Balance

I’ve written before of my eclectic interests, in my post “To the Restless and Passionless“. But it was only whilst listening to Donald Miller’s podcast, in which he interviews Ken Blanchard, that I realized my quest throughout life has been a constant strive for balance. I’d go down one path, and if I felt myself listing, and asymmetric, I’d switch my focus to right myself.

Early on in school, I was drawn to history, and languages, and yet by the time I arrived at university my focus had switched to science, culminating with a degree in Chemistry. I am right handed, but just before my teens, I decided to teach myself to write left-handed, and even went on to win archery ribbons shooting both right and left handed. Even my interests now, such as triathlons and freediving, seem to be deliberately selected because of their multifaceted nature, and the need within them to constantly ensure there is sufficient attention to each aspect.

This constant and instinctive assessment of the state of balance does not just lie within me as individual, but it’s something I do within a team, and within my surroundings as well. For example, at work I’m quick to identify gaps in a meeting:  if the quiet person in the corner is not being brought into the discussion, I’d better do that; if no one seems to be keeping to the time, I’d better make sure that is happening; are we going off topic?… In my mind, a failure of all parties to contribute, an inability to keep to the time allotted, a failure to stay on point, etc. are all indicative of a lack of balance.

Maybe balance is not the right word to describe what is going on; I should think about it some more. But for now, balance is what this feels like. It feels like a need. Am I brave enough to identify balance as my passion, or is it more like an obsession?

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Roll with it

Yesterday I missed out on a huge banquet that I had been looking forward to attending with a large group of friends. Instead I was stuck in the activation system of a mobile phone company, able to move neither forward nor back, while a very nice chap in the store, who we’ll call Peter (because that was his name) hung on three separate phone lines – even borrowing devices from his work colleagues – for over an hour and a half, in an effort to get through to someone who could help. I had been guilty, as is often the case, of trying to fit too much into my day, and so when something that should have taken a maximum of 90 minutes eventually takes closer to 4 hours, something had to give.

The banquet I missed (I’m picturing knights and roasted hog, with partially picked bones tossed to wolf hounds lounging by a castle fireplace) was all part of the build up to an all day endurance event this Sunday. (Scratch knights and hogs, and replace with inspiring athletes and troughs of pasta? Sadly, I’m still guessing here.) But in missing it, two things occurred to me.

The first is what I’m doing badly. Namely, treating everything as something on a checklist that needs to be ticked off. The work required to get me to this point has been such a cram, that I have spent almost all my time in doing, and very little in being. I’ve been on the treadmill so long that I’ve forgotten it was always supposed to have been as much about the journey as the destination.

The thing I did well was just roll with it. My patience was eventually rewarded in the store with $175 worth of freebies. True, I’d missed out on the wild boar and the jousting, but I got free stuff. Bonus!

A lot is going to come up in this endurance event, which I have up to 17  hours to complete. Not all of those things will be expected, or even welcome. I just need to keep moving forward and whatever happens, roll with it. If I can do that, $175 will seem like small potatoes when compared to the reward.

“Roll with it… journey… roll with it… journey… roll… “

Endurance Training vs Project Management

I signed up for a 140 mile endurance event nearly a year ago. The other day, as I close in on race day, I found myself comparing the work that has gone into preparing for this with the work required to deliver a successful IT project. This is how the preparation for the race has gone:

  1. You, your coaches, and those training with you all agree on the goals, and their relative priority.
  2. You build up your capabilities slowly.
  3. Each week you are given specific and measurable step goals against which to deliver.
  4. Feedback is instant, and where goals are undershot (or even overshot), an adjustment is made immediately to compensate.
  5. Everything is documented.
  6. Part of the work out is effort based, but part is knowledge / skills based, so that subsequent effort delivers ever more benefit.
  7. The mood is one of nurturing and encouragement.
  8. There is a cadence of builds and recuperation across the weeks and months, to aid consolidation of the work to date.
  9. Dialogue and openness are constant.
  10. If you don’t do your workouts, the coaches don’t step in and do them for you.
  11. There is both a long term aspect and a short term aspect to the work. The two aspects dovetail.
  12. You have the opportunity to find ways of working that are best for you, but within an established set of common guidelines.
  13. Your focus is absolute, and every decision can be boiled down to one question: “what  is more likely to bring success?”
  14. You are ready weeks before the main event.
  15. The final weeks are gentle affairs with more sleep, and greater time in recovery so that you’re in the best shape for demands of the event itself.

There is an element of comparing apples with oranges in this exercise, but there is enough of an overlap to make me wonder why these elements of an approach proven in sport are not embraced more actively in business. Many projects do follow the points mentioned but if any are neglected, I suspect they come from the first 10 in the list. (Then again, 14 and 15 are surely rarer than we’d like.)