There is a lot of talk in the workplace these days about “life balance.” People “want it all”: work success, personal fulfilment, family happiness, spiritual meaning, healthy lifestyle …. I am sure I am missing something important. The aspiration I believe is a reasonable one, the challenge is believing you can have it all, all of the time.
My personal observation would be that most of the people we put on a pedestal as successful are unbalanced people. There are only so many hours in a day. Tiger Woods, Hollywood actors, US Presidents, … it is hard to have it all, all of the time. So they dial up on 1-2 things and damn the rest.
My personal view is that at any one time you can really stand out on 1-2 dimensions — e.g. work and family — and then the others will always be below your personal potential or even “minimum desired”. However, over time, if you have the fortitude to change your priorities, you can reach your personal potential on each for a period of time. I never sacrificed work enough to be the perfect father / husband; I never sacrificed family enough to become a Chief Executive of a large company (you have to, for example, be willing to move jobs and locations).
A few years back I gave a talk to some of my Bain colleagues about 5-6 different phases of my last 20 years, showing how each period was completely unbalanced, but on the whole I had achieved what I felt was a reasonably balanced life.
Starting tomorrow, just about every day will be focused on getting up, getting fed, getting on a bike, arriving at a destination 60-110 miles down the road, cleaning up, and getting ready to do it again. For 52 days I will be completely unbalanced. The simplicity is very calming and yet at the same time so unfamiliar to be unnerving. I don’t have to clear email? I don’t have to make sure the air conditioning is fixed? I don’t have to finish 10 phone calls?
I had breakfast with a guy who is going to join the group as far as Dodge City Kansas; he has done two trans-America trips in his life; he doesn’t have time to do the Full Monty this year, but just loves it so much he’s happy with going halfway. I’m not sure how we even got on the subject, but in 1973 when he was still in University he simply dropped out of school for a while and spent six months on a kibbutz in Israel. Three notable things — he’s not Jewish, this was in the middle of a war, and he had never been on an airplane before. It’s pretty exciting to meet people with this love of life and sense of adventure.
One of the books that has had the most impact on me in the last 20 years was called “Survival of the Fittest” by Mike Stroud https://www.amazon.com/Survival-Fittest-Mike-Stroud/dp/0224075071 I don’t think it is that well known a book; I probably picked it up in an airport bookstore back when airport bookstores sold books. His basic thesis was that anyone can do an ultramarathon. I was struggling at the time to get my body physically ready to do a triathlon (a short one, not an ironman) and was looking for inspiration.
The book weaves together three fairly distinct threads — his own experiences on “ultra-adventures” like walking across Antarctica, basic guidance on exercise and nutrition, but also (and very controversially) learnings from the medical field on what the human body can endure and recover from — with many lessons drawn from the Nazi archives. The core message is — there really is very little you cannot do physically f you train properly and prepare for the journey. As someone who had suffered from a few accidents, it was easy to say — others might be able to do this but not me. But I didn’t want to give up. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Tomorrow is Day 1.
Saturday, 2 June 2018 Training: 60 minutes of indoor cycling and 60 minutes of heavy stretching (Yun #1).
Song of the day. Day 0. It’s obvious. Queen Bicycle Race. So where are we in the overall playlist?:
Day -3: Going to California. Led Zeppelin
Day -2: California. Joni Mitchell
Day -1: Lights. Journey
Day 0: Bicycle Race. Queen