Success: The Ultimate Balancing Act
by Ron a. Fitch
Infoworld columnist Margaret Steen wrote a segment entitled How to balance your life for the Special Segment "Infoworld 100" (Sept. 13, 1999). This little piece centers around 10 points towards leading a balanced life. What follows is my response to her article; written in the form of a letter to Margaret (I attached a URL Link to an Intro e-mail I sent to her). First, let's look at her "Top 10" ideas. Then I will describe how they impact my life.
How to balance your life
balance means to you.
Your writeup How to balance your life in the "Infoworld 100" segment was short and to the point. Not only did I find it quite relevant to today's working Whirllll'd, it opens the door to further discussion. I thought you might find interesting my thoughts on how your points apply (or not) to my working World.
To give you a brief background: In 1985, I left "Corporate America" where I was a high-level (or is that System-level), software instructor, after having first founded the Human Insights Group; a small consortium of people who share an interest in alternative approaches to Psychotherapy. Therapy research is my "calling" in life. My operating capital comes from the sales of "Boris' Casino Simulation Software", designed under the guise of Casino Gaming Software Systems, for which I am the Technical Director. People often ask me what Introspection Therapy and Professional-Blackjack have to do with each other; the answer being: NOTHING! This distinction will become important as I address your 10-points in a moment.
Despite the "studies" which claim that your work space and your sleep/play space should be separate, I find that a "compartmented studio apartment" works the best. Creative surges can hit at anytime. Being able to capitalize on them "in the moment" allows me to take advantage of the idea's freshness before consciousness-fade, or A-D-D overload sets in.
While I can make my own hours, I frequently put in 10 - 12 (or more) hours at a stretch; counterbalanced by days where I do very little, using my time just to "veg". Now, allow me to comment on your 10 points.
Balance is about developing all aspects of myself: Intellectually, Emotionally, Spiritually, Physically, Sexually and Adolescently (i.e. relearning to become like a child again, the REAL importance in life). For me, this "Balance" is expressed in terms of Meditation and Creative-Movement (my personal approach to walking-meditation and Tai-Chi'), walking/jogging, reading voraciously, and playing GO; as well as Casino Blackjack. While these activities are indeed all different, they are also quite complimentary; in the same way that so-called "Left-brain [inducing] activities are complimentary to so-called "Right-brain" [inducing] activities.
While I have established a set of CLEAR Priorities for my therapy research and software design work, just as important is the flexibility to shift when the paradigm shifts. While I am normally well-versed in this area, recently I was "forced" (admittedly kicking and screaming) to make a switch from 16-Bit programming under Visual Basic 4 (Boris' Simulation Software suddenly "outgrew" the capabilities of the 16-bit compiler) to 32-Bit Visual Basic 5 & 6. Fortunately, the overall software design adhered enough to Object-programming standards that the conversion has been relatively painless.
was planning to make this conversion to 32-bit in October after
Boris' release 4.23 is released and sound. In truth, I should have
made the conversion over a year ago. Resisting reality (i.e. being
inflexible), like resisting gravity, simply stirs up the
"pot", forcing the issue to be dealt with sooner; in the
REAL-World's time, not our time - if that makes sense.
- Say No
Remember the "Who's got the Monkey" management scenario from decades past? The "Monkey" is alive and well, living in the offices and cubicles of those poor schmucks who are not able to overcome their emotions with logic, allowing them to say "No", when need be.
In most cases, not saying "No" is about "people liking me". When our world is fueled by the need to be liked, it misses the fact that OTHER People are NOT the cause of my Happiness (or lack of it) in life. I know many parents who are afraid to discipline their children (when necessary) because they are afraid their children "won't like them" anymore.
Because of the
nature of my work, my hours are PRECIOUS to me. I am ALREADY doing
the work of 5 people (so to speak). Saying "NO" means that
I am not doing the work of 10 people, MORE.
- Learn to Negotiate
People are often afraid to negotiate, often for the same reasons they can't say NO. Another segment is "afraid" of losing, or of confrontation (which can ultimately become self-confrontation). As a result, these people never step up to the plate.
