If this is Generation Flux, what Business Must Do to Embrace the Chaos

If this is Generation Flux, what Business Must Do to Embrace the ChaosMy friend Sharon from Clarity for the Boss referred me to a Fast Company article entitled: “This is Generation Flux: Meet the Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier of Business”

Although the article was written almost a year ago, I hadn’t read it, although I was familiar with the concept of flux: a term defining a psychographic, coined by Robert Safian, Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company, in which he described flux as “a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates–and even enjoys–recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions. Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, businesses and individuals will have to work at it. This is no simple task. The vast bulk of our institutions–educational, corporate, political–are not built for flux. Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.”

In essence, it’s about embracing chaos, or in my own terms…imbalance.

I’ve long been a proponent of embracing imbalance, and I reject the idea that life should be balanced, or that there’s such a thing as work-life balance.

Life’s a roller-coaster, not a merry-go-round.

Picture it this way.

Imagine that I have several drinking glasses, all filled with liquid to the identical level, sitting on a table. They are balanced. There is no movement. Nothing is happening.

Now picture me picking up one of the glasses and pouring some of the liquid in that one into another glass, representing having to work late.

The fuller glass now gets emptied into another glass signifying home life, which needs to be topped up due to the long hours spent at work.

Then the home life glass pours into the physical exercise glass, which has been sorely neglected…and so on and so on.

At no time do the levels in the glasses, or in fact life, stay balanced.

And don’t even get me started on the “more balanced” terminology. Like, I want my life to be “more balanced”. But when I ask someone to identify exactly and clearly what that means, I’m usually met with a “well, you know what I mean…more balanced.”

But life isn’t balanced. It’s a big hot mess. It’s chaotic. It’s always in flux.

The key is to recognize and accept this, because striving for balance is like trying to push a string uphill with your nose.

I started to count the number of times I read the word ‘balance’ in a recent magazine. I stopped at 150. One hundred and fifty times throughout the magazine were phrases like “I like to balance things” or “I want more balance” or “I’m balancing life and work”. But not once was there a clear definition, description or picture of what that meant.

Balance has become what I call a plastic word: something that means everything and nothing.

balanceIf I ask you to picture what balance looks like in your mind…work with me here. Close your eyes and picture ‘balance’. What does it look like? Anything like this?

Balance is stasis. Balance is inertia.

We’re meant to be jugglers, not statues, in business and in life.

And although the phrase “flux generation” as applied to a psychographic is fairly newly coined, as the article in Fast Company states:

“More than 150 years ago, Charles Darwin foreshadowed this era in his description of natural selection: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives; nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

And isn’t change, adaptability, flexibility and…in my terms, embracing imbalance what life’s all about?

In the coming weeks I’ll be focusing on the topic of my upcoming book (working title: Balance is B.S.), and sharing how by smashing the ideal of ‘balance’ we can lessen our stress, heighten our productivity and stop chasing after something that can’t be caught.

Embrace Imbalance. Find freedom in flux.

Coming soon: tips on how to embrace imbalance and find freedom in flux, for a happier life and a more successful business


  • http://twitter.com/rdopping Ralph Dopping

    Hi Kaarina,

    Interesting approach. Since I have been reading your blog for some time now I know your stance on this subject. You have piqued my interest in more. You point of view is so contrary to common thinking. I suppose the really great things that get done in the world are due to a serious imbalance (like an extreme focus). Imagining that is very tough to do. Can’t wait to read more on the topic.

    BTW, I wrote a piece on Gen Flux myself after reading the article in FC. My approach was on the relationship design has to an ever changing world. It’s great to see the article get traction in a variety of forums http://theviewfromhere.ca/2012/11/how-do-you-design-for-a-business-that-is-in-constant-flux/

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      Good morning @twitter-229922134:disqus . I look forward to expanding on the topic of imbalance in future posts. And somehow I missed your article on Gen Flux. Thanks for the link: I’ll be interested in reading it. Cheers! Kaarina

    • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

      Extreme focus is one of those guilty pleasures. It is an unadulterated ecstasy.

  • http://www.thindifference.com/ Jon M

    “Freedom in flux” is a great phrase to think about. Balance may be a word to keep us in place or just a concept that doesn’t reflect reality. Instead of balance, “juggle” may be the right work. It is more action-oriented and requires unique skills to keep things flowing in a reasonable way.

