The Great Myth of Balance / by Taylor Bryant

We are beyond excited to bring you a post from our good friend and Forth champion, Ben Skoda. Ben is the founder of Workshop Chicago and Human.ly. He's also a husband, a dad, and a pretty incredible amateur photographer.

Image by Callie Lipkin

Image by Callie Lipkin

You can be the picture of health – sleeping well, planning each week’s worth of creative, nutritious meals every Sunday night, with plenty of time to spare for that solid workout 3-5 times before you need to plan next week’s meals.

You can be a model boss or employee, or run your solo business venture to perfection. You begin and end work at the right time every day, you’re ahead on your strategic plans and projections, and you treat your co-workers, clients, customers and vendors like kings and queens all the time – even behind their back.

You can be a creative hobbyist, or even a person invested deeply in personal interests of healthy leisure. You garden or paint or read or collect rare stamps, and it relaxes you and gives you something interesting to discuss at dinner parties.

You can volunteer. You should volunteer. You are privileged and have things that others don’t have and you know it, so it feels good to share. And someone asked you to be on a board or committee so you can even volunteer in a way that makes you feel smart or important, so that’s a win-win.

You can invest in the care of the people around you – friends, family and neighbors. You remember birthdays and seem to always find that perfect gift that shows you truly know what makes that person tick. You respond to every Evite or Paperless Post RSVP even if you can’t make it because people depend on you to get an accurate head count so they know to make the appropriate number of meatballs and such.

You can do all of that. You really can.

But you can’t do it all at the same time.

To be a balanced person, you have to possess a basic understanding of people’s brains and emotions and how all of that figures into hours and real life output. I’m no psychologist or sociologist, but I am a person and have been so for over 37 years. 

Image by Callie Lipkin

Image by Callie Lipkin

What I have learned as a person, sometimes through reflecting on my own life and sometimes through other people – but most acutely through experiencing a lifetime of weather in the Midwest – is this: 

There is a thing called a season.

Seasons are extended periods of time in which life revolves around certain things. People who are farmers or horticulturists may be able to explain it with greater understanding, but conceptually we can all apply these principles to regular life. 

In each subsequent season, some of the things life revolves around stay the same, and some of those things change. It all depends on a lot of factors like where you live and how you pay your bills and who your mom is and even more technical stuff than that.

Life sometimes feels like a Chicago winter, metaphorically. There are extremes and your focus and conversation and hopes and dreams seem to gravitate toward one or two main things, which will never be in balance and almost never fit into your 5-year plan. 

I personally don’t think you can’t really manage more than about three main things in a season before you become terrible at some of them. 

For example, I’m finding that you can’t be really great at running a business, launching another one, being a sensitive husband, a new father, an amateur photographer, a healthy person, and a good son, brother, uncle, and friend all at the same time. At least I can’t. And you can’t do that stuff and travel very much, especially if you don’t make much money. 

Image by Callie Lipkin

Image by Callie Lipkin

If you’ve been lied to by some idealistic or naïve person who told you that you can ‘have it all,’ and that true balance is achievable, then I’m sorry. That person doesn’t understand seasons and they probably live in San Diego or The Cayman Islands and may not even like you very much.

Own only what’s possible at the moment, and know yourself and what is MOST important in THIS season (and if you can’t figure it out ask some people who know and care about you for help). 

In the Midwest we’ve learned (or are trying) to be patient, to hope for what’s coming, and to live within the parameters that each season affords.  Sometimes it’s a harsh reality to accept, but it’s reality nonetheless. And though it’s hard to manage, it kind of feels right.

Theoretically, life is short and you need to take risks and do big things, and I understand and subscribe to that wisdom. Take a giant bite out of the world.

Practically, you are a human being and there are only so many hours in a day, and you can only afford to invest in a couple of “main things” per season.  You will feel and perform better, and the people around will benefit greatly when you focus this season, friend.

Ask a farmer or a Minnesotan about it.