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Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian challenges work-life balance

by Ana Lopez
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Technology businessroundups.org and investor Alexis Ohanian has a lot going on.

As well as building venture capital firm Seven Seven Six with a focus on software and empathy, the co-founder and former executive chairman of Reddit is raising daughter Olympia with tennis legend Serena Williams — and recently partnered with permanent-ink icon sharpness.

Life is about to get even busier for Ohanian soon as he is expecting his second child with Williams at the end of this year.

So how does he manage it all and maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Ohanian tells businessroundups.org he would like to rephrase the question.

“I don’t think it’s about work-life balance,” he explains. “I don’t think anyone can really achieve that. It’s not about balancing. When you’re looking for balance, you imply, like Thanos, [that] you would be able to create something perfectly balanced. And the reality is work-life [is] never 50/50. You’ll never get anywhere near it – and you shouldn’t either.

But that does not mean that one area should always be prioritized over another.

“There are times in your life when you have to focus on the career, the work,” says Ohanian. “There are times in your life when you need to focus on life. It’s a spectrum that always flows back and forth.”

Ohanian compares that ebb and flow to a relationship, noting that a partnership is never exactly 50/50. Sometimes you come home from work with only 20% to give while your partner has 80%, he explains, but the key is to keep communication open amidst the constant flow.

Related: Work-life balance is easy. To succeed at work, find a life.

Rituals, routine — and the “surprise and delight” factor

Before getting married, Ohanian said he was constantly in “CEO mode” and “terrible” at striking any semblance of balance between his work and personal life. He remembers pushing himself in his 20s, not thinking about what he ate or how often he worked out.

That changed when he was in his thirties and became a father. “I was like, I need to change everything so that I can be there for this little one as long as possibleOhanian recalls. “And that’s honestly been one of the superpowers of becoming a father.”

Today, Ohanian relies on the “discipline of routines” to keep herself grounded, even when things get tougher along the way. At this point, it looks like he’s starting his morning with a cold swim; he spends 10 minutes in an ice tank before exercising, taking a shower and drinking his first cup of coffee.

He also takes some time in those early hours to write down his daily goals. Those can be personal or professional, says Ohanian.

When at home, Ohanian has dinner with his family every night at 6pm – “without exception”. He also harnesses the power of “surprise and delight,” a tactic that can be just as effective during family time as it does in business.

“It’s much more memorable when you break a pattern of someone’s expectations,” Ohanian explains. “These things that we advise our founders to do, I also do for my daughter and my wife – that’s the other side of the routine of the discipline. If your default state has this kind of routine and expectations, then you also create the opportunity to doing things that feel unusual and different.”

Related: 3 Ways to Delight and Delight Your Ecommerce Customers

Take breaks and find activities that help you de-stress

Ohanian also relies on some helpful strategies when it comes to managing stress levels. He enjoys walking during the workday, sometimes taking a few phone calls as he walks through his South Florida estate, “a fair amount of space” complete with chickens and “a little farm action going on.”

He has also returned to drawing, a hobby he took up as a child. Over the years, Ohanian’s has used the skill to create several corporate logos, including Reddit’s. But today the activity helps him “de-stress” (his tool of choice is the Sharpie S-Gel pen). And he is “thrilled” to see Olympia sign as well.

“Even before the Sharpie partnership, we were doing these drawing classes where I would fire up YouTube – this was during Covid – [and go to the channel] Art for kids,” says Ohanian. “It’s this whole family where they teach drawing — the father, kids, wife, and they draw together. I would do this one with Olympia. Olympia gets so excited [by this] drawing class, and I’ll take it [Serena] in it, or if we have grandparents in the house, they will do it too.

Related: 8 ways to de-stress yourself at work in a minute | businessroundups.org

Ohanian recognizes how much resources he has and how difficult achieving a healthy flow state can be for other entrepreneurs and professionals juggling their responsibilities at work and home. That is why he is a strong supporter of paid family leave; Ohanian wants all American families to have access to it.

With the right support, some people may even discover that having a family unlocks new levels of professional ambition and success. Ohanian certainly felt that was the case for himself.

“There’s a little human that you care about more than anything in the world,” says Ohanian. “You really don’t care about anything in the world but this kid’s perception of you. Another gear is unlocked once you have that dose of humility, and it’s amazing. Like I said, ironically, I think it makes me feel so much better I think this chapter of my career as a father will make the previous one look like amateur hour.’

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