Why Give a Damn:
Read this post for a litmus test to understand the secret to living a “balanced” life. It’s far simpler than you probably imagined.
The author of this post, Daniel Epstein, has founded and run multiple companies, including the Unreasonable Institute and Unreasonable Group. As a serial and “parallel” entrepreneur, and someone who is always in the office on the weekends and nights, he is familiar with the struggle and importance of balance. (This post is a followup to Daniel’s recent post titled “Convergence is a Worthier Pursuit Than Balance“).
I was running on the adrenaline of life and still exhausted.
I remember when, my freshman year of undergraduate school, I was wildly out of balance. I was working on three startups, I was pursuing 2 degrees (for a few months before I decided on just studying philosophy), I was working on a series of projects (ex: protecting reindeer herding cultures in Mongolia), and I was training for a marathon while still making room for friends and the libations of college. Although I was running on the adrenaline of life, I was at times beyond exhausted. I didn’t sleep much back then (sometimes just 3-4 hours a night for months on end).
My next year in university was no different. I remember taking a walk one afternoon of my sophomore year with a dear friend of mine, Mark Arnoldy, who was then equally as spread thin. We were walking around campus and doing a little daydreaming. We imagined a “normal” life and a “balanced” life. We talked about how a balanced day should involve 8 hours of work, 8 hours of play, and 8 hours of sleep. To us, on that walk, we talked about balance as if it were a formula.
Balance isn’t formulaic. It’s more nuanced than that… it is contextual. Tweet This Quote
What I’ve realized, nearly eight years since that conversation, is we were wrong: balance isn’t formulaic. It’s more nuanced than that. Instead, balance is contextual to the individual and equally as important, contextual to where you are in your life. I now believe balance is about how you feel when you wake up in the morning and how you feel when you go to bed at night. Everything takes care of itself from there.
Steve Jobs said it beautifully during his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech… “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
If today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you’re about to do today? Tweet This Quote
The difference between Jobs and many of us is simple. He had the courage to listen to that voice. My challenge then to all of us, myself included, is to have the courage to live a “balanced” life. Not in the sense of dividing our life up into work, family, exercise, sleep and hobbies, but instead, in the sense of fully listening to your gut and your heart. When you fall asleep at night, do you reflect on a day passed with a smile and when you wake up, are you excited for what is to come? It’s the best litmus test I’ve used to date. If you adopt it, when you have a few mornings or evenings in a row that don’t feel right… well, it’s time to change the path you are on.
CANDID NOTE: In my mind, there are two kinds of luck… there’s a luck associated with the conditions and context in which you are born into (i.e. the type of luck that damn near all of us in the US or who even have access to the internet should consider as a gift) and then there is the type of luck you make knowing the conditions in which you were born into (i.e. what this article was about). If you are reading this article, then you probably are lucky enough to shape your work around a sense of fulfillment no matter how hard that may sound. Don’t waste that gift.