Balance – How to Lead a Boring and Unremarkable Life
Day 20 of 21 days with Chuck’s new book, Why Employees Are ALWAYS a Bad Idea
Balance is another lousy Industrial Age artifact. It’s a disease, not a cure. Successful people don’t live a balanced life. They don’t want one, either. Do you want a successful life? Then stop seeking balance.
Teeter Totters rule.
When a teeter totter is perfectly balanced, nothing is happening. Both people are sitting there in mid-air staring blankly at each other, wondering if anything interesting is going to happen, slowing realizing that for what they are experiencing, it was not worth getting on the seesaw.
Welcome to the Ozzie and Harriet, My Three Sons and Leave it to Beaver life the Industrial Age wanted us to live. We were taught to seek “balance” so we could live highly predictable, and as a result, highly unremarkable lives. Just like the Silent Generation did in the 1950s.
“Which one do I choose, work or play?”, became a central theme of the Industrial Age. We became haunted by whether we had spent enough time at work to win the “car in the parking lot the longest” contest, and then whether we could balance that with some good family time, etc.
Integration, Not Balance
In the Participation Age, successful people don’t seek balance, they seek integration. Tony Hsieh moved Zappos’ headquarters downtown near the fun so they wouldn’t have to seek balance. In the Participation Age, we bring our whole self to work, and we blur the lines between work and play. We leave at 10 a.m. to see our kids in the only fifth-grade play in which they will be the lead raccoon. We take bike rides or go for walks at 3 p.m., and we even work in the evenings or what used to be the weekends if it fits the rhythms of our businesses and our lives to do so. Ricardo Semler calls this finding “equilibrium.”
Full Engagement, Not Balance
In the Participation Age, we seek full engagement with whatever will make us successful. It’s not about balance, but about full engagement; for example, leaving work both mentally and physically when it’s time to play or build relationships, and going nuts at work when that is appropriate for building the business.
I’ve built eight businesses. The first year building the Crankset Group, I worked seven days a week. There was no balance at all. I was fully engaged in starting the business. Seven years later, I have every Friday off, every other Monday off, the last week of every month off, and a month a year. That is around 59 percent of the work year.
My wife and I get to choose what to do with that time—ride a bike, build businesses in Africa, visit a 3to5 Club in Ireland, go on a vacation. In each instance, we are almost always out of balance, going nuts either in vacation mode, work mode, family mode, etc. People having the most fun on a teeter-totter are fully engaged and always out of balance. If you’re not fully engaged and are paralyzed in the pursuit of balance, expect to hit bottom hard, as you would on a teeter-totter when you are not fully participating in the workload.
Work Less Time, Be More Fully Engaged
Loehr & Schwartz wrote a book called The Power of Full Engagement. They had it right by recommending that we make sure we develop each major area of our life–mental, physical (exercise/diet), emotional, spiritual, and the productive output of work and play. And if we don’t, we will atrophy and be much less likely to build successful businesses.
Get More Done in Less Time
Too many business owners go into business immediately looking for an Ozzie and Harriet “lifestyle business”–assuming that they can step right in working three to four days a week so they can be “balanced.” Success almost never comes that way. It was the willingness to go all in and be completely imbalanced on the front end that allows me to be imbalanced now in the direction of free time.
Momentum doesn’t come from balance; it comes from being very imbalanced and focused on something. An airplane burns up to 50 percent of its fuel just getting to its cruise altitude. Fred Flintstone did a lot of flailing with his feet before his car ever started moving. Balance doesn’t work for building a great life or a great business.
Shoot for Next Year, Not Tomorrow
Full engagement is tied directly to wanting the best in the long term, not right now, and wanting it badly enough to go all in—abandoning anything that the Balanced Life folks would recommend. I didn’t get to three and a half days of work and the last week of the month off by living a balanced life.
Stop seeking balance.
Find something to throw yourself at and do it with everything you have. Then take a break from that and throw yourself at something else just as hard (playing with your kids, another business, writing a book, etc.).
I love my teeter-totter life. If you don’t have one, don’t expect to be successful, and certainly don’t expect to live a life that is built to Make Meaning. The Industrial Age company you work for might want you to live a balanced life and leave your personal stuff at home. It’s a trap. Find another company to work for—there are plenty of Participation Age companies out there, and the number is growing fast. You would also do your company a service by leaving. It might just make them face the fact that they need to change to keep up with where the world is going.
How to Live a Life that Matters
In the Participation Age, we are called to live a committed, fully engaged, fully integrated, and imbalanced life. As Margaret Thatcher, who lived an imbalanced life, said, “One’s life should matter.” If you live a balanced one, yours won’t.
This is a summary of a chapter from Chuck’s new book, “Why Employees Are ALWAYS a Bad Idea (And Other Business Diseases of the Industrial Age)”. Click here to pre-order this new ground breaking book at a discount on IndieGoGo.com until July 28.