket when our house was silent when I'd get an extra 2 hours of work in.
Pay attention to those times - anyone who has tried it knows it doesn't last. Leading up to the Skyrace I had some sketchy days at the gym, where I was dizzy during squats. When I would go mountain biking I was all over the place since my reaction time was way too slow, and my demeanour was nothing like usual.
If you want something bad enough, everything else comes later. I wasn't adequately trained for the Skyrace - because I didn't care enough. As long as I finished I was happy. Providing for and supporting my young family still took priority.
Q: What would a Venn Diagram of your priorities look like?
This is super difficult to explain in words, but for me everything intersects at freedom. All of my priorities create freedom for me in one way or another, whether that is a very tangible "freedom of time due to wealth" or the more subtle "feeling of freedom while sitting on a mountain top".
Q: Is a balance of passions in life attainable? Should it be?
Similar to my views on the overuse of the importance of passion, I'm also a disbeliever in balance, in the context of success. Semi-pro athletes usually work multiple jobs to pay their way through training, failing time and time again. They have no time for an incredible career, just as they have limited time for family and friends. The wealthiest people I know have or had such an imbalance it's not funny.
People are quick to judge and call this selfish, which just goes to show how misunderstood driven people are. Driven people have had to sacrifice everything that is not a priority to get what they must. That's a very hard thing to do.
I try and maintain a balance of a very small list. Outsiders looking in can see an imbalance, but for me it's much easier to balance 4 things I truly care about then 50 things I vaguely care about.
As for whether or not it should be attainable - that's up to the individual to take responsibility in working out their best plan of action.
The approach Jase brings to his priorities is refreshing. Setting impossible standards for ourselves as athletes, professionals and humans, is a recipe for disappointment. Share Jase’s outlook? Drop your thoughts in the comments!