Balance, a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions to the extent of egalitarianism. Yes, that!
Balance is one of the most commonly heard words from the wise. There is balance in ‘diet’, in posture, even between work and life; I’m here to argue otherwise. In absolute terms there is nothing called balance .. most practical translation of balance is choice. When we like a certain thing and we for some reason are not comfortable pushing the argument in its true color forward, we take the cover of balance to roll it across as a solidly knitted argument. Let me take the example of ‘work-life balance’. Successful people work a lot .. they work hard, round the clock .. they make work their life and therefore inch ahead of everyone else. Ruskin Bond, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Shah Rukh Khan, Roger Federer, Barak Obama, Nushrat Fateh Ali Khan, Nelson Mandela & Steve Jobs .. did not do a 9 to 5 to achieve the level of greatness that they did.There is another set that keeps clamoring for a better balance between work and life; truth be told, this set likes other things more than they like their work and to fund that other thing with more time and resources they often argue for a greater balance between life and work. Actually, the demand is not at all that of balance but of choice. And that is alright, everyone gets a vote and when it comes to their life they must enjoy ‘veto’. But it will be so much better if you just said it.. plainly.
One of my previous employers had this amazing tradition, in which, after annual performance appraisals rating closure employees were encouraged to bid for open roles higher in the hierarchy than their current one. Interested employees were then given a week to prepare for a presentation/talk in which they were expected to establish their suitability. Those who impressed the judges enough bagged the position and additional raise that came with it. Announcements were made public and it marked the end of PMS for the year. Those who had designed the process made sure that they picked the jury for each role in a manner which made familiarity or let’s say the popularity of a candidate absolutely useless .. 9 out of ten times the jury picked didn’t even know the names of the candidates before arriving in the meeting room. They were often chosen from different business and different geographies.
In last 15 yrs that I’ve been on; I have had 11 promotions .. out of which 4 were from this amazing process, naturally, I owe my success, 36% of career progression to this and therefore I love it.
Opinions were divided on this policy, though! Because opponents were looking to create balance.
Those who benefited from it, like me, went all out to appreciate it. The policy rendered efforts spent in building ‘relationship’ with the immediate supervisory and their leaders, somewhat less useful and therefore unnecessary. People went about doing their work, making sure their KRAs were substantially delivered on because that was the only way to get to the bid for the next level. This single policy in a decade of its existence prepared a generation of employees who neither worked extra hours to become somebodies favorite or really expected their subordinates to treat them in a particular manner, all they cared for was delivery and work. Output measures, 8 out of 10 times remained at the center of all conversations. It all looked perfect from a distance. This brilliant system also had its side effects.. in the sense people to people bond started becoming less and less emotional and more and more purpose or should I say task driven. People became dangerously cautious of what they were doing and if in any way it will let them in a position of disadvantage. Year-round people worked crazily on improving their presentation, leadership, analytical & organizational skills etc but devoted little time toward the development of the teams that they were responsible for, which in some cases also proved counterproductive. Critiques of this system said it is incentivizing selfishness.
The other group found this policy absolutely outrageous and were often heard saying that this policy was crafted purposefully to disproportionately support ‘extroverts’. Their principal argument was that an organization has a mix of personalities .. people with all kinds of strengths. Why should the system be rigged to this extent to support one set of skills completely ignoring the other sets? Natural outcomes included attrition, lower moral in people who were not wanting to improve on the skills at the same time were also not getting opportunities outside.
Perfection is a textbook idea.. in reality every story has another telling. Ours is a complicated world. Most harmless activity when dissected mercilessly, may make completely opposite of the original intention appear as the valid one. Let’s take an example of you praying for your own success on something which has only one prize. What are you then essentially saying? That may everyone else competing for it scoreless then you do? Of course, you don’t mean it that way and it is a great thing to hope & pray for, but those who have to critique will do so, anyway. And if they apply their minds enough, they would also land a few sane sounding reasons but then should it make someone choose one over other, against their original inkling because there is opposition? Certainly not, irrespective of which side you choose there will always be other sides.
That brings me back to the primordial question; Does balance exist? Should one strive for it? On a number scale zero is placed at the perfect center, how many wish to be there at that number? People want bigger and better numbers .. don’t they? Ok, those of you who think zero is a good number, when it is to denote ‘errors’ or losses .. great, understand! Even that notion is so because we want a positive outcome on a whole, which is inherently towards the right of the number scale .. off its center, isn’t it? So is there any balance, at all?
What do we do then? Smart people trade, the way nature has negotiated gravitational force to enable vertical alignment for. Make the best of what is available.
Be off balance, if you truly believe in your cause and do what is needed to forward that, at the same time remember, you are entitled to be whoever you’d want to be.. you have just one life. Be unapologetic for the choices that you make but it will always be good .. to remain ethical and hold high moral grounds in the process. Because .. what is ‘good’ doesn’t age!!