We’re constantly told that we should aspire to live a “balanced life.” Why should we do that? Because we’re told that living an “unbalanced life” comes at a cost… and it does.
What people don’t tell you is that living a “balanced life” also comes with a cost. If you live a “balanced life,” you might be good at several things, but you will never be great at anything.
That is the trade-off.
Competing at the highest levels on any front these days requires more than talent. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about bodybuilding, writing, fighting professionally, playing the guitar, becoming a YouTube personality or running a large corporation, if you’re not willing to let it dominate your life, you’re not going to cut it. That’s because there will be other smart, talented people who will center their life around being a success. If you’re not willing to go to that level, you’re not going to be able to compete with them.
Do you think Steve Jobs had a balanced life? Do you think Lebron James spends more time on anything in his life than basketball? Do you think 8 time Mr. Olympia winner, Lee Haney, was knocking off lifting sessions early to play video games or to go to Applebee’s with his wife? Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps reportedly went 5 years without missing a practice session. Larry Bird was once shooting a soft drink commercial where he was supposed to miss a shot. However, shooting had become such an ingrained habit for him that it took him 9 takes before he could miss a shot. Robert Pattinson once spent two months working at a car wash and living in a dingy apartment where he didn’t change the sheets to prepare for a role. Nobody on top of the heap is living a balanced life.
Of course, not everyone wants to be on top of the heap. Most people are fine with having a pretty good job, a pretty good wife, having pretty good kids, and trying to have a pretty good time. That’s okay, too. Really. Not everyone is going to be Picasso, Einstein, or a Rockefeller. Not everyone even wants to do that.
The thing you have to keep in mind about balance is that it depends on what you want to do. Do you want to be a manager? Depending on where you’re working, you may be able to live a balanced life. Do you want to be the VP or CEO of your corporation? Then, you aren’t going to live a balanced life. Do you want to be the biggest guy in your gym? If you have decent genetics and work hard, you may be able to do it and still live a balanced life. Do you want to be a professional bodybuilder? That’s going to have to come first in your life. Do you want to be an IT guy for a small company or a government agency? You can probably do that while living a balanced life. Do you want to do exciting programming work in a hot, new start-up that comes with stock options? Then expect your life to revolve around programming.
In other words, the more competition there is for the particular goal you’re seeking, the more of your life you will have to devote to it in order to succeed. The good news on that front is that even if you have to become unbalanced to succeed, you don’t have to STAY unbalanced. At a certain point, you may have enough money, power, or fame to make a big impact without having to put in 80-hour weeks for years at a time.
Long story short, choosing an unbalanced life is perfectly fine as long as the juice is worth the squeeze.