*Resources mentioned during the episode*
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Dropping your balls
Hey, we are back for another episode and we are looking at work life integration. Specifically, I want to tell you about a metaphor which I use more and more with my clients and in workshops, and if you haven’t come across it, I believe it will be a bit of a game changer for you. Unfortunately, it’s not my own concept, but I’ve certainly borrowed it and will continue to do so now, in finding the source of this. I’ve come across a detailed speech. It’s always a commencement speech, isn’t it in America, why don’t we have these in the UK. Although as a little quick aside, Bear Grylls came and spoke at my school when I graduated, but that wasn’t American school as well by the by in 2000. So the topic or the context for this quote that I want to share with you and the concept, the visual, the metaphor, is the idea of juggling balls, and it’s such a cliche. And I’ve had colleagues and clients in the past, in particular, mothers and business owners, and so on who want to capture some element of this right that we want to have it all is this octopus, I think I had one friend who is trying to sort of come up with a brand name around the many arms and say one, and there’s certainly this idea of the ball.
So we’re juggling balls, we’re going to drop them, we can’t drop them.
All right, that’s the really key message that we always get, we’ve got to keep them up. And that’s really stressful. We’re actually the circus artist who’s trying to perform and inevitably, things are going to go horribly wrong, especially for me, because I still haven’t learned to juggle even though it’s on my bucket list, literally. So the more nuanced development of this metaphor of juggling balls comes from Brian G. Dyson, who was Coca Cola CEO. And this is from a 1991 commencement speech at Georgia Tech, their 100 and 72nd commencement speech. And I found the original article. Now, before going into the particular reference about the balls, which is at the end of his speech, I came across the beginning where he’s talking about pretty much redefining success, he’s talking about the secret formula for success. And importantly, very much reiterating what I always say, which is that the first step first ingredient has to be your vision, what you want to be. And as he says, very beautifully, we all live under the same sky. But we do not have the same horizon a vision is different from short term goals that characterize a young life. These are often set for you by teachers, parents, advisors, and they’ve influenced you. And it’s great to take advice he’s saying, but ultimately, now, because he’s speaking to his graduates, you’re going to shape your own destiny, you need a larger vision. And that’s something perhaps we’ve lost sight of as adults as professionals. And so that vision is the really first important piece. Now, coming back to this specific part of the speech that I want to draw your attention to. Let me find it in the final paragraph here. Here’s what he says he actually talks about bringing balance into your lives in a dynamic society like America, bear in mind, this is 91 Roses 30 years ago, which is crazy to me anyway, it’s in black and white, in fact, but he talks about balance, of course, I prefer the term work life integration, but nonetheless, the gist of it is the same.
So he says the following and this is a direct quote from Brian Dyson. Imagine life as a game in which you’re juggling some five balls in the air, you name them work family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air, you will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls Family Health friends and spirits are made of glass. If you drop one of these they will be irrevocably scuffed marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered, they will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life. This for me is the promise to Game Changer which is easier said easier understood and listened to than done and implemented right now he labels these five balls work family health, friends and spirit I’m reminded of my own five L’s that you will be familiar with if you’ve been part of my community for a while. Live Love learn and lead law which is live health and well being love, relationships and belonging. So not just romantic relationships but family and community and friendships. Learn which is your personal development and growth, lead your career and impact and laugh which is your fun, and and all that other good stuff, which is what makes life worth living. So for me, those five balls could be your five hours. But the really important insight here is that you need to know which balls you can drop. And I know it’s such a shocking idea to drop any balls because we’re overachievers and high achievers and performers and whatever we want to call it and we think we can do it all and yes, other people burn out but we would never burn out. We’re wonderful. And it’s all going to be fine because somehow we’re better than everyone else. Not that we’re articulate. In this consciously, but I think there’s a part of ourselves that seems to think that we’re immune to the symptoms of burnout, and so on. And yet, of course, unfortunately, we inevitably find that that’s not the case.
And the idea here is some balls, you can drop now you could say, big picture, work, business, whatever, you can drop that.
