Tag Archive | Balance


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What is the Win-Win principle?

It has a double meaning.

On one hand, it means ‘I win only if you win too’. 

You can metaphorically think of it as (another facet of) Balance. 

If both of us win, we’re in Balance.
If I win and you lose or have no gain, or the other way around, we’re out of Balance. 

It means striving to make every single interaction mutually beneficial.

On the other hand, it means you win regardless of the outcome.

You win if you succeed.
You win if you fail. Even more so in this case – that’s where the gems are found [<link, medium read].

On Balance

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I seek Balance.”

“How’s it going?”

“It goes beautifully for a while, and then I lose it. Over, and over, and over, and over again.

Is it possible not to lose Balance?”

“Balance is not a static but a dynamic process. You can metaphorically think of it as Balancing. It takes constant readjustment.

Losing balance is inevitable. 

That’s something outside your control.

What’s in your control is how you respond to it.

“Any tips on how to get better at it?”

Expect losing balance. (Value: Preparedness)

This way, it won’t take you by surprise.

Savor losing balance. (Value: Beauty, Play, Learning)

Find the Gift [<link; short read] hidden within. There’s always a hidden Gift.

Every imbalance is a beautiful opportunity to practice Balancing.

Every imbalance is a beautiful learning opportunity, a delightful puzzle to solve.

Have fun with it.

Appreciate losing balance. (Value: Gratitude)

Say a heartfelt ‘Thank you‘ for every Gift in your life.”

“There’s too many of them.”

“That’s a nice problem to have.”

On failure and understanding

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I used to have a beautiful structure for the day… and I lost it.”

“That’s a beautiful opportunity to reflect on why and how it happened.”

“You’re right.

It happened little by little, imperceptibly, just as the water slowly eats the stone. The structure became looser and looser, until it eventually dissolved entirely.”

“How did you justify it to yourself?”

“I had a lofty fuzzy ideal of ‘transcending the structure’. Nothing planned. I thought I’d just flow with it and the pieces maybe will fall into place. 

They didn’t.”

“What’s the lesson?”

“It made me realize how much I need structure.

Flexibility is important, but in relation to structure.

The key is Balance.” 

“Isn’t it something you knew already?

You said a while ago:

The goal of Artful Living is maintaining a beautiful balance between structure and flexibility.

“There’s a difference between knowing something and deeply understanding it. It seems I needed a failure to really grasp my own lesson.”

On Beauty and Templating 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Last time [<link; medium read] we talked about your template for beautifying the moment. 


Can you simplify it? For instance, what would it look like as a triad?”

“Something like this:

Triad for beautifying the moment

The triad is:


Viewed through this lens-model, you can beautify the moment in several ways:

Doing meaningful things (Doing/Meaning)

Doing things meaningfully (Doing/Meaning) – imbuing what you’re doing with meaning, whatever it is, eg by connecting it with your purpose

Doing things mindfully (Doing/Being) – being present in what you’re doing

Doing things mindfully and meaningfully (Doing/Being/Meaning) – being present in what you’re doing, and imbuing it with meaning

Being – simply being, without doing anything

Being meaningfully (Being/Meaning) – simply being, and connecting with your purpose, and/or with some higher reality

We can think of imbuing something with meaning in the moment as Connection.”

“Any insights?”

“I realize it’s important to maintain a balance between being and doing. I have a (maybe slightly compulsive) tendency towards the latter.

I now realize how important it is to create more space throughout the day to simply be.

On Magic and Detachment

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“When playing Magic the Gathering, what’s the most challenging practice?”

“At first, it was keeping it under control. Playing only the amount of time I allocate for it, and playing only after finishing my work for the day, no earlier than 5pm. It was very challenging, but I succeeded. Considering how addictive the game is for me, this is a huge accomplishment.

The most challenging practice now is Detachment from the outcome. Maintaining Balance, by focusing on playing well (and on the beauty of the game) rather than on winning, and in the face of losing and winning.

As a side note, a beautiful thing about Magic is that it’s an environment that allows me to actually practice Detachment. Games in Magic are relatively short (10-20 minutes). I like to think of each game as a repetition (rep). Playing it every day, I get a lot of reps in.”

“How does losing and winning disturb your Balance?”

“There are many aspects that can influence the outcome of a game. The relative power-level of the decks, the skill of the players – which can be quantified by the quality of their decisions (decision-making) and the number of mistakes they make (focus) –, the cards they draw over the course of the game. Due to the random shuffling of the decks, every game of Magic is unique, every gameplay situation a unique puzzle. And, unlike jigsaw puzzles, Magic puzzles often have hidden information.

Magic is a game of decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. Your decisions and capacity to focus are the only things within your control, which do not guarantee victory. You will inevitably lose some games. But even though I understand these things, I have a tendency to forget after a game is over. 

