Balance in the Wind

As we progress through life we may find that the skills we develop to succeed (and cope) in our work life tend to find application in our personal life – whether intentional or not. Some people may bemoan that even considering such cross-applications violates tenets of proper work life balance. However, given how many waking hours we spend at work, it is really unavoidable and not necessarily a bad thing.

I've even seen this evidenced in my recreational pursuit of sailing. When I decided to learn to sail, my first action was to pop open Excel and start listing the things I needed to do to get to where I wanted to be .There surely must be a named illness for terminal Excel users like me by now. Before I knew it, I was staring at a matrix representing a proper market survey of the local sailing schools comparing pricing, accreditation's, scheduling, etc. This Excel thing is definitely a sickness.

I’m well on my way to learning to sail but I'm still working out the allure of sailing for me ... to the extent it matters. Is it the journey, the destination or the certainty of always having some project to keep me busy (at least if/when I have my own boat)? Time will tell and I'm really not worried so much about having that answer. At this learning stage, however, I do try to make sure I have an objective or two for each sail. Can I not just relax and enjoy the serenity of the open water? Well, yes, but while I enjoy it I want to make sure I will be a better sailor when I get in my car and head home at the end of the day. One way I've managed to make sure I have an objective is by crewing in sail races. In reality, recreational sail races are not at all like what you see on TV for the America's cup. For a race that can last 2-5 hours depending on wind conditions, there is maybe a total of 15-20 minutes of frantic activity spread over longer periods that can easily be classified as leisure. So, working on objectives is hardly a significant distraction, but they are there and important.

While the boat's goal is to win our class, before the race, the captain usually aligns the crew on strategy for the day based on the race course and current wind conditions and any potential forecasted wind changes. He will also indicate more intermediate objectives for the race: improving spinnaker handling, experimenting with different sail trim options, training new crew, etc. We also confirm each person’s role and make sure we all have adequate understanding of what we’re expected to do. We fill any gaps with quick instructions and demonstrations. These statements and interactions are informal, no PowerPoint presentations are made and are over in a matter of minutes (or even seconds, but represent critical communications that enable our shared or individual objectives for the day.

I cannot even escape performance assessments - even out on the water. I “race to sail,” which means that I do not have my own boat, so racing provides me opportunities to sail that I would not otherwise have very often. The captain of the boat on which I crew is really serious about the racing. I want to make sure the captain sees my alignment with his goals and that I'm improving and contributing with each race so he'll keep giving me opportunities to sail. When I get that email or text asking if I am available for the next race, I take it as I’m meeting or exceeding expectations.

So, while many of us would like to have (or at least pretend to have) a hard line between our work and personal lives, the reality is we are usually looking to improve ourselves. The skills we develop in one area of our life hopefully improves us as a person that operates in both our work and private lives ... which is a balance of its own.

Grady Byram is a Senior Manager at MidDel Consulting, a System Integrator and Business Consulting company specializing in the Energy industry. We have over a decade long track record of successful project implementations and a client list that is 100% referenceable. For more information, email us at or call #952-500-9275.