Balance Is Underrated


It is easy to believe hard work and focus are the only keys to success and that a balanced life is overrated. You think to yourself, “I’ll have time for a balanced life after I’m successful.” You push yourself harder, even if it means being a lesser partner, lesser father/mother, and lesser in every other aspect of life.

Once you've gone all in on career, there is no turning back.

From the cradle we are force-fed the idea of going all in on career. You can’t do it all without shortchanging something, right?

Look at the most successful individuals in various fields. A majority of them went all in on mastering their art to the exclusion of all else. But Beware When Studying Greatness.

For investors, Life is More Than Compounding Money. Anne Scheiber was a “successful” investor turning ~$21,000 into $22 million over four decades. Yet, she lived a long, angry, sad and lonely life.

For musicians, life is more than playing music. There is a long list of famous musicians who disregarded their health. They took hard drugs and led unbalanced lifestyles. Without health, all is for naught. Many of the greatest musicians died before age 40.

It’s a waste of time to quibble whether any one of these individuals would have been equally as successful living a more balanced life. We’ll never know. Yet, early death to suicide and drugs indicates a lack of contentment with reality. A life full of anger, sadness and loneliness doesn’t indicate a fulfilling one either.

What we can do is look to other fields for insight. Search places where sample sizes are much greater. Find where balance has always been the ideal. It just took 1,000s of years to discover it.

Balance is underrated.

Balance creates the strongest, most durable and lightest metals.

Balance is also the key to numerous breakthroughs.

For millennia humans have been creating alloys. That is mixing a few base metals.


Pure metals are often too soft or weak to be useful.

Pure copper was suboptimal for use as tools, weapons and armor. It was too weak. 7,000 years ago enterprising individuals in the Middle East and Asia discovered something magical. Once a small amount of arsenic (later tin) was added to copper, bronze was created. Bronze was harder and more durable than copper or stone.

Steel, a mix of iron and carbon, overtook iron and bronze as being stronger. It also held a sharper edge longer. Since, new combinations of two alloys have been developed. Each new combination led to incremental advancements in strength, corrosion resistance, etc.

That wasn’t enough for Jien-Wei Yeh.

Yeh, a researcher at National Tsing Hua University, was unsatisfied with conventional metallic alloys. He had spent his entire career trying to develop new ways to improve metallic materials. His research uncovered new but expensive alloying methods.

Then, in 1995, Jien-Wei Yeh was driving through the Taiwanese countryside. In a flash Yeh got an idea that forever changed materials science and metallurgy.

Jien-Wei Yeh said in that moment he asked himself:

“Why not mix together many different kinds of elements to increase the confusion and complexity and to enhance the chaos? This would allow the alloy to become more homogeneous in composition, possessing good properties without forming compounds.”

In other words, alloys had previously consisted of one primary material mixed with small quantities of one or two other elements. Think bronze - 90% copper, 10% tin. Why not stir together similar quantities of four or five elements or even more?

Yeh initially shelved the idea. Then in 2004 he confirmed his hypothesis by mixing a few mixtures of five to ten elements together. Each had superior properties to even the best alloys. He had discovered a new class of metal - High-entropy alloys.

Since 2004, there have been over 1,000 published papers on High-entropy alloys. High-entropy alloys are clearly superior to all others. They have better strength-to-weight ratios, higher degree of fracture resistance, tensile strength and resistance to corrosion and oxidation.

Balance is the key. The strongest metallic alloys are composed of five or more elements with ROUGHLY EQUAL PROPORTIONS.

Balance Is Underrated
Source: Adapted from fig. 4 in Gludovatz, B. et al. Nature Commun. 7, 10602 (2016).

Did physics or chemistry change in the last 10,000 years? No. Both have been constant for billions of years.

The only thing that had changed was human discovery. It took 1,000s of years to go from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. It then took 1,000s of years to go from the Bronze Age to the High-Entropy Alloy Age.

Balance has always been the key to a stronger alloy. We just needed to discover it.