    This will be an interesting generation to watch and be in, as we see either a return to some basics or stretch into new ways to live and lead anew.

    Great post!

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      Thanks so much @7c78ebbbdf401522f6f6cc102ea5afe0:disqus I also like the image of juggling. I think if more people accepted the concept (and reality) of imbalance, they would experience less stress, develop better coping skills and live a happier, healthier life. I’m on a mission to help others Embrace Imbalance:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.writerightwords.com/ Erin Feldman

    I think the word “balance” is a popular one because people want to believe they can have everything (and the cake, too). In reality, the things people want will require sacrifice, i.e., imbalance. It’s at that point that people have to decide which thing they want to pursue most. They can have the glasses; they just have to understand that one or two will receive more attention than others at certain times (Let’s hope the glasses are understanding ones. :) ).

    My favorite object lesson related to this idea employed a jar, sand, and golf balls. If you filled the jar with the sand first, then added the golf balls, nothing fit. If you started with the golf balls (priorities) and allowed the sand (the daily grind) to fill in the spaces, everything fit. Kind of. Sometimes the speaker would get a little carried away and would forget to measure the sand before getting on stage…At least only the sand spilled.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      The sand and golf balls story is a favourite of mine, and one that I’ve used for many years to identify putting priorities first @ErinFeldman:disqus . And each day is different from the next, as is each moment. That’s why, by embracing imbalance, we can zig and zag, teeter and totter with life and, instead of allowing it to stress us because it’s not ‘balanced’, we can laugh at the fact that…heck yes! The teeter is up and the totter is down…for the moment…and get on with things. This also minimizes that annoying mind chatter, what I call the woulda shoulda coulda self-talk that’s so destructive. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

    “… stop chasing after something that can’t be caught.”


    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      Thanks so much @faryna:disqus : that makes my day:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://barrettrossie.com/ Barrett Rossie

    I love the Darwin quote. He gets misrepresented quite a bit, doesn’t he?

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      In what way @barrett_rossie:disqus ?

      • http://barrettrossie.com/ Barrett Rossie

        I was thinking of what some people call Social Darwinism — “You only want the strong to survive, you don’t care about the weak.” Um, no, I want to give eeryone the tools to adapt.

        • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

          Amen to that:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://joshuawilner.com/ Josh

    This reminds me of what it is like to stand in the surf. You feel the push and pull of the water and your job is to figure out how to remain standing.

    You can fight the current or just sort of go with it.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      Ah, you’re my kinda’ go-with-the-flow guy. That is a great image for exactly what I’m talking about. I think I might just be quoting you on that in a future post;) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://markharai.com/ Mark Harai

    I just loved the point of view you shared in this post, Kaarina!

    These could be titles to three separate blog posts:

    “Life’s a roller-coaster, not a merry-go-round”

    “Striving for balance is like trying to push a string uphill with your nose”

    “We’re meant to be jugglers, not statues, in business and in life”

    And for good measure, one from Stan Faryna:

    “Extreme focus is one of those guilty pleasures; it is an unadulterated ecstasy”

    Can’t wait to read your book, miss : )

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      Thanks so much @markharai:disqus You’ve filled my bin with great topic titles! Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/Soulati Jayme Soulati

    If I am ever “in balance” I create my own drama so I can control some chaos.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      You crack me up @twitter-22830278:disqus :) BTW, I’ll be posting on Thursday the 3 finalists for the #TeamBlogJack logo. We’re down to the wire:)

  • http://twitter.com/BetsyKCross Betsy Cross

    Maybe people really mean peace of mind when they say they want balance.
    When I get a thought and a feeling like a part of me or someone in my life needs attention, if I don’t address it I start feeling weighed doen – not with guilt. That’s different. I just think that our minds and bodies are very wise in their ability to nudge and poke us awake so we don’t o too deep ino the hole of neglect.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      Nice image and state of being @twitter-286790484:disqus …peace of mind. When we create our reality (which we do) with a focus on being the best we can be, weathering the storms and the calm and accepting the roller coaster of life, we’re in a healthy place. We should all pay attention to the messages our body gives us. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/ExtremelyAvg Brian D. Meeks

    I love it when I read something that makes me think about life in a different way. I can’t recall ever having thought about wanting balance in my life. It has never occurred to me that it was something desirable.

