Ron Carson grew up on a farm, and his father taught him and his sister how to work hard — namely, all the time.
He followed that workaholic path when he started his advice business, but his personal life suffered.
Today his work and his personal life are balanced, and one result is his fourth — and final, he says — business-related book, “Sustainable Edge: 15 Minutes a Week to a Richer Entrepreneurial Life” (Greenleaf Book Group, 218 pages, $19.95).
The book, on the New York Times’ list of best-selling books about work-life balance in business, is written for business owners, but Carson said its principles can be of value to the average person, too.
“People think you should work all the time or you never get ahead,” said Carson, 51. “I got results, but I wasn’t enjoying life, and people around me weren’t enjoying it, either.”
Early in his career, he became friends with Howard Hawks, co-founder of the energy company Tenaska Inc. and a University of Nebraska regent.
Hawks advised Carson to hire the best people he could find and “get out of their way,” Carson said. “I made it an environment where people looked forward to coming to work. Once we did that, we started having more fun.”
Instead of a vicious circle of work interfering with personal life and unhappiness at home harming the business, paying attention to both creates a “virtuous cycle” of improvement, he said.
“You can have an edge from working all the time,” Carson said. “But you can’t sprint forever. If you walk and run and nourish yourself, you can walk and run forever and sustain the edge forever as well.
“Those that are really focused on things that are important personally and their families, the business shows up and supports them. They’re doing other things with their lives.”
One of the book’s self-help tools has the reader set goals for one, three, five and 10 years in aspects of life such as finance, exercise, family, community, attitude, education and spiritual matters. With each goal, the reader writes down the key to achieving the goal and the reward once the goal is reached.
Carson said such exercises help people think about what’s important and set priorities beyond work-related goals and accomplishments.
The book’s chapter titles hint at the content:
» “Identify Your Passion That Pays”
» “Hone Your Firm’s Main Thing”
» “Simplify and Leap Forward”
» “Be Boldly Vulnerable and Receive the Best in Return”
Carson worked on the book every day for 24 months, along with his regular job of managing Carson Wealth, an investment advice firm, and Carson Institutional Alliance, a network of 35 offices around the country. The 140-person staff and 60 advisers manage $6.4 billion in investments.
“It’s the hardest project I’ve ever done,” he said. “I wanted to get the message right so it would be relevant two decades from now. I don’t enjoy writing, but I love getting the message out.”
His co-author is one of the Carson Institutional partners, Scott Ford of Hagerstown, Maryland, CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management Group.
Carson, who gets up at 3:20 a.m. and goes to bed at 9 p.m., also wrote “Tested in the Trenches: A 9-Step Plan for Building and Sustaining a Million-Dollar Financial Services Practice”; an updated version, “Tested in the Trenches: A 9-Step Plan for Success as a New-Era Advisor”; and “Avalanche: The 9 Principles for Uncovering True Wealth (Modern Parable).”
Did all that writing interfere with his work-life balance?
Carson said the main thing that suffered was his golf game. He played only three times last year and added, “This is my last project.”