Balance Leads To Breakthroughs

Jaap Haarsten created Bluetooth technology in the summer of 1994. The 31-year old Dutch engineer credits his balanced lifestyle to helping him with his invention. He never worked weekends or more than 40 hours a week. Every weekend he immersed in nature with his wife and three young kids. He added, “It’s a very important part that you balance between your work, which can be very stressful.”

Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman led more balanced lifestyles. Each were wildly successful in their respective field. Each spent only a few hours a day focusing on their most important work. The rest of their time was spent hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.

Jien-Wei Yeh didn’t discover High-entropy alloys toiling in the lab. He discovered the idea driving through the Taiwanese countryside. He allowed himself time to think.

Philo Farnsworth invented the TV at 14-years-old while doing mindless farm chores.

As Alex Soojung-Kim Pang wrote, “Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest ‘working’ hours.”

For those who prefer to learn from the mistakes of others, here is the opposite. Let’s listen to someone who lived a fully unbalanced life and what they learned.

Dustin Moskovitz worked with Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook when they were both Harvard students. Moskovitz followed Zuckerberg to Silicon Valley.

Moskovitz said, “2006 was one of the best years for Facebook, and one of the worst years for me as a human.”

Moskovitz said he believes that if he’d made more time for experiences outside Facebook - such as sleeping, eating well and exercising - he would have been a better leader.

“I would have had fewer panic attacks, and acute health problems - like throwing out my back regularly in my early 20s. I would have picked fewer petty fights with my peers in the organization, because I would have been generally more centered and self-reflective.”

Could a fully balanced life be the key we have yet to discover, like High-entropy alloys?

The Science Behind High-entropy alloys, The Jar of Life & Entropy In Breakthroughs

I think so. Compare the science of High-entropy alloys with the Jar of Life.

Jien-Wei Yeh described the science behind High-entropy alloys:

“The number of possible ways for the different atoms to arrange themselves would expand dramatically, leading to a tendency towards disorder, or ‘high entropy’, that would overwhelm any bias favoring a regular crystal-lattice structure. Because each of the randomly mixed elements would be a different size, the atoms would become lodged into place and less able to slide past each other, creating a very hard material.”

In other words, watch this video.

Why were the individuals listed above able to be more creative? High entropy. Time spent doing everything but work gave them more input, more ideas. These individuals allowed widely varied ideas to bounce around - be it while hiking, sitting, napping. The enhanced chaos led to new, unique novel ideas just as the enhanced chaos leads to High-entropy alloys.

Ray Bradbury, famed American author, led a balanced life and used entropy to great effect. He perscribed a simple daily plan that we follow. Members can access our course here. All it takes is an hour a day to increase entropy and achieve balanced thinking.

Hidden Alloy-gory

Career is only one factor of life. It is merely one element on the periodic table of life.

Family, friends, love, community, etc are also present on the periodic table of life.

Time is finite. Every day we choose what we spend time on. We cannot do it all.

To go all in on one element you become soft, weak and ephemeral. That is why pure gold (24 carats) is rarely used in jewellery: it cannot survive much wear and tear. The many musicians who died young, described at the beginning, are like pure gold. They were too weak to survive a long life.

To go all in on two elements is exponentially better than one. You could go all in on career and dabble in health. That is the equivalent of becoming 18 carat gold, the most popular gold jewellers sell. 18 carat gold is ~75% gold mixed with other metals. It’s easier to work with, slightly cheaper, and most importantly durable.

You can survive in the real world, but there are still breaking points. You’ll regret not spending enough time with family later in life or insert some other neglected life aspect.

If you want to have the greatest durability, strength and fulfilment out of life, it is best to become a High-entropy alloy. Mix five or more elements with roughly equal portions. Balance!

Quincy Jones gave three of the most important life ingredients at his 82nd birthday party:

“I wish everybody here a long, long, long life. Filled with a whole lot of love to share, health to spare and friends who care, ‘cause that’s really all that’s important when you get down to it.”

Add in career. Here is where you can take one simple idea and take it seriously. The breakthroughs from above came from taking one simple idea and taking it seriously.

Add another element of your choosing. Go at each with equal ferocity. Just don’t get out of hand with adding too many elements.

