Adam Baker and Why Balance Isn’t the Name of the Game

Adam Baker is the blogger behind Man Vs Debt, but that’s only a fraction of his accomplishments. He and his wife, Courtney, paid off $18,000 in debt and saved up another $17,000 in a period of 16 months, before heading off to see Australia, New Zealand and other exotic locales, with their daughter, Milligan. To put it lightly, they get things done. Knowing that Baker makes his family and travel a priority, I asked him about how he balances his work and the rest of his life. His answers may change how you think about work-life balance.

What does work-life balance look like to you? Do you think you keep things in balance in your own life?

Oh wow, well… it’s a constant struggle. If I acted like anything else was the case, I’d be lying. I don’t really keep ‘balance’ very well. I tend to be one of those people who goes through fits of insane, game-changing productivity and vision… followed by a desperate and barren phase of burnout.

One of the positives is that my family gets it. Courtney understands how to help the situation and how to encourage me to have more balance. She’s on board with the current phase of work and we genuinely do have the same visions and goals for our life. I can’t stress enough how important it is for me to have your family like this.

I recently heard Chris Guillebeau say something along the lines of “balanced people don’t change the world.” That quote has sort of stuck with me. I do take steps to limit computer time in evenings — but I don’t constantly fret about trying to achieve balance. We take thing day-by-day. I try to work hard and shut off as much of possible when I’m not.

You tweeted a few days ago that you had a packed schedule but your daughter’s babysitter was sick. How does the way you’ve built your work let you handle such situations?

Well, I canceled everything. Milligan stayed home with me that day. We hung out in the morning and then went to visit Courtney at her classroom in the afternoon. I got maybe an hour total of ‘work’ done.

I pushed four interviews back to different days and replaced with a post I’d be running the next day (I wasn’t able to finish writing the larger one I wanted to publish). Random meaningless work details got put off another day… but who cares? I probably wouldn’t have finished them any way.

I was super stressed that morning when I found out the day was basically going to be scrapped, but in the end it worked out perfectly fine. It seems that things like this just always work themselves out.

Being able to travel is a priority for your family — but how do you balance that with your other responsibilities?

Well, two things. First, we’ve set up our life and our income around the potential to be mobile. We could certainty have more consistent (and probably more overall) income if we were to stay in one location. But because travel is a priority, we’ve designed our live to be able to fit it in. It sounds elementary, but it really is the first step. Many people say they have a priority, but make excuses for why they can’t adapt their life to fit it in!

Second, we sacrifice. We sacrifice some friendships because we are more mobile — but in return we are able to build other ones. We sacrifice some immediate income and traditional security for the ability to build a online business (more income down the road) and increased flexibility.

Another big issue I see with most people is they tend to ‘want it all.’ They want a house, a secure job, three cars, a bunch of stuff, a lucrative side business, a lifestyle of travel, a vacation home, college for their kids, and early retirement. What the heck? How did we get to the point where we feel like we deserve all of this?

Don’t get me wrong: by nature, we are the exact same way! We’ve just realized that we have to pick and choose our battles. Many people might hate the less glorious side of our lifestyle — that’s o.k.! It works for us. I think it’s most important for people to ruthlessly choose what they want in life (and what type of life they want to lead) — and then cut out all the excess crap.

How does traveling for long periods of time with a small child work out? Do you think it’s impacted your daughter in any particular way?

It’s just like traveling without a child, except you have a child with you. :-)

Seriously, though, it’s not as hard as people think. Courtney and I have noticed that when traveling overseas, Milligan is actually the most sane (and the most happy) of all three of us. While we may stress out or over-worry about a particular situation, she just adapts. Like all children, she just lives her life in the moment. Frankly, it’s an amazing inspiration for us as parents.

Now, honestly, there are a view extra responsibilities that go into travel. We move a bit slower than we would if it were just Courtney and me (once again, this is probably a good thing overall). We commonly have to trade off on excursions or splurges — for example in New Zealand I got to spend half a day climbing a glacier, while Courtney chose to bungie jump one of the largest jumps in the world. While one is on a mini-adventure the other spends time with Milligan. This isn’t optimal (we’d love to do things together), but is part of the sacrifice when traveling as a family.

Overall, there’s no benefit in guessing how this experience will impact Milligan’s long-term growth. I think it’s taught her flexibility and exposed her to a variety of experiences and cultures at a young age. I can’t see how that’s a bad thing — but I’m no expert. We’re just two parents trying to give her the best experience of life possible.

What’s your long-term view, in terms of your work-life balance? Where are you headed?

I’m headed for a lot of work. That’s the honest truth.

Once again, I’m not completely obsessed with finding balance. Balance, for us, means working and traveling together as a family in the near future. We simply want to go through life together. Because of the way we’ve structured the last two years, this is even more possible than ever before.

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One Response to “ Adam Baker and Why Balance Isn’t the Name of the Game ”

  1. Hugh says:

    What an awesome interview. I love the Baker/Guillebeau quote – Balanced people don’t change the world. That make a lot of sense. To really make an impact and be remarkable, it seems that you have to really pour your heart into something while at the same time having the support of your family and those who mean a lot to you.

    Baker, I like your philosophy on priorities. You and your fam have your priorities and you design your lives around them. We all have to figure out our priorities and just do it. Each person has to carve out his/her own life.

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