    There have been times where I had a job that required 80 hours per week. It was stressful, all consuming, and a complete rush. There are other times were I’ve been between projects and been sucked into a video game for a month. (I’m not proud of this). I’ve never been balanced, but I’m usually happy. I guess, I like flux…and of course, the flux capacitor.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      Oh my goodness @twitter-103512565:disqus , I was going to insert the flux capacitor into the post, but I couldn’t figure out how. I even looked up images and descriptions, beyond the “Back to the Future” obvious ones.

      I don’t believe anyone is balanced, because we’re constantly ebbing and flowing, up and downing, based on what today brings. Sometimes the “todays” are full to brimming, other days they are video game fodder:) When we embrace the changing nature of each day…each moment…we reduce the stress that comes with the idea(l) that there’s such a thing as ‘balanced”. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://cirquedumot.com/new-readers/ Susan Silver

    Didn’t know they coined a term fore this. I think one of the reasons I am thriving right now is that I feel pretty comfortable in chaos. When things change, I am quick to get back on my feet. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      Bravo to you @susan_silver:disqus for thriving in chaos. I like my friend Josh’s comment above about standing in the surf. I think that’s a great description. And good for you to be quick to get back on your feet whenever a wave might knock you down or push at you:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://newenglandmultimedia.com/ Michelle Quillin

    I have never had “balance” in my life, Kaarina. I live in what’s called the “tyranny of the urgent” for the most part, because there are so many branches on my tree. Fortunately, my roots are deep (I have a primary “mission statement” for my life), or I’d get blown all over the place!

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      Your roots are strong @michellequillin:disqus : that I know:) Bending with the wind, like the branches of a tree, being resilient and flexible allows us to deal with all the chaos and imbalance. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Sharon Gilmour-Glover

    Hi Kaarina,

    I’m so glad you liked the article. Robert Safian wrote a follow up special report that was published in November’s “Fast Company”. It profiles a number of Gen Flux leaders.

    I am very excited about your forthcoming book. Let me know when it will be available please. Will it be an ebook or an actual book? (not that ebooks aren’t “actual books”. I meant tangible – you know….)

    Nothing that is alive is “in balance”. I think people mean they want to feel in control. If we accept that we live in a complex environment and therefore, the natural state is flux and change, we can feel balanced by being in flux and changing with it.

    That’s how I interpret your term, “embracing imbalance”. I embrace imbalance by knowing that is the natural state of life on this planet and I am part of that big, beautiful, interconnected web.



    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      You got it spot on @a0429977d6f1788c905681cdc7b454cd:disqus . I had a chat with a dear friend, and we volleyed the word ‘balance’ back and forth (hmmm…an appropriate image of the rock and roll world we live in:), and you hit the key point: it’s about accepting this complex environment, realizing all is in a state of constant change and, to coin a phrase, “going with the flow”. Thanks for the support on the book. It continues to be a work in progress that I was staying quiet on (right @ErinFeldman:disqus ? Secret project and all;), but I just had to let the cat out of the bag…after all, writing makes it real. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.late-bloomers.net Barbara Klein

    Now this is what I call a comfortable post besides being awesomely great, Kaarina! Comfortable because you make me feel this way by affirming that my way of living is the right one and not by chasing that elusive work – life balance! I am fueled by curiosity and passion in whatever I do, well, paired with some years of professional experience and skills as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cyd.madsen Cyd Madsen

    I just found you and think I’m in love :-) With the site and your thoughts, of course. It’s so refreshing have someone affirm what I find to be true. Life’s a mess, it’s constant flux, and balance is a myth. Sort of. There might be balance over time, as in a lifetime, but not in a day or an hour or even a year. Thanks for identifying the insanity in an insane world. Now, that is balance.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

      @facebook-587544178:disqus I’m delighted you found me:) Thanks so much for those very kind words, and I hope you’ll drop by often. The welcome mat’s always out. Do you have a blog? And may I ask…how, by chance, did you find me? You just made my day:) Cheers! Kaarina