When I was a kid, my parents tolerated a months-long obsession with balancing mobiles. A friend at a birthday party gave me a simple three bar hanging mobile as a gift, not knowing what this simple trinket would spark.
After putting it together, we went to hang it from the ceiling of the room I shared with my sister. I remember moving the pieces back and forth until the first bar, then the second, then the third was finally balanced.
Every move created an impact on every other piece. Moving one bar into balance took the others out. However, with patience, observation and tiny corrections, we eventually got the whole mobile to hang together as a unit. The feeling of bringing the pieces together was incredibly satisfying.
After working through that puzzle, I decided to make my own mobile. This time I added different bars, where sometimes the ends weren’t symmetrical. On one end, I would place another bar of two items to be balanced on the other end by one item.
The weight of any one item on the mobile did not matter nearly as much as its position relative to the other pieces. A very heavy piece could be counterbalanced by several light pieces well placed. Or the heavy piece had much less impact when placed near the center of gravity; moved out to the edge, the heavy piece would impact the rest of the picture even more.
Every time the mobile would finally come together, after many adjustments and corrections, it felt magical to me.
I kept playing with the various permutations and experimenting until the entire bedroom was covered in mobiles of different sizes and shapes and designs. Since this was the 60’s, I’m pretty sure a lot of the designs reflected the hippie culture that I was witnessing as 10 year old wanna-be flower child.
At some point, they all had to come down. While I don’t remember when or why we finally cleared the ceiling space in my bedroom, my fascination with balancing acts has continued throughout my life.
It’s no wonder I’m writing a book about the balancing acts of leadership.
We are never balancing just two things. For instance, we often talk about work life balance. Yet on the “life side” of that balancing act, we are often balancing family, hobbies, a spiritual life and more. On the “work side” we are balancing profits, customers, time horizons, speed, logic and emotions and the list goes on and on.
Leadership is a lot like the mobile. It’s a series of balancing acts that involve correcting, adjusting and moving the different parts in a constantly changing environment to get everything to hang together.
When one part moves, every other part has to adapt or eventually things will come crashing down. And one part is always moving, so the ability to keep adjusting while considering the whole is truly an art.
How we see the rebalancing makes all the difference in the experience of our lives. If we see it as something wrong or to be avoided, we tend to resent having to take the necessary actions to keep our “mobile” hanging together. When we choose to see it as part of our art and simply a calibration, life opens up with room to breathe.
We’ve all had a lot of parts moving in the last six months. I’ve learned to live without things I thought were must haves and I’ve learned to deal with things previously unthinkable. I’m sure you have too. My mantra – when I remember it – is “correction not perfection.” I’m fully aware that a moment of balance is a gift and I’m grateful for each moment.
Because I’m pretty sure something is coming along to knock my mobile out of balance and I will be recalibrating again soon.