Success at 40 – Let’s Talk Business and Politics
Let’s face it. If you can succeed in your field before you turn 40, you still have a long way to go to succeed even later in life.
It’s always interesting and exciting for me to learn who makes the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s forty under 40 list every year. That said, just because you’re at the top of your game before 40 doesn’t mean you haven’t made mistakes that will affect the next 40 years of your life. I am a good example.
I was, in almost every way, a “success” at the age of 40. My company – the one known today as the Zweig Group – had previously made the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing private companies twice, in 1995 and 1996, and I was widely known throughout the United States as the leading expert in my field. I had a collection of about 20 old and restored or new motorcycles. My company car was a new 7-series BMW. We lived in a 5,200 square foot house on 6 acres abutting the Charles River in Dover, Mass.
We had a 60,000 gallon heated pool, housekeepers, pool maintenance, gardeners, snow plows, a nanny for our two daughters and even a full time house painter working for us as well. than two or three horses boarded for $1,000. one month each. My then wife had a successful reading clinic using a method she developed for teaching reading. My future was secure – it would be hard to mess this up (I thought).
But the problem was this. I spent the first part of my life entirely devoted to commercial and material success. However, I seriously neglected my relationships. The result of my constant traveling nearly every week has been that I have virtually abdicated all of my child-rearing and housekeeping responsibilities and left it all to my wife. She was not at all equipped to deal with all of this.
She had, by then, developed a severe addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs – an addiction that I had ignored/enabled as I watched her grow – culminating in a complete and utter breakdown. .
My eldest daughter, then about 11, called me one day while I was out of town on a business trip to tell me that Mom had them all go to her office with the family dogs to hide under desks because they came looking for her.”
That’s when I realized everything was out of control. My then wife was in prison, in psychiatric wards and in treatment programs. I couldn’t work the way I did and had to hand over the reins of the business to my junior associates. After a nearly three-year process that included many therapy sessions and Al-Anon Family Group meetings, we divorced. I had sole custody of my two oldest daughters, and we eventually sold the business, which allowed me to remarry, move to beautiful northwest Arkansas, become a college professor and start our design/build/develop business.
My point from this story is that pursuing the highest level of career success at any age can be energizing and addictive. But that also has a price. My advice to all young people is not to neglect your health. Don’t neglect your relationships. Do not neglect your family, including your parents, children, brothers and sisters.
You can do this – most of the time – if you consciously try to intelligently balance all of these things. Although I was lucky in many ways and performed very well, I missed a lot of things that, if I could start all over again, I wouldn’t have.
Mark Zweig is the founder of two Inc. 500/5000 companies based in Fayetteville. He is also an entrepreneur-in-residence and teaches entrepreneurship at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, and group president for the Northwest Arkansas chapter of Vistage International. The opinions expressed are those of the author.