Today’s Lesson: Life Balance [140915]


I am a workaholic. I am often chastised for checking email on vacation, responding to messages at all hours, or taking calls during mealtimes.


There are plenty of reasons for this… for example, the last time I took a vacation and tuned out work, I was promptly punished by having to work three times as hard to catch up over the next few weeks. My team’s performance suffered as well. I probably have an element of competition and an old school mentality of “the way to get ahead is to work harder than anyone else”, too. This, of course, was great advice when I entered the workforce (before the internet was born) but it is not a good policy now, in an always-connected economy. Trying to out-work your competition today means never not working and is a quick way to a heart attack, alienating family and friends, or worse.


I try to find balance between reaching the goals I am paid to reach and reaching my personal goals (which are sometimes the same), as well as maintaining a social circle, relationship, family commitments, and trying to stay reasonably healthy.


The way to moving forward is no longer “work hard, get good grades, and save every penny”–all three will lead you to stress and an early grave. Today, the person who achieves the most balance wins. You can not out-work anyone in a 24/7 economy. College has become prohibitively expensive for many people and the return on investment has declined since the dawn of the internet and cheap access to knowledge became prominent. Being frugal in a volatile economy and watching your hard-earned savings deplete and de-value is one of the most depressing things I have witnessed over the last two decades.


Sage advice today might sound more like, “Live well, be nice, try new stuff, and spend money on experiences you will remember instead of on toys you will forget.”


Yesterday, I wrote about the law of opposing forces and it is interesting, isn’t it, to observe how the world works to balance itself on the macro-scale, too?


As the economy declines, stress rises, and the world environmentally shifts, equal and opposite forces also rise to meet the challenge and restore balance. We see more and more people embracing the art of “life-hacking” to enjoy more (money, freedom, time) with less (stress, tradition, obsolete rules). We see a rise in people choosing a vegan lifestyle and trading their chairs for a pair of five-toe running shoes. We see more and more farmers adopting organic, cruelty-free practices and people recycling and reducing emissions. People are abandoning college and lifetime careers in exchange for vagabonding, learning through experience, and leveraging free online learning with practical, hands-on knowledge.


All of these things seemed crazy or on the fringe just 20 years ago. People looked at me like I had 3 eyes when I “came out” as vegan 15 years back. Now, I can eat nearly anywhere and almost everyone knows what the word means. I remember discarding everything in the same trash bin when I was a kid and throwing McDonald’s bags out of car windows when we were done eating because… well, why not? And who cared where food came from as long as it was delicious? That “global warming thing” seemed like a debatable idea only ten years ago and cars that run on electricity were still a crazy thing for rich people to most of us. Now all of these things are mainstream, or at least in the realm of “normal”.


This is a mouthful of disposition to say the lesson I learned today is the world seeks balance. Whether on the scale of society (we react to global warming with environmental conscientiousness) or on an individual scale (I react to gaining weight by exercising), Isaac Newton’s third law of motion holds true. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”–this is what I call the law of opposing forces. The key, of course, is to shift back toward balance before imbalance gains enough inertia to get out of control (exercise is good when you are overweight and out of balance, but if you are too overweight, then too much exercise at once could give you a heart attack). Incidentally, that is Newton’s first law of motion… “an object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.”



Newton figured out the secrets of motion and probably had no intention or idea that his theories could apply philosophically to our lives, as well. However, I think the father of Philosophy… Aristotle… had it right long before Sir Isaac Newton. Aristotle gave this advice more than 2 thousand years ago and it is just as true today for a healthy, happy life. He said, simply: “All things in moderation.”




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