“Maturity is achieved when a person accepts life as full of tension.”

-Joshua Lieberman

One of the most important lessons college taught me was balance. It was all about aggressively multi-tasking. I was sleeping little and spending inordinate amounts of time going to class and studying, pursuing relationships, growing in my faith, having lots of fun, and working.  

Having very little experience in relationships and essentially none in terms of faith, these were both revelations that there were never enough hours to satisfy or explore the boundaries of what each offered. I majored in Jesus, minored in friendship, and had to find another 80 hours a week to be a college student and work a full-time job. 

I remember relatively little from my experience of waiting tables during those years. I did get way more comfortable in the kitchen with food and its’ preparation, learned a bit about fine wine, and honed my ability to read people and situations quickly, but much of the day to day experience of all those hours are lost.

One lesson that I find myself referencing and applying often had to do with not spilling the drinks we were serving. The trick to not spilling the coffee you are carrying (or that tray of drinks as it were) is to not focus on them.

You would think exactly the opposite, right?

Turns out that our brain has the ability to process incredible amounts of information. Staring at the drinks or the cup of coffee you are carrying has your brain constantly interpreting, self-correcting and causing you to make it spill. Every slight ripple in the mug causes interpretation and correction the other way.  

Fixating on not spilling the coffee actually makes the spilling more inevitable. It is the same with not looking at the paddle board you are trying to balance on or not staring at the front tire of the bike you are riding. Both of those will inevitably lead to instability of the board and bike.

Most of the business leaders I know are wanting things to just settle down. To reach some sort of calm in the storm. They are running to and fro, from one issue to another, from this side of the organization to that one. They are constantly readjusting things and then adjusting to the unintended consequences of the initial move.

Maybe the answer is to look beyond the liquid in the cup.

Look further down the road and not at the front tire.

Keep your eyes on the shoreline in front of you and not on the board.

We find that when we can get leaders to step away from the tornado and look beyond the tyranny of the urgent, they can see with more clarity and balance. They make better decisions.  Forcing them to block multi-hour, half day, and whole day increments to think strategically allows them to do less, better. It doesn’t diminish the impact and amount they get done, it multiplies it.

Looking at a three-year vision, annual goals, and quarterly initiatives allows them to focus on the real issues that all the chaos and overwhelm is sourced from. It helps them deal with the root and not get consumed with the symptoms.  

It keeps them from spilling coffee all over themselves.


  • Are you clear on where you are going to be in three years?
  • Are you working toward the annual goals and quarterly initiatives that will ultimately get you there?
  • Are you operating with balance and thoughtful oversight of what you manage or are you splashing coffee all over yourself?