Home > Articles > Business & Management > Personal Development

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

The Answer Is Very Rarely Just One Thing

In the movie City Slickers, Jack Pallance (Curly) told Billy Crystal (Mitch Robbins) the secret to life. Holding up one finger, he said as if speaking from the wisdom of the ages: "Just one thing."

Audiences felt terrific leaving the theatre with an answer, but this was fast food. It's just a fantasy that satisfies our compulsive need for a single magic pill for the happily ever after. But that kind of thinking is also the source of enormous frustration if you deny yourself everything else you've got going for you in life.

In organizations, it's often necessary to focus on one core competency—the one thing that your team is better at than others. And, in your career, a central focus to which you are willing to deeply commit is also important, as we'll explore later in this book. But, this focus should not be confused with a narrow life. Builders may look like race horses sprinting with blinders on, but most live large and complicated lives filled with many different personal and professional passions. The myth that there is only one thing to do with your life is not an idea that we could get many to endorse.

Balance Is Bullshit

Ironically, at the same time society insists that you do one thing with your life, those same cultural norms pressure you to have a "balanced" life split into neat little slices. That means not one, but at least four, miraculously proportioned commitments of time and mindshare. Again, the problem here is thinking there's a right answer—the notion that balance can be defined by a time allocation pie chart carrying the good housekeeping seal of approval, representing work, family, community, and if you're lucky, you're included in there somewhere, too.

When asked what he thought about life balance, Keith Never-Eat-Alone Ferrazzi didn't hold back: "Balance is bullshit!" he asserted. The voice in your head might reply, "Wrong answer." What do Builders have to say on the matter? Basically this: As culturally defined, balance is in fact bullshit—as a popular concept, it ranks right up there with the idea that there is just one passion for your life, and when you know what it is, you'll be happy. It rarely works this way.

If you define balance in the sense that it requires equal proportions of life partitioned into four or five politically correct parts, then CEOs and presidents don't have balance, nor do most Nobel laureates. The Dalai Lama doesn't either, nor does Nelson Mandela or Bono. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa did not have balance—we could go on and on, but you get the idea. Enduringly successful people, many of whom live a life that's a gift to the world, don't raise balance as a major issue—not because they had it masterfully handled, but because they were all busy doing what mattered to them.

It's a struggle for everyone at some point. If you're feeling a twinge of guilt about balance, there is a probability that you don't want more balance, exactly, but need more of something that you can't admit you want. The balance you're seeking is a meaningful portfolio, not a balanced one. The reason that balance is so painful and elusive is because that's not what you really want. What you hunger for is a place for all of your passions—not balance as culturally defined.

Feeling a desperate need for balance may have nothing to do with balance per se as much as it means "you're not getting access to a huge chunk of time to do the things that really matter to you," said Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel and best known for Moore's Law. In addition to his love for crunching numbers and inventing technology in Silicon Valley, this big-hearted, down-to-earth billionaire has many other passions that he ferociously pursues, such as philanthropy, sport fishing, education, and saving the planet. Your fixation on balance may actually mean you need your work 80%, or kids 80%, or fishing 80%, but rarely in "comfortable" proportions. It might mean time to be a stay-at-home parent, refurbish Model Ts without the family around, explore medieval castles with your pals, or paint homes for Habitat for Humanity.

The point is to look and see if it's a neglected passion that drives the hunger, not a social obligation to some idealistic sense of balance. When you say to yourself you need more balance, ask yourself: if you had it, what would you be doing that you're not doing now? Chances are a neglected passion is making the request. Pay attention. What you really need is to balance your portfolio of passions. Understand that what you will actually experience as balance can change with the passage of time and may never look like balance to any other soul.

You don't have to make a career of everything that is meaningful to you, but you do need to find a place for everything that is meaningful to you. That's the balance that you are seeking.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020