Letter No 102 - The act of balancing.

Dear friend,

Have you been told 'live a balanced life'?

Work life balance.
Food balance.
Relationship balance.
Balance of expenses and income.
Balance of creative and routine.
Emotional balance.

We are told that balance is good. Balance is needed to live a healthy life.

Balance results in well-being, better health, reduced stress, healthier relationships, personal growth, financial success and a sustaineble life.

But what is this balance and how do we achieve it? How do we know when balance has been achieved? How do we continue to stay balanced?

These are questions that often overwhelm us and throw us off-balance!


They say nature finds it's own balance.

But in nature there are forest fires. There are floods. There are volcanic eruptions. Their are storms and cyclones. There are famines. These don't seem like very great acts of balance. Right?

And all this has been a part of nature long before man developed technology and starting disrupting the environment. So is it really true that nature exists in balance?

I believe that what we must understand is that balance is not a static state of equilibrium. Balance is not a thing. Balance is a 'act'. Balance is a dynamic concept. Balance is about constantl changing. Balance is not a noun. Balance is a verb.


I woke up at 3am to write this post. My mind feels fresh and inspired early in the morning. But I don't get up every morning at 3. I woke up. My mind was buzzing with ideas for this letter. I had to get up and write. Now I will be tired in the day. I will have to compensate with some rest and make up with some sleep. I will have to find balance. Balance is an act.

My mother is a ceramic artist. There are days she is up and about in her studio early in the morning and has a firing on until late in the evening. She is in her seventies. She gets tired. Sometimes she even falls ill. But loves what she does and she has to do what she has to do. We, her children may tell her, "don't work so hard. Take it easy. Now is your time to relax". But she loves what she does. She has to find her own ways to balance her energy and get adequate rest and recuperation.

An athlete training for a marathon has to train hours on end. They have to give up certain types of food and give up on social life. They have to train in the gym with heavy weights that tears apart the fibres in their muscle so that they regrow stronger. They have to go through extremes of practice and discpline. Where is the balance in that?

A businessperson trying to close a deal has to sometimes work for hours on end and through the weekends. Sometimes they have to make sacrifices of family life and even their personal wishes. They have to make tough choices. They have to drop their ego and find ways to solve problems and bring people together. They need to do what they need to do.

Balance is an act.


Do this thought experiment. Imagine you are a tight rope walker. You are doing the most daring walk of your life - between two very high buildings. This is the act that you have been preparing for all your life. Thousands of people down there are watching you. If you lose your balance and fall... It wont be funny.

Now just imagine. How do you do it? How is your body feeling? What is your posture?

Chances are that you imagine yourself with slightly flexed knees, alert, and with your hands spread. As you walk you body leans or tips on one side. Immediately your height sense of balance kicks in and you sways your arms on the other side and 'balance' yourself. Soon your body leans towards the other side and you sway your arms once again to create that balance. And this goes on until you reach the other end of the rope you are walking on. You are constantly shuffling and using your arms to balance your body. Right?

Right. And this is exactly how a tight rope walker would do it. They are not walking perfectly steadily and absolutely centered all the time. They keep tipping over on this side or that. But their skill is their ability to quickly create balance by countering the movement of the body by and equal and opposiite force.

That's what balance is about.

Things will tip over on side or the other. In fact in order to create excellence and big results in life, you have to go off-balance for some periods of time. You have to go all the way. You have to give up balance and go all out. You have to make sacrifices. But then you also have to know how to compensation and come back to balance. Nothing great is achieved by always remain in the center, by remain static. Only inanimate objects remain static.

Life is dynamic. Balance is a dynamic act.


Here are some thoughts from a book that really helped me understand this - The One Thing, by Gary Kelloer and Jay Papasan.

No one ever achieves absolute balance. A 'balanced life' is a myth - misleading concept we often accept as truth without stopping to consider it properly. We hear so much about balance we automatically assume it is what we should be seeking.

Purpose, meaning, excellence - these are what make a good life. If you seek them, you will most certainly have your life go out of balance. You will be constantly crossing the invisible middle line as you pursue your priorities. Time on one thing means time away from another. This makes balance impossible. The problem with living in the middle is that it prevents you from making extraordinary commitments to anything.

Balance is a skill you will need to acquire in this process. The act of living a full life by giving time to things that matter to you is a constant balancing act.

Knowing when to persue the middle and when to persue the extremes in in essence the true beginning of wisdom.

The question of balance is really a question of priority. When you act on your priority, you'll autamatically go out of balance, giving more time to one thing over another. The challenge then doesn't become one of not going out of balance, for in fact you must. The challenge becomes how long you stay on your priority. To be able to address your priorities out of work, be clear about the most important work priority so you can get it done. Then go home and be clear about your priorities there so you can get back to work.

When you are supposed to be working, work and when you are supposed to be playing, play.


Buddha spoke about and brought into our consciousness the words 'the middle path'. But have you stopped to consider what extremes he had to go to in order to arrive at these words!


Walking the tightrope between those two buildings requires the act of 'counterbalancing'. Leaning over on the other side when your body tips to one side. Hence the act of counterbalancing is more important that the concept of balance. You have to tip over hard towards your priorities if you are ambitious. And then you need to know how to counterbalance!


Here are some practical ideas from 'The One Thing' that can help you with this beautiful act of living a counterbalanced life.

  1. Think about two balancing buckets. Seperate your work life and personal life into two distinct buckets - not compartmentalise them, just for counterbalancing. Each has its own priorities and counterbalancing goals and approaches.
  2. Counterbalance your work bucket. View work as involving a skill or knowledge that must be mastered. This will cause you to give disproportionate time to your ONE thing and will throw the rest o your work day. Your work life is divided into two distinct areas - what matters most and everything else. You will have to take what matters to the extremes and be okay wil what happens to the rest. Professional success requires this.
  3. Counterbalance your personal life bucket. Acknowledge that your life actually has multiple areas an that each requires a minimum amount of attention for you to feel that you 'have a life'. Drop any one and you will feel the effects. This requires constant awareness. You must never go too long or too far without counterbalancing them so that they are all active areas of your life. Your personal life requires it.

Start leading a counterbalanced life. Let the right things take precedence when they should and get to the rest when you can.

An extraordinary life is a balancing act.


Here are some more ideas to help you with your counterbalancing act.

  1. Not everything requires consistency. Some things are better done in intense sperts. For me writing and creative acts happen in such bursts. Then refining them, sharing them and monetising them require consistency.
  2. Not everything requires the same amount of time. If I spend 2 hours per week of quality time with my kids, I feel it's better than many hours of just hanging around. Quality time is more important than just quantity. Quantity is required too, but not always.
  3. Not everything requires you to do it yourself. I don't need to do the accounts of my business myself. Our accountant can do it. But it is a very important aspect of a successful business. I need to understand it, monitor it and give the right directions. I can delegate this because I have trained myself to do it. Delegation requires training and practise.
  4. Not everything requires immediate attention. Always ask when does a task require your attention. We often live in an illusion of contant emergence. There is nothing more dangerous to creating excellent results that this.
  5. Not everything is equally important. This is really important. The big results always come from a few very important things. Make enough efforts to find out what really matters.