Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Finding Balance

Stand on two feet.  Learning to walk.  Learning to ride a bike.  Swinging a golf club under control.  

Throughout every stage of life, we experience activities where finding balance is the critical element of success.  As we grow older, the events become less about physical activities and more about decision-making and prioritization of time and resources.  But never the less, it's still about finding balance.  I've written many times about the challenges of finding balance between work, school and life in an MBA program, as well as the balance between smaller things like grades and exploratory learning.

But I think there is a misperception (by some people) about balance, that it is a universally consistent thing across all people, and that it's always present.  The end of our last semester, and the recent frauds and failures on Wall Street are excellent examples of this.    

At the end of last semester, grades were posted.  As expected, there were a range of emotions, mostly frustration, by a group of people that have high expectation of themselves.  I told my team that my frustrations were a wake-up call to me, that I needed to focus more on exploratory learning and less on purely grades.  I had lost the balance that I originally brought to the program.  I thought this thinking would be useful to the team.  But I was incorrect in my thinking that "my" balance was a universally consistent sentiment, or consistent motivator. Everyone has their own balance, and each person needs to find their academic "level".

On a broader stage, Wall Street obviously lost it's balance over the last 3-6 months.  There were obviously bad decisions made, and fraud, and all sorts of other financial "actions" taken that will be well documented in the press.  But ultimately the people that occupy Wall Street lost their balance.  They saw huge $$ and they all believed that they would walk out to the edge of the plank.  They failed to realize they only a small number of people could sustain that tight-rope balance for long periods of time, and their remind of balance has been a crashing reminder to us all.

This isn't a cry for conformity or some sort of socialism, not in the least.  If nothing else, it's a personal reminder that even if I get to the edge of the plank, or find that high point, that balance is right around the corner, waiting to provide me a smooth or rough push back to some sort of level.