I love the Nutcracker ballet. Yes, I am a man.
As a kid, we used to go and see the live performance at Powell Symphony Hall in Saint Louis every year. Full Orchestra, costumes, dancing, Christmas. It was awesome.
Last week, as we were putting up my own families’ Christmas tree, we listened to the Nutcracker and it brought back a flood of memories from childhood.
It also made me think of this year and how crazy, yet enjoyable it was. It wasn’t balanced, but it worked, just like a good symphony and ballet. There isn’t complete balance and all joy. There is tension and chaos. That’s what makes it interesting.
Just like life.
There is no such thing as work-life balance.
Life is not built that way and work is especially not done that way. When I’m managing time well at work I’ll have personal things go awry, when home is gentle, then work is a sprint. That important meeting? One of my kids is sick. How many days did the kids have off for Thanksgiving? The whole week?!?
Early in November, I did something that I hadn’t had the opportunity to do in a long time. I got to spend carefree timelessness with my kids. They were off on Friday, and after knocking out some work in the morning, we made an afternoon together. I shut off the guilt monitor for not working and turned up the fun meter.
It was great.
Now the previous four days weren’t like that at all. I had two client sessions that we prepared and hosted with all hands on deck. I spent extra time every night prepping and was wiped out afterward.
Together, it was a wonderful week. Individually, either my work life or home life got screwed. It was not balanced, but it felt OK. I didn’t get as much intentional time with the family early in the week, and I made up for lost time on Friday. I’ll be going out of town this week so that will be even more time away.
None of this is balanced. If this scenario were spinning plates, I’d be buying new ones frequently. This is pretty typical and probably sounds a lot like your life.
So what’s the point?
Balance is a myth. That fact that I could give everything on my list equal attention at all times is silly. The world makes me feel guilty and that I’ll never succeed. We need a new word. Luckily, I heard what the new word should be.
This concept comes from Acumen Partner, Dusty Clevenger. It just makes sense, so I share it with you. Take his word and use it as your own.
Life is unbalanced. Although family comes first and is your first team, there are times when you must work more, sprint, and be attentive to your job. On the other side, there are times when you should make family your priority. Still, other times when faith, rest, and personal time need to be primary.
You can’t make them all a priority, so what do you do?
You harmonize them.
Like a symphony, there are times when the brass is louder than the strings. Then the drums kick in. Then the strings take control, followed by a solo clarinet and one dancer alone on the stage. Finally, the entire orchestra plays together. The orchestra does not give equal weight to all instruments at all times, yet there is harmony. So goes our lives.
The orchestra speeds up and plays faster. Then there is silence. The action on stage comes to a halt. Then a few instruments start slowly, followed by a slow entrance of dancers, and a crescendo of all instruments playing together and an entire dance troupe on stage. Such is our life too.
The key that I have found to playing and dancing in harmony is strong communication.
As the conductor, you need to communicate with all of the different players in your orchestra so they know what part, speed, and volume to play. Are you dancing alone or do you need the entire troupe involved? Do your dance partners know that?
If you don’t talk about it people make up their own music or try to orchestrate your symphony and your dance for you. That never works. It ends up being chaos, cacophony, run, run, run, everything is a priority, therefore, nothing is.
How do you look at your life and time? What does the orchestra sound like? Are you being a good conductor, dance partner, and communicator?
Are you performing in harmony?