Like most of you, I struggle to find balance in life. On a recent flight, I spent a great deal of time looking out of the window as the clouds went by, thinking about my personal time allocation. I came to peace with the idea that now is not a time for balance in my life. I’ve even embraced this conclusion. As I mapped out my various commitments – family, community, work, I figured out that this is the season of life where it’s better for me to be out of balance, and that “balance” was more of a lifetime goal – rather than a goal at any single point in time. This simple realization has given me a renewed sense of freedom to give my 110% to each role, and I hope it does the same for you.
We all have lots of roles in life it seems – we’re parents, spouses, friends, business leaders, colleagues, community leaders, etc. To makes things more complex, these priorities are constantly evolving. According to popular thinking today, balance at all times is the goal. I challenge each of you reading this to think about having balance over a lifetime instead of balance in any particular moment.
I’m a firm believer you must love what you do, and do what you love. If you follow this rule, you’ll be successful and content even when you’re out of balance. If I’m honest, I love to spend late nights and weekends – even vacation days – working to build BNI. It’s because I love the people within BNI and everything for which BNI stands. In other words, I don’t even want “balance” in the traditional sense. The idea of limiting the time I spend each week helping the organization grow because of some pre-conceived formula around balanced time allocation would be – well, unsatisfying.
In Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink, he describes what he calls a ‘state of flow’ – the ideal state for maximum productivity – where you are energized, and fully in the moment. When you’re there, the last thing you want is balance.
Dr. Ivan Misner, the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer for BNI, and a close friend and mentor, refers to this phenomenon as ‘working in your flame’. When you’re in your flame, you’re on fire. But when you’re working in your wax, you’re drained, you’re fatigued. It’s when we’re in our wax that we want balance, not when we’re in our flame. When we’re in our flame, the last thing we really want is balance. This is where you’re the most passionate, productive, and successful leader you can be. And it’s fun! If you’re spending less than 75% of your time in your flame, I challenge you to eliminate non-essential projects and to delegate more to your team.
Steve Jobs was an inspiring entrepreneur whose ideas were revolutionary. As you likely know, Steve Jobs was once fired from Apple. Years later, he rejoined Apple and went on to create history. When he returned to Apple, he was perhaps completely out of balance but it was the best thing that could’ve happened to him. In his words, “it freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” I don’t believe he wanted balance during that season of his life. It was probably the last thing he wanted.
Don’t get me wrong: I encourage you to take care of your health, to spend meaningful time with your family, and to contribute positively to your community. But I also encourage you to let go of other people’s ideas of balance and to embrace your own idea of balance. In doing so, you might find that you actually don’t want balance in the traditional sense now. If you’re working in your flame, you might instead choose to go all out right now – and you might love every minute of it. If this is the case, it means that you’re finding great meaning in your work, and that is a true gift. Embrace, enjoy, and be thankful for this terrific gift, and save the balance for another season of life. I wish you every success!