Balance is unique to you. Like High-entropy alloys there are more than 3,000 possible unique combinations. Each is optimized for certain conditions. Figure out what works best for you.


Balance is underrated.

It creates High-entropy alloys. Balance also created Bluetooth, evolution, television and a host of other breakthroughs.

In other words, balance is the way to an impactful, durable and interesting life.

Ian and I strive to live a fully balanced life. If you want to do the same, you can ride our coattails as a member. Join us today.

Here are a few other articles you would enjoy:

Philo Farnsworth - The Most Famous Man You Never Heard Of

The Importance of Selective Focus

Tony Hsieh of Zappos - Core Values of Culture Transcript (Members)

The Most Valuable Investment Skill

Stop Reading So Much

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

How to Be More Creative Course
Intelligent Fanatics November 2018 Digest

I think each person’s “balance” is unique to them, and it really depends on their objectives in life.

Elon Musk was quoted the other week, “You aren’t going to change the world working 40 hours per week.”

I think this is true of changing the world or launching a successful business.

I have a friend that is fairly successful and he made a choice not to have kids right now because he knew he wouldn’t be a good father as he grows his business. It doesn’t mean he won’t ever have kids, just not right now. I think that is a very mature mindset.

I heard a great sermon the other day. The minister who is very successful in business as well as ministry said, if you want to be successful you have to make daily choices and balance to him means not failing at the same thing two days in a row. You might be a mediocre boss today, just don’t be a mediocre boss tomorrow. You might be a mediocre husband today, just don’t be a mediocre husband tomorrow. You might be a mediocre father today, just don’t be a mediocre father two days in a row.

I thought it was a fascinating perspective that I think many can connect with.


I agree one person’s objectives in life are different from another. I also agree that launching a successful business necessitates a lot of time and stress. It comes down to how long someone can handle the stress without breaking.

Here are two additional thoughts from Fred Wilson, co-founder VC firm Union Square Ventures. First, his response to Elon Musks’s tweets on Unrelenting Stress:

Stress is part of life, we all have it.

But starting and running companies brings stress that seemingly never stops.

Managing that so that it doesn’t eat you up and mess up your relationships is super hard.

Some things that I have seen work well for people are regular (daily?) workouts, eating and drinking healthy, having a coach, and most of all, having a spouse who keeps it all in check.

There is no better work, from where I sit, but it comes at a cost, particularly if you let it.

And Leadership and Self Care:

Leadership is a burden. You are the one everyone looks to for inspiration and direction. The things that land on your desk are the things that nobody else wanted to or could deal with. Leadership is lonely, stressful, and takes a toll on people.

Just take a look at the faces of every President on the day they took the job and the day they left the job. You will see the burden and toll of leadership right there.

And so, it is very important for leaders to take care of themselves. That can take many forms, but here are some things that I recommend to the leaders I work with (in no particular order):

  • Vacations
  • Sabbaticals
  • Eating Healthy
  • Drinking Less
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Coaching
  • Working On Your Marriage
  • Spending Quality Time With Your Family

And yet, for some reason, we criticize our leaders for doing these things. Like taking a vacation, or doing a workout, or going on a meditation retreat is some abandonment of their duties.

I think it is exactly the opposite. It is their duty to take care of themselves. Because if they don’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of their companies and all the stakeholders who rely on them.

I am glad Jack went on a meditation retreat. I am glad he is taking care of himself. I understand why that tweetstorm was tone deaf, but let’s not get carried away here. Leaders are humans too. Let’s be decent humans to them.


In this interview with famous investor Stanley Druckenmiller credits “balance” for his success. Here is the snippet. Although I think balance to Stanley meant his wife raised the kids :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


My conclusion, after thinking, experimenting and asking some people, is that we try to have objective answers for our choices. Our minds, on average, just want everything, which is clearly not possible.

Wise (or owners of great neurological connections, according to a book* that changed my life) are those who don’t need such hustle to find satisfaction.

The below quote I found this week in 13D Research’s piece (by Kiril Sokoloff, who interviewed The Druck).

“The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system.

And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success.

And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

John Steinbeck

*book: [“On Being Certain” by Robert Burton].(