How to Achieve the Balance You Crave

Categories Inspiration, Leadership & Management, Your CareerPosted on

Several years ago, my wife and I took a business / personal trip to California.On our way to the hotel, we passed a sign proclaiming, “SUP Rental & Instruction, 7-Days a Week.”

Not knowing what SUP stood for, we asked our taxi driver. He informed us that SUP was shorthand for Stand-Up Paddling and explained that it was popular up and down the coast.

The activity involves standing upright on a large surfboard shaped device as you paddle over the water. Done well, it appears near effortless.

A short drive later, we exited the cab. Armed with the name of several SUP options in the area and every intention of SUP-ing before we left the Golden State.

Then, the schedule got away from us. The work-side of the trip overwhelmed the personal-side and things got out of balance.

We returned home SUP-less.

Time passed.

A bit over a year ago, we learned of a SUP location in our hometown. No, it’s not on the ocean, but it sits on a large lake about 20 minutes from our house.

We vowed to make it happen. Then, life got in the way and the summer pace was busier than planned. Summer 2016 passed without our SUP adventure.

In a small way, the whole trying to make the SUP adventure happen was a nagging reminder of a lack of balance in my life. For years, a little one hour excursion seemed to fall prey to other demands. Granted, if we really wanted to make it happen, we would have forced it into the schedule, but forcing it would have been yet another sign of imbalance.

Over the last several years, I’ve worked to reduce the forcing function in my life. My years in the army, working at a global consulting firm, and owning my own business created a person who was great at forcing things into his calendar. I physically, mentally, and emotionally sprinted from work to many family events. Arriving a few minutes late, my mind often wandered to other pressing issues, instead of fully enjoying the kid’s ballgame or dance recital playing out in front of me.

Two weeks ago, SUP-ing on the lake happened!

We had a great time and, less than a week later, we did it again.

As I reflect on the experience, I think there is something we can all learn about balancing not just ourselves on a board, but perhaps our lives in general.

Consider your life…

You have likely had times when you felt out of control; times when the schedule was packed and the pace frantic. The promise you so often heard of ‘work-life balance’ seemed distant, if not nonexistent.

When was the last time you felt out-of-balance? Last month? Last week? Today?

When I encounter those moments in the future, I’m going to remind myself of standing on the paddle board and cruising across the lake. To help me do it, I’m employing a different version of SUP.

  • S – Set Sights
  • U – Understand Uncomfortableness
  • P – Purposely Practice

S – Set Sights

When we were driving to the lake for our first outing, I recalled pictures I’d seen of people doing yoga on paddle boards. They were so in balance. I saw myself doing that as well.

Then, reality crept in and I reset my sights to something more realistic and obtainable.

I thought to myself, “Instead of striving to do a handstand on the paddle board, why don’t I just try to remain standing or, at least, limit falling off to once every 30 minutes?”

What’s the point?

You have to realistically set your sights on what balance looks like for you. If you are the CEO of a large global firm, don’t expect to be home for dinner every night or attend every personal outing. You will be disappointed, and others in your life will be frustrated too.

Experience has taught me that much of my out-of-balance feeling stems from having unrealistic expectations or chasing an illusive, perhaps unobtainable, vision of a balanced life.

The point is to set your sights on what balance looks like to you, communicate it well to others, and then strive to achieve it.

Consider these questions:

  • What does balance mean to you?
  • If you were ‘in balance’ how would you feel and what would you accomplish physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually?
  • Given your current situation, what level of balance is achievable? Are you there? Or, is there room to grow and improve?

U – Understand Uncomfortableness

After about 30 minutes of standing upright on the board, I noticed a slight cramp in my right foot. The uncomfortableness was no doubt the result of trying to maintain my balance and not fall into the lake. Eventually, the pain subsided, as I relaxed and got better at it.

Doing something new can be a bit uncomfortable. We know this is true when we are acquiring a new skill or taking on a challenging project at work, but the same is true when we are striving for balance in our lives.

Some of us are uncomfortable saying ‘no’ to things, but balance requires doing just that. Trying to please everyone is one of the quickest paths to imbalance.

Consider these questions:

  • How uncomfortable are you with disappointing others? How about disappointing yourself?
  • What is the last ‘big’ thing you said ‘no’ to in order to maintain a sense of balance? Did your blow up or did life continue?