Obviously, if you completely, let’s say, don’t turn up to work, or in my case, if I don’t do anything, my business for weeks, months, years on end, then naturally, that business is not going to look great. And I’m not going to be earning income, I’m not going to be fulfilling, feeling fulfilled, I’m not going to be delivering for my clients, and we will get very angry, my personal brand will die, etc, etc. So obviously, if we take it to the extreme, in a way, everything is a glass ball in the sense that if I abandon it completely, forever, it will shatter. However, there is a distinction between my business which at the end of the day, yes, brings in money, but you know what, I could develop another business, I could get a job. I could, you know, drive an Uber or work in McDonald’s or whatever, at the extreme, right, there’s always another source of income. We’re very privileged, I think those of us listening to this podcast, and certainly in my situation, to have an education and opportunities that mean, there’ll always be something. And yet, if you completely disregard your children, you’re especially young ones, your health, your relationship with your partner, parents, siblings, whatever, pets, by the way, certainly living beings in particular, if you neglect those, and also your own personal health and well being mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, if you want to call it that, and in fact, Brian Dyson had the spirit there as one of the five balls, then I tend to go for the shattering into million pieces. But as Brian Dyson says, They could also be scuffed, marked, nicked, you know, permanently scarred, your relationship with your partner will never be the same. Your children will feel hurt and neglected, perhaps, if you miss every single and I’m oversimplifying, but every single, you know, performance of their dance, or recitals or football games, whatever, I haven’t quite got to that stage yet. So it doesn’t come so naturally to me, but those kinds of things, if you’re never home, to put them to bed in the night and read a story, if you never do any of those things, you’re not you know, that damage, that damage is irrevocable, that damage is permanent.
At the extreme, we could be scarring them for life. But you know, even without the extreme picture of scarring, we’re not talking about trauma here. Hopefully, we’re talking about even just damaging that relationship not being as close as you want to and so on. With your partner. Again, if you’re constantly working late, you’re you’re on your phone the whole time, and you’re never giving any attention to their needs and, and quality time together and so on, then that relationship is going to be damaged, ultimately, perhaps leading to affairs and breakups, right?
If we take it to the extreme, again, within my business, if I stopped doing real Instagram posts or whatever, which I sometimes do, even if, again, short Quora, I didn’t put out a podcast episode, which so far I don’t think I’ve ever done. There was one day a few weeks ago when we were a little bit late on the Monday, but we did get it out. You know, the world won’t end. I can pick that up again, I can do an extra episode. It’s a good problem. If if 100 people came to me said, Oh, my goodness, I missed your podcast episode. As an aside, I listen to parenting Helm, which is a very funny podcast with Josh where Kim and Rebecca two comedians are in the UK, and a couple of times now, recently, they’ve had technical issues and haven’t released their episodes, they come out on Tuesdays and Fridays, and I am sadly, what’s the word eagerly awaiting when they come? So when I even though we fall asleep to it in the evening, so often, I can listen to the same one several times. When it doesn’t come on, like, well, there’s a new episode on Friday didn’t come until I think Monday this week. But then we had no on Tuesday, which was great. It was devastating. And I saw an Instagram that lots of other people have the same thing. Obviously, not actually devastating.
But that’s nice, right? That’s a nice problem to have, if people are so eager to hear from you. In my case, if people did say, oh my goodness, where’s your podcast episode? That would be a good thing. If that happened, probably wouldn’t you probably get on with your lives and not notice, right? So not showing up as much on social media. I’m not doing my expenses right away. Obviously, I need to do kind of the VAT stuff with my accountant every three months and I should stay on top of expenses. But ultimately, it’s the end of the quarter end of the year and that needs doing and if I just miss a few weeks, then you know that’s gonna be fine too. The key insight some balls if you drop them will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered, others will bounce back up.
They’ll be fine. Right? I don’t think balance is the key word here.
I think it’s priorities. I think it’s choices and letting go of perfection if there ever is such a thing, right. Another image for After I often think of a spinning plates, there’s this thing that I’m sure there must be a good YouTube video we can use as reference, if you imagine, again, sort of a circus artist or whatever doing this, you spin the plates on a long pole, right? I spin this one, I spin that one, and then they keep going with the momentum for quite some time, and they go and spend some others however, at some point, I will need to come back and spin them again. Otherwise, they will come crashing down. And I guess extending this metaphor, you know, some of these plates, if they’re rubber, it’s fine, you drop them, put them back up, but others again, are going to shatter Allah, Greek fiestas I was gonna say, which is not a Greek word, but they go, you know, smashing plates into many pieces. So plates or balls, pick your favorite metaphor.
