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THE ROAD TO SUCCESS IS NEVER A STRAIGHT LINE
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“Maintaining Balance – Zig Zag Principle #69”


Now, that doesn’t mean I lost my intensity. It doesn’t mean that I never end up out of balance. But my short session with Dr. Horne brought great clarity to the fact that it’s not worth giving up the things that matter most for the things that matter least.   This insight was part of what helped me see the Zig Zag Principle as a far better way to approach life.  Now, as I zig and zag from goal to goal, I will still put intense effort into achieving my dreams.  But at each turn, I’ve established a reward that for me inevitably includes my family (your approaches, of course, may differ).  And for each goal I pursue, I will set up guardrails that will determine the amount of time and effort I am willing to invest. There are not many ways to succeed without going out of balance for a period of time.  The key is to realize that you are going out of balance for a short period and then bounce back and take some time off to enjoy your life. 

My philosophy involves having a line of balance.  Many people think you achieve this line of balance by being at work exactly at 8 a.m. and leaving within minutes of 5, by getting eight hours of sleep each night, and by controlling life with a rigid schedule.  I don’t live my life that way. At times I live my life extremely out of balance. I’ll work so crazy hard that I think I’m going to die, and then I’ll cross over and go for a cruise where I sleep eighteen hours a day. Then I’ll charge back across the line and spend some incredible family time, then I’ll go work my guts out again and literally not sleep for a couple or three weeks while I start another new business. Then I’ll spend a month in the Himalayas with my family. The way I define balance is not to try walking the perfect line, but to cross that line of balance as frequently as possible.  This is the final form of zigzagging I would suggest.

Added to my own bad example of charging straight toward a goal is the example of an individual who completed his MBA program the same time I did.  He was a charismatic and brilliant man.  He had everything going for him—far more than the rest of us, really.  During school and after we graduated, he was fixated on the same path I was on.  He was going to the top and he was going to succeed at all costs. I guess the only real difference between us is that I am fortunate enough to have a wife who has helped me become grounded and remember what really matters in my life. (Sometimes she has had to beat me over the head, but I count that as a form of help.) 

This man was relentless in his pursuit of wealth.  He racked up frequent flier miles and spent even more time away from his family than I did.  He did whatever it took to get to the top, and he got there.   In fact, by some measures, he has achieved a level of success I might have been envious of at one point in my life.  But now, as I look back over my life and this man’s life, I see some significant differences. He has been married and divorced multiple times.  He has had more flings than I can count with my hands and my toes.  He has no relationship with his children; in fact, they will not even talk to him.

I look at him, and I am so grateful that Dr. Horne took the time to counsel with me—and then put me on a transatlantic flight to think about what he said.  As a result, my son Nathan, who would not let me touch him because he did not know who I was, now calls me his hero.  Success is not worth heading over a cliff or getting so out of balance that we lose control.  Everything in life requires balance.  The best skiers cross that line of balance as often as possible as they race down the hill.  But they know how to keep their momentum and stay upright through the race, rather than crashing and burning.

A key to maintaining our balance in life and in business is not getting so tightly wound up and so intense that we do not get in a rhythm, or what the best athletes call flow.  In his book, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, sports psychologist Bob Rotella, who has worked with many of the world’s greatest golfers, talks about the mindset the best golfers have to get into. When golfers are playing at their peak, Rotella says, they are only using a part of their brain while the other part is shut down.  It is almost as if they are in a trance.  Things just come naturally to them.   They are relaxed, and they let the intuitive and creative part of their brain do the work.  That is flow.

Many of us, on the other hand, get so stressed and uptight that we create our own failures.  Our stress then creates a form of reverse psychology, similar to what happens when I’m golfing and see a water hazard off to the left.  If I allow myself to think (which Rotella would suggest I not do!), I tell myself,  “Don’t go left into the water.” And, just like that, the ball invariably ends up going left right into the pond.  The same thing is true as we pursue our beacons in the fog. If we get fixated on the things we think we can’t do or if we get consumed with the possibility of a little error or failure, we get wound up too tight.  And that actually translates into negative behaviors that undercut our efforts.  

 

 

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