P – Purposely Practice

The second time on the lake, we were better than the first. The mystery of what to expect was gone, and a bit of time on the water measurably improved our skills.

The first time, I considered success having not fallen off the board and making it to the next cove along the lakeshore. Our second outing allowed for quicker speed and a longer trek across a portion of the lake.

I got better and more practice will likely yield even greater results.

Consider these questions:

  • Are you willing to practice at finding balance? Or, will you merely surrender at the first sign of resistance and fall back into old ways?
  • What tools and skills do you need to develop in order to better balance your life? Time management? Decision making? Communication? Technology constraint?

I wish you all the best as you strive to get better and find the balance we all yearn to achieve.

Invitation to get started

One of the most balanced people I know is my friend, Todd Davis. Todd is the Chief People Officer at FranklinCovey, a company known for helping individuals and organizations achieve amazing results.

Todd is offering a series of eight complimentary webinars based on his forthcoming book, Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work.

The first one is September 14.

I highly recommend that you click this link and check out the webinars. You will benefit greatly from hearing from Todd and his insights. No doubt what he shares with you about relationships at work will be key to finding balance in your life.

What David Bowie’s Career Teaches Us About Strategy

Categories Strategies, Your CareerPosted on

Some 18 months ago, David Bowie succumbed to a battle with cancer. After his passing, I invested time studying his career. In short order, it became clear that the career choices Bowie made align with what the best thinkers say about strategy

Perhaps it was intuition, studied decisions, or advice from others that informed his career. Whatever the source, Bowie’s career moves were smart moves.

You may think that trying to connect my world of teaching and consulting to David Bowie’s career is too big a leap. Stick with me for a moment.

I invite you to consider three observations of Bowie’s work and how they relate to organizational strategy. To support the connection, quotes are included Harvard Business School’s professor of strategy, Michael Porter.

As you read each observation, take a moment to reflect on the questions I pose to see if there is room for strategic improvement in your organization.

1. Choose to Be Different

“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.” – Michael Porter

Strategy is not about following everyone else; it’s about making choices and charting your own course.

David Bowie wasn’t a reincarnation of other musicians.

He was different.

He dressed different.

He acted different.

He experimented with different genres.

He went against convention.

He even declined the honor of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000 and a knighthood in 2003.

What about you and your organization?

  • Are you following everyone else’s path or charting your own course?
  • What is the last BIG strategic move you said ‘yes’ to? Which one did you say ‘no’ to?
  • What choice are you facing today? What is the long-term payoff if you make that choice?


2. Embrace and Create Change

 “Change brings opportunities. On the other hand, change can be confusing.”           – Michael Porter

Bowie was more than a musician; he was theater. He was constantly changing. At times, his changes confused people. Many didn’t understand his clothing, make-up, or on-stage (and off-stage) antics.

He emerged in the late 1960s and within a few years, found fame (ChangesLife on Mars, Space Oddity (Major Tom)). He invented the persona Ziggy Stardust (Starman) and became a pioneer of glam rock. After two years as Ziggy, Bowie abruptly announced the character’s retirement.

He then embraced soul and funk and appeared as the Thin White Duke (Rebel Rebel and All the Young Dudes). He later changed direction to the Berlin era (Wild is the Wind and Sound & Vision), followed by the pop era (Let’s Dance and China Girl), and then an electronic period (I’m Afraid of Americans).

He added acting, directing, painting, and fashion to his artistic endeavors. Like all of us, Bowie had his ups and downs, but he was always changing and moving forward. In fact, his last album was released on his 69th birthday – just two days before he died.

What about you and your organization?

  • Do you seek out change? Or, have things become too comfortable?
  • When was the last time you reinvented yourself? Your organization?
  • What is the next step in your and your organization’s evolution? When will you take that step?


3. Collaborate Well

“I’m really puzzled by why people in societies find it difficult to work collaboratively together with other people in societies.”                                – Michael Porter

In speaking of Bowie’s career, Jeremy Allen of NME explained that “like all the great performers whose longevity has been built on reinvention, Bowie has a canny knack of knowing who best to work with at the right time.”

Bowie didn’t just collaborate with other performers, he excelled at it. Here are a few examples:

What about your and your organization?

  • Who are you currently collaborating with?
  • Who should you be collaborating with? Who should you move away from?
  • Do you collaborate with those who are different from you? Or, are you consumed by the mediocrity of sameness?