Teeter Totters rule.
Balance is another lousy Industrial Age artifact. Successful people don’t live a balanced life. They don’t want one, either. Want a successful life? Stop seeking balance.
When a teeter totter is perfectly balanced, nothing is happening. Both people are sitting there in mid-air staring at each other wondering if anything interesting is on the horizon, slowing realizing that what they are experiencing is not worth getting on the see saw for. Sound like fun?
Welcome to the life the Industrial Age wanted us to live. We were taught to find the “balance” of the three “Ss’ of the Industrial Age – safety, security and stability/predictability and live unremarkable, highly balanced lives.
Full Engagement, not Balance
Successful people don’t seek balance, they seek full engagement with whatever will make them successful. It’s not about balance, but about full engagement. 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.
Work Less Time, More Fully Engaged
I’m not advocating being a workaholic. Plenty of research shows that workaholics spend 12 hours a day at work but only invest 6-8 hours in actually getting something done. You can get almost as much done in half the time if you’re fully engaged. What I’m advocating is full engagement in whatever needs the highest and best use of your time right now. Balance would say take lots of breaks and stretch it over 12 hours. Workaholics live balanced lives that usually don’t lead to success.
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 a successful business.
Get More Done in Less Time
Too many business owners go into business immediately looking for a “lifestyle business” – assuming that they can step right in working 3-4 days a week so they can be “balanced”. Success almost never comes that way.
When I started Crankset Group five years ago I worked 6 1/2 to seven days a week for almost a year. I exhibited the same kind of imbalance in starting five other businesses in the previous 20 years. Five years later I work 3 1/2 days a week and take the 4th week off each month. But I got there gradually over the five years, and it was the willingness to go nuts and be completely unbalanced on the front end that allows me to be unbalanced now in the direction of free time.
Momentum doesn’t come through balance. You burn a lot of fuel on take off. An airplane burns up to 50% of its fuel just getting to its cruise altitude.
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 nuts, all in – abandoning anything that the Balanced Life folks would recommend. I didn’t get to 3 1/2 days of work and the last week of the month off by living a balanced life.
And I don’t live one now. Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, I went to Kenya for a week to work with some business owners and encourage them to build a business that makes money while they’re on vacation. I flew for two days, had 2 1/2 days on the ground and flew back for two days.
I was totally out of balance the whole time. I switched to Kenyan time the morning of my flight, getting up VERY early. And on the plane there I didn’t eat breakfast food when served because it was dinner time in Kenya, slept during Kenyan time when it was daytime on the plane, etc. And I did the same thing on the way back.
Being completely out of balance while everyone else on the flights was comfortable allowed me to overcome 80% of the jet lag and hit the ground running both in Kenya and when I got back.
Rest With Full Engagement
I rarely sit around during that fourth week and seek “balance”. The fourth week of May I’ll be on a week long bike trip in Corsica, riding 60-100 miles a day for six straight days, drinking wine at night – completely out of balance. (Somebody else might lay on a beach the whole time – totally unbalanced.) Go off the grid while you do it.
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.)
How to Live a Life That Matters
Live a committed, fully engaged, unbalanced life. As Margaret Thatcher, who lived an unbalanced life, said, “One’s life should matter.” If you live a balanced one, yours won’t.
I love my teeter-totter life. If you don’t have one, don’t expect to be successful.
Get a teeter totter life and start having more fun!