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Why "Balance" Is Stupid
A simple guide to authenticity.
From 18–23, I was obsessed with maximizing my output in every aspect of my life.
Every single workout I did, I pushed myself as hard as I could. Every single week, I wrote and read as much as I possibly could and rested as little as necessary. My life was a constant battle between 2 intense emotions — ambition and exhaustion.
Whichever one I was feeling more determined whether I was “grinding” or blowing off steam.
Working in this idiotic manner for several years had consequences. Not all of them were bad, but some were very bad.
I experienced some serious physical injuries (torn shoulders, knees, and herniated discs in my back), I burnt out and almost gave up on the things I wanted most many times, and I sacrificed a lot of personal relationships and experiences that most people have in their 20s.
However, I also built a lot of freedom for myself during that time. I became a pro grappler and a writer, and I developed skills that have been crucial in helping me get to where I am today.
It just came at the sacrifice of “balance”.
Hustle culture is stupid, but hustling is not.
It’s trendy now to push back against hustle culture.
I know I’ve done it. I despise “hustle culture”.
It’s preachy, unrealistic, annoying, and exhausting to keep up with. The “grind don’t stop” crap, the constant need to one-up everyone (including yourself), and the negative effects of hustling all the time can royally f*ck up your life. These things create tons of bad habits that will actually deter you from long-term success.
Trust me, I've been there. That’s why I pushed back.
Starting last summer, I really removed myself from the hustle culture that gave me everything I currently have. I took breaks, didn’t work as hard, and put myself out there less.
However, the hard truth is that if you want to excel at anything in your life, you need to hustle and you need to grind. No one ever did anything excellent by having the healthiest work-life balance.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
Everything has a price, and the price of freedom and achievement is typically years of pushing yourself to and beyond your breaking point.
The problem is, most people start out chasing freedom or success, and the next thing they know, they’re on a hamster wheel going nowhere fast. They become what they hate.
You can’t have it all.
Recently, I was watching a show on Netflix called “BEEF”.
The show is about 2 Asian Americans — one very successful and the other very unsuccessful — and the “beef” between them that sends both of their lives spiraling out of control. The show does a great job of explaining the effects of shame, the dark side of success, and the facades we put on to keep up with appearances.
In one episode, the female character, Amy (a successful businesswoman), speaks at an event and tells an attendee of the event that “you can have it all”.
The point she makes is that you can have a thriving business, a perfect marriage, a beautiful family, an angel child, and a peaceful mind.
You can have everything.
Then, Amy steps off the panel and heads back into the chaotic life that is falling apart right in front of her.
She had cheated on her husband with a 24-year-old the night before.
I won’t give you any more spoilers, but the point is that for the most part, the perfect life is bullsh*t. The perfect life doesn’t exist — except for interpretations of it that we create on social media.
Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you or they’re a whole lot smarter than me.
The problem with balance.
The problem is that balance (like everything in life) has a price.
The price you pay for balance is often that you will struggle more to be excellent the more balanced you are.
For me as a Jiu-Jitsu athlete/writer, this means that I train a lot, write a lot, work a lot, and most of the things I do are things that are oriented around helping me achieve my goals. The sacrifice for this is a lot of “normal things”. My career has cost me financial stability at times, relationships, and countless headaches (and body aches) — to name a few things.
This is the price you pay for the opportunity to chase a dream.
I wish you could have it all, but you kind of can’t.
The price you pay for longevity is often mediocrity.
The price you pay for brilliance is often sanity. The price you pay for peace is often ambition (and vice versa).
Nothing is free.
Not even “balance”.
There is a cost to contentment, I haven’t figured out a way around this problem.
Closing Thoughts (and the solution)
So what do you do about this?
The solution is not balance or imbalance, the solution is authenticity. Stop seeking a balanced life (because people on the internet told you balance is how you be “happy”), and start seeking a real one.
Stop lying to yourself. Stop lying to the people around you.
Stop saying you want one thing (a normal routine, a giant house, and a steady income), and then act in a way that makes it impossible to have those things (living as a grappling writer, for example). This is partially a self-call-out, but I’ve been aware of this for a while.
I’m fully aware that the way I live my life is weird. I’m fully aware that it’s unpredictable.
I’m okay with that. I like my life this way. It isn’t perfect, but I’m pretty f*cking happy.
I just don’t know what’s going to happen next.
That’s why I have to keep moving. If you’re in the same boat, I suggest you do the same.
We may not be famous, but at least we’re not fake.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein
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