But I asked you to really seriously consider what are the rubber balls? And what are the glass balls and that even get you to sit down with a pen and paper and write down? You could do it in terms of the five L’s big picture, you can do it within each of those, you know, within your business? What are the things? You mean, if I applied this to strictly speaking, you know, business strategy here? I could say, Look, these are the things that actually, you know, usually Yes, I would always stick with my content schedule, and I do this than the other. But if I had to be super strict, and I have had to be now that only have three days a week, and in fact, even more so when I was on maternity, actually, what do I actually need to do? Well, I just show up to my client calls. If I completely neglect my existing clients, obviously, I’m not going to have a business. But I don’t have to do videos and reels and and write books and, and great new programs, and so on, right, a lot of the things we can actually strip away. And within your exercise, you know, if I really didn’t have time, you know, last week, we were moving, as I record this, and had a couple of days when I knew and I’d said to my trainer, look, I’m not going to be able to get up and again, this weekend, we’re going to see my sister we’re leaving at seven in the morning, I’m not going to have to do that workout. But I tried to then at least get the steps in writing, but the 10,000 steps or whatever that target is try to stay more or less on track with eating. And so I’m not going totally overboard. And in the case of moving,
I was also moving and exercising and lifting everything’s right, which is not a bad thing. And knowing you know what, next week, I can keep doing it right? Obviously, again, if you neglect it forever, then it’s not going to be sustainable. I’m not going to maintain my weight or physical fitness or whatever. General mental or physical health however, one or two days absolutely fine one or two weeks even right? Unfortunately, we lose our fitness much more quickly, I think then we gain it. But again, I’ve now got a really solid year foundation of strength workouts and running and so on. I can do slightly shorter runs, I can skip a few things we shuffle and so on. So these are all very personal choices. And again, as we design lifestyle business, we can really think about okay, what does that lifestyle look like? And what are the priorities? What is the big rock, that’s another great metaphor, which I’ve shared before on the podcast from Stephen Covey, you have to put the big rocks in first. And then all the grit and the sand and the little gravel and so on can fall in around it, you can’t start with the trivial stuff, because there’s no space then to force in those big rocks. So again, what are the rubber balls in your life? What are the glass balls, big picture areas of your life, the five L’s perhaps, within each of those buckets within your relationship, maybe you don’t have to, I was going to say be physically intimate every evening.
However, you nonetheless do need to at least talk to each other every day, maybe at least have one meal dinner, perhaps breakfast, whatever your schedule looks like when you’re actually communicating with each other. Not on your phones. You know, with your kids, what’s the one thing you’re not going to miss? With your exercise with your mom? Do you want to call her at least once a month? I don’t know what the frequency is, again, you can make intentional calls, as in decisions rather than phone calls as to what’s a priority for you. And sometimes you may want to disconnect from a relationship because it’s toxic. And it’s not the thing to focus on, right? Because you’re protecting your glass ball, which is your mental health, let’s say. So again, what are your rubber balls? What are your glass balls? I hope you find this metaphor. insightful. It’s so personal. And the key, of course is to take this aha, the big insight and translated into really practical, what does that mean everyday. But even if it’s a little picture or prompt, post it on your computer on your fridge, when you’re feeling panicked, oh my goodness, I’ve got to do this.
And then and then I’ve got to take a breath and ask yourself Hang on a second. Which of these things are actually glass balls? What is the bare minimum I need to do to kind of keep that plate spinning to keep the ball up in the air keep the ball from dropping and scuffing or breaking into million pieces. And maybe there are some others that I can let go and then I’ll pick them up again when I’m a bit more on track again with those other things. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, how you decide to divide your glass balls and rubber balls and perhaps how you can anchor that in your day to day life but I hope you found it useful as ever, and I’ll see you back here next week. Bye for now
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A year-long business incubator for experienced corporate professionals who want to translate their skills and passions into a profitable and fulfilling business.