Grade eleven math was a killer! When I was on the school board of the private school my sons attended in Canada, it seemed that almost every kid was having trouble jumping this hurdle. We had many discussions around what we as a board could do about it.
Math is the kind of thing that once you “get it” you feel a great deal of satisfaction. I remember struggling with “simultaneous equations” and the sense of satisfaction once I “got it.” You remember simultaneous equations don’t you? This is when you not only solve an equation for X, but you solve at least two equations – for X and Y – at the same time.
It seems to me that more often than not, the key to a great life is solving its simultaneous equations.
Most of us live in a world that involves solving for more than two factors at any one time and the equation gets more complex as we get older. We often have to solve for multiple variables. We must be successful at work and at home, engage our neighbors and community, then make it all congruent with our faith and our level of personal satisfaction.
A life well-lived is one in which all the variables are successful, not just one variable.
We all know the stories of the very successful executive who has conquered the business world only to have his family life fall apart. Here in Philadelphia we have a head coach of a major team whose two sons are in jail for drugs and guns. As a father of teenagers I am not passing judgment on anyone else’s kids or parenting abilities, because I know how tough it can be to raise teenagers, but the principle remains true. In order to be truly successful we must solve the simultaneous equations that represent the totality of our lives. It’s not an easy equation, but a life well-lived requires solving all the variables at the same time.
You cannot live a great life by solving the equations one at a time; you must solve them simultaneously. This is no small point. You can’t say, “I’ll solve the career variable when I’m young, and solve the family variable when I’m older,” because when you are older it is too late to solve the family variable in the simultaneous equation. This is true for all the different variables in the equation that is your life. You must solve for all the variables at the same time.
The key to solving multiple equations is in finding the right starting point. Where you begin will determine not only the correct answer for the first variable, but also the correct answers to all the variables.
If, for example, you begin by solving the variable of career success, you will almost certainly fail to successfully solve the rest of life’s equations because you will have dropped the ball with your family, faith and the other important areas of life. The same is true if you begin by solving the variable of family, because you will invariably drop the ball of career success or friends and the other important areas of life.
To solve the simultaneous equation of life you must begin with you – who you are. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is like the warning they give on airplanes – “place the mask over your own mouth first, then your child’s” – because only then can you save both of you. It seems counterintuitive because our first response is to take care of our kids in a crisis, but by putting on your own masks first, then you can really help your kids.
The same is true for working the simultaneous equations of life. By beginning with who you are, you will find the right perspective and congruence to then be able to apply who you are in a congruent way to the rest of your life – your family, your faith, your friends and your work.
This is not the same as “balance.” We have all heard that what we need is “balance” in our lives. Balance invariably translates down to a kind of “rob from one area to give to another area” of our lives. In the end we find that none of the areas of our lives are getting the best of who we are. Every area is compromised and it seems that we would be better off having given all to one area, and at least been successful in that one area.
The simultaneous equation requires that you solve all the areas of your life by bringing all of who you are to each area.
The greatest hurdle we have in solving the simultaneous equation is not knowing who we are in order to bring all of who we are to each area of our lives.
Are you being fully who you are at work, with your spouse, kids, friends and spiritual life? The problem that most successful executives have with their families is not the lack of time they spend with them (although there is no substitute for time invested) but rather that when they do spend time with their families they do not bring all of who they are to the experience. They take their kids to the baseball game but their mind – and more importantly their emotions – are somewhere else. They sit in church but never engage the experience because their minds and emotions are not there.
Solving the simultaneous equations begins and ends with knowing who you are and being it. You must first know who you are – your long suit – and be able to leverage that by being that person – in every area of your life. This is the answer to a successful life.
Know Who You Are And Be It!