After winning, I feel good, as if everything was under my control. There’s several cognitive biases at work here, among which Resulting, tendency to equate outcome-quality with decision-quality (it is possible to win even if I played poorly), and Hindsight Bias, tendency after an outcome is known to see it as inevitable.
After losing, I feel bad, perceiving it as a personal failure, as if everything was under my control.

Before a game, the practice lies in centering myself.
After a game, in letting go, reconnecting with the value of Humility, and asking myself:

Could I have played better?

Life Optimization

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“A not that long while ago I came up with an idea:

What if I used the pomodoro structure for reading as well? [30 minutes of deep-focus, 10 minutes of break]”

“So like a thematic pomodoro.”


I figured it would allow me to better track it. At the end of the day, I’d know exactly how much I’d read that day.

Also, I sometimes lose track of time while reading. The pomodoro having a built-in break, I figured, would solve this problem.

It did work in those two respects. However it created another problem. To count as a ‘reading pomodoro’, I’d have to only read during that time-frame. I’m very good at maintaining focus. Once I start reading, the world disappears. Depending on the context however, that may mean missing contextual-opportunities around me. 

Focusing on the content of the pomodoro leads to inflexibility.”

“What’s the lesson?”

“The experiment led me to ask myself:

What’s the scope of the pomodoro?

Deconstructing it, there are several principles behind it:
Time-Blocking: reserving a certain amount of time for something
Deep-Focus: maintaining your attention on one thing
Oscillation: alternating between engagement and disengagement

That’s what makes the pomodoro a great productivity and energymanagement tool. However it’s important to know the limits of any tool. 

The pomodoro creates structure. The goal of Artful Living is maintaining a beautiful balance between structure and flexibility. Knowing when to use the pomodoro is as important as knowing when not to use it.

I realized it’s more important to track what didn’t go well than what did. That’s where the gems[<link; medium read] are found.”

“Didn’t you know these things?”

“I thought I did.”

Input/Output Ratio

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“You can apply the input/output model to optimize the systems of your life.”


“By asking questions. Asking questions is way of enriching and implementing mental models.

For instance:

What’s the input?
What’s the output?

What’s the minimum input for obtaining the desired output?

How can you maximize the output?
How can you maximize the output and minimize the input?

What’s your input/output ratio?


“What do you mean by ‘input/output ratio’?”

“An important aspect of the Art of Playful Living is converting informational input (absorbing information) into behavioral output (implementation) and creative output, and balancing the input with the output.

On a macro life-level, the question ‘What’s your input/output ratio?’ is a kind of diagnostic.

What’s your desired input/output ratio?
What’s your current input/output ratio?

The assessment can help you adjust course.

On a micro day-level, the question can help you better structure your day.

I like to visually mark the pomodoros [<link; medium read] on my daily checklist, and to do an input/output assessment when counting them at the end of the day.”

Masterpiece Days

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Make the day a work of art, today and forever.

But I don’t have the autonomy to do that yet.

“The ultimate Artistry is living your masterpiece days regardless of external conditions.“


Imbue the day with Meaning.

Create a beautiful context for the day, a beautiful content, and a beautiful structure.

In terms of context, have a meaningful Quest you strive every single day towards.

You mean like a goal?

More like an ideal. Something you can’t possibly reach, but guides your every action.

As Tal Ben-Shahar beautifully put it in The Pursuit of Perfect,

Our ideals are more like ‘guiding stars’ than ‘distant shores.’

Or in the words of Leonardo da Vinci,

Fix your course to a star […]

If you don’t have one, make it your Quest to find it.

In terms of content, there’s a question I love from Alan Watts:

What would you like to do if money was no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?

This question is worth thinking deeply about, and making central to your life until you discover.

Another Quest.

Yes. A practical way of approaching it is by playing the little game I call ‘No day without [<link; short length]’

What are the essential things that every single one of your masterpiece days must contain for you?

There’s a beautiful practice I know from Tim Ferris:

Before you go to bed, write down one thing that if you accomplished tomorrow, would make that entire day a win.

He said it in the context of a to-do list, however I’ve expanded it in scope.

For me, doing all the things on my ‘No day without…‘ list makes the day a win.

What if time does not allow you to fit all of them in?

You don’t find time for important things. You make time.

In this particular case, doing them is non-negociable and I prioritize them over anything else.

However, for a system to be antifragile, it needs to be flexible. Flexibility in this case is given by the amount of time I allocate each. That is, they expand or contract based on the time I have available.

In terms of structure, masterpiece days must strike a balance between structure and flexibility. A beautiful idea I know from Brian Johnson is that of ‘bookends‘. The idea is that we have most control over the beginning and end parts of a day. These are the AM and PM bookends.

Treat your bookends as something precious, for they form the bedrock of the day. Optimize them to perfection, and seek to make the most of them every single day.


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I’ve finally managed to eliminate non-essentials from my life. What’s next?”


Eliminate excesses, of any kind. Be the Artist, always with an eye out for balance and proportion.