I remember a
woman who, when hearing of my interest in playing Blackjack,
defiantly announced that she did not BELIEVE in gambling. My response
to her was: Life is a gamble. Choosing NOT to gamble is simply
gambling by not gambling. Being unwilling to risk anything towards
her success, life still finds her shying away from negotiations with
people in general. One thing is certain however, she has never LOST a
- Argue for Flexibility
Flexibility doesn't JUST happen. It must be sought-out and planned for. If it "just happens", more than likely it is actually nothing more than a compromise, necessary thanks to outnesses elsewhere in the Balance-list.
As I implied earlier, flexibility is about adapting to a rapidly change world. However, adaptation alone is not enough - it is in fact a last-resort action. Planning ahead allows me to anticipate change, allowing me to be not only an active-participant, but to contribute to the creation itself , rather than merely responding to conditions that always seem to be "out of my control".
As a software
designer utilizing the Object-paradigm, allows me a measure of
control over my creations, not available otherwise. Object ways of
thinking require you to engage in Projection-and-Planning (covered
later). Instead of writing up WHAT Happened (after the fact), you are
enabled to consciously CREATE those Happenings. It is difficult to
engage in creation and play victim at the same time.
While I am unmarried, "Family Time" still applies; although, "family" consists of my immediate family, close friends & colleagues; as well as my 13 year old cat, Bootstrap. "Hanging" with people who are important to you can serve as a counter-balance to the intensity and/or intricacy of your work. There are advantages and disadvantages to these people being actually familiar with what you do.
It is up to YOU
to decide what role these people play in your life; before during and
after work. At least, the decision will then be a conscious one.
While I work an INCREDIBLE amount of hours, self-time is absolutely a prominent factor in my life. My time is my most valuable commodity.
For me, Self-time manifests in the form of meditation, cat-naps, playing GO, "frivolous" reading and late-nite reflection walks. Self-time can ALSO include studying/learning; as long as I am enjoying it.
the key. If I am not enjoying what I am doing during my Self-Time,
then it is time to explore the "logic" which has me WASTING
my Self-time. When it comes to Self-time, there is NO room for martyrdom.
- Keeping up to date
I read virtually every day; not JUST about Programming, Material I read ranges in diversity from management theory to philosophy (east and west), playing GO, theories on winning Blackjack, and even MAD magazine! With Moore's-law well in force, the frequency and depth of change in I-T world require that I allocate 10-15 percent of my time towards education, just IN CASE I might need it later. It is an investment which always reaps huge dividends.
- Be Realistic
I am in confusion as to what point you were attempting to make on this topic. Nevertheless, the idea of "being realistic" is often hopelessly confused in the minds of most.
Too often, "being realistic" is used as a scapegoat for underachievement. Then again, in our attempts to make people like us, we may take on more than we can realistically handle. Unfortunately, when you pit logic against emotions, logic usually loses.
"outside people" serving as objective input can bring
needed "realism" into an endeavor. The question is, are you
willing to really GET what they have to offer? Remember: When things
are working well, "you" aren't there - However as soon as
something goes wrong, YOU show up immediately. Being realistic is
about being PRESENT in everything you do, assessing each step to be
done, in it's own time, and in relation to the whole.
- Find a Job You Love
If you don't enjoy what you do, then you SHOULDN'T be doing it. Just because you need the money is not a valid enough reason to be in a horrible job. While YOU suffer through a HORRIBLE job, so do your friends, colleagues, and even your customers.
So, ultimately, you shaft the people you work for and eventually Shaft yourself. It's difficult to be a committed team player when you hate your job. I.e., it's OK to be selfish and refuse work that is not interesting/enjoyable. If there are not others on staff who have an interest in this kind of work, that may well be telling you something about your staff.
Then again, a
challenge from the other side of the fence asks us to examine whether
we can excel in our work, DESPITE our personal feelings. Hmmmmm....
time for some serious debate on this one.
It has been nearly 24 hours since I began formulating the thoughts for this "Dialogue". Looking back on the last 7 days (where I have been self-tutoring the subject of programming in Active-X), I realize that what I have written above is indeed what I have been doing.
I once wrote that a successful project depends on the 3 P's: (Projection, Planning and Production). In a sense, the Director's job is about Projection, while the Manager's job is about Planning. These, done well, allow the production team to create miracles. Or as Lao-Tzu so aptly expressed it:
rulers - the people do not notice their existence;
The lesser ones - they attach to and praise them;
The still lesser ones - they fear them.
The still lesser ones - they despise them.
For where Faith is lacking,
It cannot met by "faith".
are always welcome.