James Picks Brains: Work Life Balance With John Barrows

In the first of my brand new series, I’m pumped to have a long-term mentor sit and talk to me for 20 minutes about how he sets himself up for a successful day, every day.


In the first of my brand new series, I’m pumped to have a long-term mentor sit and talk to me for 20 minutes about how he sets himself up for a successful day, every day. John Barrows is my first guests on the “James Picks Brains” series, which will actually be a little shorter than this interview was. We’re going to be talking to sales reps, leaders, practitioners and people who are doing everything they can to crush it so we can find out what they’re putting in to get the most out of their day. Over the next few weeks you’ll spot questions about morning routines, work life balance, leadership styles, what people do before 9am and who our biggest influences are. That, and a ton more!

Let’s get into episode one…

Morning Routines

James: Routine is absolutely crucial for most sales professionals all over the world. What’s your average day look like?

John: Well, it’s tough because I travel so much. But on an average day that I’m not traveling, I get up usually around 5:30 or 6 in the morning. I grab my phone, check some emails, try to get all the s**t out of the way, just delete all the s**t. Then take a quick shower.

Usually I’m up before my daughter so that I can get into my groove and just get away with some of the stuff. Then when she wakes up around 6:45, I’m with her, getting her ready for school. Just hanging out, trying to be present. I’ll drive her to school most of the time, and then come back around 9. And then my day’s just all meetings all the time.

I will say during that morning routine, part of what I try to do from about 6:30 to 7, is I try to do that social routine that I talk about, right? It’s like, it’s usually kind of 6 to 7, but it depends on the late night that I had the night before. I’ll check my news feed, see if there’s any triggers that I can find, fire off a couple of emails, read a few articles, drink my coffee while I’m getting into my routine, go throughout the day, meet with all clients. Usually it’s back to back to back as you know, you’ve seen my calendar, so there’s not a lot of prep or followup that I have the ability to do.

At the end of the day is when I do all my followups, so I bang out all my emails and that type of stuff. And then right before I close things out, I’ll usually prep for the next day. So I’ll look at my schedule for the next day. I’ll go through my checklist, all my meetings or whatever. When my daughter is home I shut things down from 6 to 9. Family, wife, daughter, 9am hits, laptop goes up, usually work till about 2am and rinse, repeat.

Work/Life Balance

James: Everybody talks about work life balance. People that have calendars that look like yours have to be diligent about separating the time. What’s your number one tip for having a comfortable work life balance for somebody like you, that’s just always on the move and constantly working?

John: My number one tip is don’t think about it as work life balance. I call BS on work life balance. You sleep about a third of your life, you work about a 30 year life at a minimum. So what you’re telling me with this whole concept of work life balances is that you only live a third of your life. And to me that’s pretty damn sad.

When you believe in what you do, it’s not really work. It’s an integration, if you integrate work as part of your life as because of what you love to do, then it’s a lot easier to figure out that balance. For instance, it’s stressful and it hurts when I leave my daughter and my wife. But I love what I do and I’m finding other ways to get them involved. Like we wrote the, my daughter and I wrote that book together. We take nice vacations and you know, I’m always home on weekends. The one tip is just when you’re home, be present, just be present.

Don’t bring your phone to the kitchen table when you’re having dinner. I used to have my phone in my pocket and then on the table when we’re eating. I’d be talking to my wife, I’d be talking to my daughter, but then all of a sudden I’d see that little notification come up. It would distract me. And even though you don’t think your kid is paying attention to that, your kid’s paying attention to that. So take your phones, take the technology, shut it off, be present for the two hours that you’re there.

Everybody talks about goals. For jobs, goal setting and that type of stuff is important. People sit down with their family and map out goals to say, Hey, as a family, where do we want to be in the next five years? What do we want to be doing? That’s so everybody’s on the same page of why you’re doing what you’re doing. If your kid doesn’t really understand, specifically your kid, they don’t understand why you’re doing and working as hard as you are and those types of things, then they just think that you’re not there. They just think that you work too hard. But if you can help them understand that the reason is X it helps.

Leadership Style

James: Every sales leader, every thought leader, every influencer put your label on. It doesn’t matter. All the buzzwords that are fantastic that we love to use has a leadership style. What would you consider your leadership style to look like?

John: That’s an easy one for me, I try and lead by example. I’m not an armchair QB. Unfortunately because of how busy I am and that type of stuff, I don’t have the luxury of being able to spend a lot of time coaching, mentoring people. I genuinely do wish I had more time to do because I believe that that would make a much bigger difference in the growth of our team.

Here’s a quick example and it shows why that style suited me as a person. One of the times I was quite new to having a manager, we had cold call blitz is every Friday afternoon. So from 3 to 5, we would do a cold call blitz every Friday afternoon.

I didn’t want to do it, some of just were just sat talking for a while during it. I remember my boss came in and started yelling at me. Hey Barrows, how many, how many cold calls did you make today?

Now this, now I’m not recommending anybody do this. This was a arguably a fireable offense because I looked at him and me being the jackass that I am. I asked him how many cold calls he’d made that day in front of the whole team. He arguably should have fired me on the spot and he argued back, saying he’d brought in over $1M last year. But that didn’t answer my question, so I asked him again. In the end he went off to his office.

But the next Friday, his door was open and I could hear him absolutely crushing it on the phone. So you know what I did? I grabbed my headset and started making calls.

So in lieu of my, my ability to have time to coach and mentor and everything else, my default is lead by example.

Your Biggest Influence

James: Everybody’s got influences, mentors, people they look up to. I look at you as a mentor for me and have been for a long time. Morgan’s always been somebody I learned from. I look at Gary V and I see that as inspiration. There’s a lot of people out there that influenced me. Who were your influences that made you the person that professionally you are today?

John: My parents are number one and two. I don’t think I ever understood the influence that they had on me. And so I started to reflect on it literally within the past couple of years now. I always wondered why did I always have that entrepreneurial itch. I was in corporate for a while and I just didn’t feel right and I didn’t know why. And I think it was because I knew that no matter how hard I worked, it wouldn’t move the dial. It wouldn’t change anything and somebody else was going to be behind me doing the same s**t and I wanted to make a difference. And growing up, I didn’t know that. But now i know that my itch came from my mom.

So my mom used to work at Wang laboratories, which back in the day Wang was like Salesforce is today. She quit Wang laboratories, worked and stayed at home with me as a kid and started her own consulting practice. The living room was half her office and half our living room. I’d come home from school and she would have clients in there for career consulting. When you’re at that age you don’t think about it. It’s just that’s what my mom does. And my dad, he’d consulted for the FAA, so he worked out of his house.

So I had my two parents home, but working. It exposed me to what hard work looked like. That’s when I got out of corporate, I found a similar feeling that I would want to have a similar way of working and living.

That’s a wrap. Join us next time

If you made it this far, you’re the best. Thanks for reading and listening to this interview. We hope you gained a ton from it and will listen in next time. Don’t forget to check out our recent podcast episode highlights too.

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