Back in the early nineties, when Bill Gates was not as big a shot as he’s today, he used to hang around at COMDEX, a computer show in Las Vegas. One evening, the event that we were both attending was Armadillo Races. It was great watching them run and turn around and go the opposite direction with people going crazy, much like parents yelling at their toddlers playing soccer and kicking in the wrong direction. After a while though it got a little repetitive. I came out of the UNLV Arena and found Bill chewing on ice from an empty soda cup. Given that I knew a couple of people at Carnegie Mellon University in common, I struck up a conversation and we chatted for a short while. Something that he shared with me that day made a lasting impression and has become a mantra that I use both professionally and personally.
“We all have more balls in our life than we can juggle; the key is find out which ones are made of glass.”
In fact, I liked it so much that I have expanded on it and use it in my coaching and at work. According to me, we can categorize things that we juggle in life into three major types of balls – those that are made of glass, wooden ones and rubber balls.
The ones that are made of glass, when dropped shatter, make a mess and take a while to clean up and cost us a lot.
The ones that are made of wood, land on the ground with a thud. It takes us some effort to bend down, pick it up and start to work with again.
The rubber balls just bounce and we can pick them up without any mis-steps and continue on our way.
So, the wisdom lies in our ability to clearly identify which ones are made of what material. If our ego gets entangled into this process, the evaluation gets confusing and we tend to assign incorrect materials to the different balls and make poor choices.
The judgments made by the ego are usually not life serving and eventually end up in causing more heartaches and headaches.