FYI Blog

The Balancing Act


Happiness  is equilibrium. Shift your weight…You compensate, rebalance yourself so that you maintain your angle to the world. When the world shifts, you shift.


I like this quote by playwright Tom Stoppard—reminding us that we are all in a constant state of finding our balance in all facets of our lives. We’re always making subtle changes in our actions and our attitudes, and moving back into balance.

I think most people struggle with the work/life balance: finding what works for us can take a lot of energy and time. And I’ve been thinking about balance in other aspects of our work—in running our companies; collaborating with nonprofits; working with partners; navigating shifting political winds.

We recently implemented a long-planned vision at Avalon—beginning the transition to supplying every employee with his or her own laptop for across-the-board convenience and connectivity. But a friend burst my bubble of excitement by pointing out that it might seem like we expect people to work all the time now that we’ve made that easier, with the new laptops.

“Are we packing our minds too full? What might we be losing out on by texting, tweeting and email-checking those moments away?”

We need to balance the message we’re sending with these powerful new tools to make work easier, with the value we place on unplugging and finding headspace—so we’re refreshed when we return to work. While on a girls weekend recently, a friend shared her passion around the book (and NPR story) Bored and Brilliant, and I loved that she was channeling the book and challenging us to really consider what we’re sacrificing by not unplugging at times every day: “Are we packing our minds too full? What might we be losing out on by texting, tweeting and email-checking those moments away?”

Balance by being Thoughtful and Deliberate

I wrote in last month’s FYI about helping nonprofits to take the long view—balance their daily busy-ness with the necessary work of strategic planning. For nonprofit leadership it’s critical to manage the balance between innovation and risk.

Part of this is about the pricing pressures nonprofits face, which can increase costs thereby robbing programs of critical net revenue and make it harder to implement their missions. How can you run an organization when you don’t know exactly how much money you will have in a year, or how much you can afford to risk on acquiring new donors?

And with the news of the Guidestar/Foundation Center merger—purported to be the “definitive nonprofit transparency organization”—I wonder, will they take these pricing pressures into account and balance the increased cost of doing business when calculating their rankings?

Balance the need with impact

Under the heading of unintended consequences, once again, we in the nonprofit world must explain our business to well-meaning legislators so they can balance out the desire for data privacy protections with the real-life (negative) impacts to nonprofits.

The Nonprofit Alliance is taking a stand against the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) to help legislators understand that nonprofits respect data privacy and understand that being good data stewards leads to more engagement with donors. As the Nonprofit Alliance writes, every nonprofit needs to fight these types of legislation, “As [trusted advisors], discuss the impact of a patchwork of state laws that will drastically limit [our] ability to engage with donors and beneficiaries.” Avalon is proud to be a charter member of the TNPA and step forward to help with the critical task of educating well-intentioned states on the true impact.

Energy = Balance?

In a final thought on this notion of finding balance on a daily basis, Jim Schleckser, CEO of the CEO Project, wrote a piece for Inc. magazine: 7 Secrets of Successful People to Live a Balanced Life, in which he outlined the areas of our lives we need to monitor and keep in balance. Physical health, family, social, financial, business, civic, spiritual. I couldn’t help but notice that his definition of balance in one’s business life boils down to “How energized are you to go to work every day?” For me, I’m happy to say the answer is “very.”

Although I don’t blindly follow the one-size-fits-all advice I read in magazines, I found this to be a helpful checklist for thinking about personal balance and what’s important to me. Because every day is a balancing act—sometimes easier than others, as I shift my focus and lean in or out, as necessary.