Mick Farrell | Crain's San Diego

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Mick Farrell

Background:  

San Diego-based ResMed sells medical devices and software applications to better diagnose, treat and manage sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other chronic conditions.

The Mistake:

Not balancing my life between family time, business time, and personal time.

The toughest moments are the ones that contribute most to developing strength and leadership. That point came for me in Lyon, France, early in my tenure as CEO. I had been on a round-the-world business trip that spanned seven countries in 14 days. It was Sunday morning, and I had gone for a run and had just had a lovely lunch, but when I returned to my hotel room, I suddenly felt deathly lonely.

My family in San Diego was asleep, and my family in Sydney was asleep. Compounding this was the fact that the day before, I had missed my 10-year-old son’s soccer game and my 12-year-old daughter’s tennis tournament. And I missed my bride of 15 years.

While to the world I might have looked like a dedicated CEO, a hero, I was empty inside, and would be a worse CEO come Monday morning.

Work had been my No. 1 priority. Even though I love helping tens of millions of people breathe more easily, I wasn’t fulfilled.

The toughest moments are the ones that contribute most to developing strength and leadership.

The Lesson:

I spent a lot of time thinking about my life. I read, I sought spiritual direction, and I explored my own priorities.

We get an average of 80 years on this planet, and we don’t get a second shot, so I worked on my priorities and look at them on a regular basis. At the top of the pyramid, my No. 1 priority is God. No. 2 is family, No. 3 is friends and personal time, No. 4 is ResMed, and No. 5 is giving back to the community.

ResMed went from being my first to my fourth priority. Now my Saturday nights and Sunday mornings are for family. If I’m going to Japan, I leave Monday morning, and I fly back Friday night so I can be home for James’ soccer, Camile’s tennis, my beautiful wife, Lisette, and church on Sunday morning. I also allow myself more personal time, which includes contemplating life for 15 minutes a day. Of course, since I’m an engineer, I have to quantify everything. Subtracting time spent sleeping means that I spend less than 3 percent of my life giving thanks, and more than 97 percent of my time living life.

I typically work from 8 a.m. till around 7 p.m. and I get it all done, although when I’m on the road, I work much longer hours. Competitors might think I’m weak, but after spending the weekend with my beautiful wife and lovely kids, I come back fighting on Monday. All you need to do is spend a little time away from your family to realize how much you love them. And that’s what it’s all about: love.

Mick Farrell is on Twitter at @ResMedMick and ResMed is at @ResMed.

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