TOBY NG

Imbalance

I know I should be doing work, with the Canada Winter Games next week, organizing NCCP coaching courses for Badminton BC (oh yeah, I'm the Technical Director now), trying to organize an event, making progress on my Masters, and also wedding preparations. Oh yeah, and I plan on making a comeback for 2020!

Wait a minute, I'm not talking about badminton. That's probably how much time I need to recover from this year. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid (or is it vice versa?). I feel like I'm juggling knives and every time I drop a knife, I cut off a finger, so it becomes harder to manage over time (less fingers you know, sorry for the graphic visuals, but it's part of the story for today).

Yes, I'm busy. Don't get me wrong, I know you're probably busy too. Everyone seems to be busy with something and to each their own. I'm not necessarily complaining (technically I am), but I will still take accountability for being busy. It's what I chose to do. Between a fork in the road which was between "yes" and "no", I have continually took the "yes" road. So, I'm pretty busy. However, I can't say I'm always productive. Also my fault (Extreme Ownership, yessir).

This "work-life" balance seems to be at a state of imbalance. Why? Well, many factors. I don't seem to have the time to do all the things I want to do, but let's break that down. Everyday I need 8 hours of sleep, and 3 hours to eat. Let's add another hour for meal prep and doing dishes, so that's 12 hours. Eating and sleeping take up half my day, but also keeps me alive, so it's a fair trade. Deduct another 1 hour for transportation, and another hour for transition time (i.e. all the minutes that get lost in a day). That still gives me a solid 10 hours. I could work for 8, and relax for 2. If I do this 5 days a week like many people, that would still leave a solid 16-20 hours on weekends, or any two days of the week for other things. Typically, I spread out my work through 6.5 days a week, and have a half day on Sunday.

For a better visual:

- 8 hours = sleep (Total: 8 hours)

- 4 hours = eat & prep (Total: 12 hours)

- 2 hours = transport/transition (Total: 14 hours)

- 8 hours = work (Total: 22 hours)

- 2 hours = relax (Total: 24 hours)

This looks great in theory, but it never really works out. I find I procrastinate a lot, and perhaps it's not about overcoming procrastination, but merely managing it. Ground rules I can try to set include: 

- no video games or television until after the day's work has been done

- turn off laptop by 11:00pm

- find your most important daily task, and work on that first

- plan out your day the night before

These all seem to be great in principle, but I find I'm not good with moderation at all (e.g. video games or TV) as it is too easy to binge nowadays. It's so easy to have access to things that willpower seems to be a super power. Is it a finite resource? No idea. The research was a bit mixed the last time I checked, and if you've never heard of the Marshmallow Test, that's something to look into. I would definitely envy a kid who would straight up refuse the 2nd marshmallow. Maybe he/she was on a keto diet (I'm not a believer, but hey, whatever works for you).

I still read as often as I can, and I have finally forced myself to read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's (NNT) "The Black Swan". It really changed the way I looked at things, and it has kind of scarred me from investing. Simply put, you can't predict the future from previous history because there can be things that cannot be anticipated. The Black Swans are considered "unknown unknowns". Without going too deeply into this topic (I'm still learning, by the way), I did appreciate the analogy from NNT of a barbell.

When you think of a barbell, you would likely consider it to be balanced on both sides. Although it is balanced, the weight distribution is actually heavily weighted at the ends. What I understood from the example is that it is better to have things on each end to balance, than to have all the weight in the middle. 

Let's use a badminton example: consider a style of play on a continuum from low risk to high risk:


     |--------------------------------------------------------|

low risk (safe)                                    high risk


Most people would probably consider themselves in the middle, neither too safe, nor too risky. I would consider low risk to be minimal unforced errors with low number of winners, whereas high risk would be many unforced errors and many winners. Can you start to picture where you would be on this continuum? I'm probably on the higher risk side, especially now. I try to make things happen in a rally and take considerable risk. Sometimes I do really well, and sometimes I also do really poorly.

I've always considered my overall performance to be more clustered in the middle. It's better to be in the middle and not risk too much so I can have consistent results rather than extreme wins and losses. But what do we typically see the most of? In many parts of life, we usually see the extreme wins only, because those with the extreme losses "blew up". So is it really worth it to have the extreme win if you can simply "blow up"? But on the other hand, the middle is so... boring. The middle is the observer, the middle doesn't really go anywhere. The middle isn't anything special.

The barbell approach is a different way of thinking, if my interpretation is correct. The barbell approach is to have extreme safety to mitigate any extreme risk so that we are not "gambling dollars for pennies", as suggested by NNT. Though I have not had the chance to read "Antifragile" (it's on my list and I actually have the book), I do like the concept of antifragility, where one can make gains from disorder. As a badminton player, I think I violated that principle in that I was probably playing at a risk level higher than what I could afford to, and though I had a long career, I finally "blew up my account". So, such is a warning for those who chase tournament after tournament without first having a solid base. This can extend to many things, in which the base can refer to physical, psychological, technical, and tactical abilities, in addition to other environmental conditions, including general health, access to finances, partners, etc. 

In badminton itself, it would be the allowance to take small risks at various times in a rally for a slight advantage, but being able to defend in case the risk does not work out. For example, if you can make a guess on where the shot is going early, but can still retrieve the shuttle for defense if you guessed incorrectly, that would be having a solid enough base to make guesses throughout the match. This would require conditioning to be able to change directions, and also the technique to be able to defend shots. Thus, proper training is necessary to allow for these potential opportunities. In a sense, training creates that extreme base of safety. 

So now that I am done with badminton, how can I use this principle when I coach, but also in the other parts of my own life as well? I find this concept ties somewhat with the Pareto Principle AKA 80/20 rule, but maybe to an even greater extreme (i.e. 90/10 or 95/5). With the 80/20 rule, 20% can have the same effect as the 80%, so if I'm looking for robustness, I would make sure that I can't blow up my 80% (hence, why I treat it more as 90/10). I would suppose the 20% would be where my 'Stop-loss' is placed so that I can afford to lose a small part which doesn't affect me significantly. Again, in badminton, it's easier to try different shots if you have a significant lead. I would suppose if you have a 5 point lead, you can risk trying to "net roll" your serve return, because 1/5 is 20%. I hope I didn't butcher the math, though I feel like I did.

With that said, creating robustness in the things I do would be tackling the core 80% that needs to be done. For the Canada Winter Games, making sure the athletes get to the Games with all their competition equipment so they can compete on court is pretty much the main task. Setting up the NCCP coaching courses would likely involve booking the venue, the coaches, and making sure there are enough people registered that we break even, at the very least. Organizing the event is similar: book the venue, accommodations, and coordinate with the teams to come. For my Masters, I just need to do the tasks as assigned in the curriculum (i.e. follow the instructions). As for the wedding, there are a lot of tasks as well, but as long as Carmen and I both show up, that's the biggest win. 

(Sidebar: I do understand that if 20% can create for 80% of the results, why not just find the 20%? Well, how do you know you have the right 20%? How much would you really have if you guessed the wrong 20%? Wait, you would have 20%. I'm confusing myself now. Anyway...)

I find the safe end or the 80% bulk is usually largely the things inside of your control, so those are often the things that should be focused on. Why worry about the things outside of your control, or even any unknown unknowns? Wow, I'm happy I got to tie in a bit of Stoic philosophy as well.

The barbell is balance, but also imbalance. I guess it is ironic how an imbalance (i.e 80/20) can create more balance. I suppose my focus is to target the things within my control that can create robustness and antifragility in my life first, then I can just enjoy all the random things as they come. 

A teeter-totter is the most stable when one end is on the ground.

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