“You can have it all. Just not all at once.” Oprah Winfrey
In Principles, Ray Dalio poses a fundamental life-choice. On a simple scale (depicted below), he has “Savor Life” on one end and “Make an Impact” on the other. Where are you on the scale and where would you like to be?
Let’s simplify this rather big question. I have come to realize that this is not one big grand decision. It is the accumulation little decisions/choices we make every-day that lead to a life of “Savor” or “Impact”.
For example, should I leave a little early on Wednesday to take my wife out to the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco to watch “Book of Mormon” (savor life) or should stay a little later at work on Wednesday evening to prepare for the podcast that will go out to thousands of people (make an impact)? Should I spend Sunday morning taking my kids to the zoo (savor life) or should I make progress on the charity event we are planning (make an impact)?
Now, faced with these daily smaller choices between “savor” and “impact”, I want crazy amounts of both.
I know happiness is quality of my relationships and I want to savor life with my family and friends. I also know that I want an impactful life packed with adventure to find higher ground and “make a dent in the Universe”. I refuse to accept the choice in front of me!
And, here is where Ray Dalio presents a brilliant view of looking at choices that seem to be at odds and where you want both. He says, “when faced with the choice between two things you need that are seemingly at odds,
Go slowly to figure out how you can have as much of both as possible. There is almost always a good path that you just haven’t figured out yet, so look for it until you find it rather and settle for the choice that is then apparent to you”
He brings this advice of going slow and finding a way to have as much of both as possible through an intractable people problem that he faced at Bridgewater – where he was criticized for his “harsh” people management and lauded for brilliant understanding of markets. To Ray, these choices were at odds because he could not remain authentic to his value of “truth” and change his style. He went slow, and realized that people would understand him better if he laid out clearly where he was coming from. That understanding led to the clarification and writing down of his “Principles”.
Coming back to the little choices of “Savor Life” and “Make an Impact”. Ray’s advice is super helpful here and something I have found practical. If we slow down a little, we can reframe the choice in front of us. For example, I can record my ideas for the podcast on my drive back home and use software to transcribe it so I can take my wife to the show on Wednesday evening. I can request the other volunteers of the charity event to put an early draft together on Sunday morning and then promise to work on it and improve it once I am back from taking my kids to the zoo.
As Ray says, “Some people want to change the world. Some want to live in simple harmony with it. Neither is better”. But, many of us want crazy amounts of “savoring life” and “making an impact”. So, instead of forcing ourselves to make the choice in front of us let us go slow to get most of both!