Balance takes time

We know balance is important.

Yin and Yang. Work and life. Spend and save.

Worth considering: over how long?

Are we seeking balance over the course of one week? One month? Or one year?

Consider a regular winters day for a snowplow driver. It’s nothing but relentless snow and a lot of work. Not much balance.

Now consider a regular year for a snowplow driver. It tells a different story. A balance of relentless winter with lots of work and a dry summer with no work.

In short: the snowplow driver sprints during winter and rests over summer.

Before we go seeking balance it’s worth considering: over what timeframe am I measuring it?

An open mind

An open mind:

  1. Has blind spots, understanding it can’t possibly have all the answers
  2. Recognises it must actively seek feedback to uncover these blindspots
  3. Knows that an effective way to seek said feedback is to ask smart questions of a diverse range of people
  4. Is comfortable changing its mind, based on the above

In short: an open mind is one that leads with humility, genuine curiosity and a desire to learn.

An open mind is a choice and should be practised.

You might consider: who are the people that can offer you insights and what questions will you ask them?

Photo by Kelvin Valerio on

Everything costs something

The triathlete is exhausted at the end of their race because they just swam, rode and ran further than most of us can fathom. It costs them physical energy to do so.

The performing artist is drained at the end of a performance because they just sang, acted and danced in front of hundreds of people for hours. It costs them emotional energy to do so.

The leader’s brain feels like a potato at the end of a day of meetings because they just showed up to serve generously. It costs them mental energy to do so.

The same is true of the books we choose to read, the podcasts we choose to listen to, the curious unsolicited feedback we’ll undoubtedly receive and the random debate we might have about whether chocolate should be stored in the fridge or cupboard (for the record: the correct answer is always the cupboard).

These all cost something.

That no matter how or where we choose to show up or what we choose to consume, everything costs something.

Knowing that it’s worth considering: what is the cost of me doing this? And: is what I’m doing worth that cost?

Photo by Hafidh Satyanto on Unsplash

My mum, the change agent

On a hot summers day, twenty six years ago my mum made one decision that would change all future Shepherd family holidays.

Tired of having three kids under ten pinching, punching and arguing with one another in the back seat of the family car, mum calmly* told dad to pull over.

She stepped out of the passenger side, opened the rear door and said to my brother “get in the front”.

Confused, my brother did as he was told while mum clambered into the back middle seat, in between me and my sister.

There we all sat for the next seven hours, in what quickly became a calm and subdued car ride.

My mum did what mothers do instinctively. She decided to lead with generosity, empathy and service to her team.

Leaders have the same choice.

To intentionally make decisions that create change.

To make these decisions in pursuit of a better version of our future.

To do so with generosity, empathy and service to our teams.

*Some events in this story have been altered to protect those involved**

**Read: my mum follows this blog

What we can learn from maths teachers

The maths teacher creates conditions for others to solve problems themselves.

They introduce a process and hold space for others to navigate it.

When we inevitably get stuck and raise our hand the maths teacher invites us to revisit and revise our process.

The maths teacher doesn’t state the answer, no matter how tempting. They recognise there’s joy in the process and that’s where the learning happens. And so, they don’t steal the revelation.

As leaders, we can learn a lot from this approach.


  • What process am I introducing people to?
  • How am I creating space for others to navigate this process?
  • When people get stuck, what does it look like to encourage them to revisit the process, rather than tell them the answer?
Photo by Christina Morillo on

Sharing our work

When sharing our work with the world it’s worth considering: have we done so with intention?

Did we pause to consider: What’s it for? Who’s it for? How is this generous? How is this generative?

In particular it’s worth understanding: did we share something that’s a reflection of our personality and values?

Derek Sivers said in a recent podcast interview:

Our personality lives on after we die in the things we create.

Which got me noodling* on these two questions:

  1. What are you creating and sharing with the world?
  2. Does it reflect your personality?

*Actual footage:

A reframe of ‘we’

Now more than ever we run the risk of creating divide.

We, who wear masks vs they, who don’t.

We, the essential workers vs they, the non-essential.

We, with kids at home vs they, who don’t.

We, low risk vs they, high risk.

We, who stocked up on crunchy peanut butter vs they, who stocked up on smooth.

This posture makes our ‘we’ get smaller. It creates a slippery slope into us vs them thinking where judgement, othering and shame is rife.

I hope we can all agree none of that feels helpful.

It’s true that we’re all experiencing COVID-19 in different ways, through unique context and with different belief systems.

It’s also true that we’re all experiencing the very same pandemic.

Knowing that, what if instead we chose to do the work of creating an expanding we?

A we that leads with curiosity, generosity and empathy. A we where we acknowledge diversity is a fact. A we focussed on co-creating communities where people feel like they belong.

Mask wearers and non-mask wearers.

Essential workers and non-essential workers.

Home schoolers and those sending their kids to school.

Low risk and high risk.

Those who stocked up on crunchy peanut butter and those who stocked up on smooth.

Will this pandemic divide us or connect us?

We get to decide.

Can you write something using only questions?

What would it look like?

What might you say?

What would be the point?

How might it carry more meaning than simply making statements?

What would need to happen for it to be worth it?

What if it sparked more curiosity and creativity in the reader?

How might it create generous tension?

How could it be a way to illuminate the joy of asking questions?

What if it created space for someone to connect a dot themselves?

What if it helped you relinquish the need to have all the answers?

When’s the last time you tried an experiment like this?

When’s the last time you got more curious?

When’s the last time you generously created space for someone to noodle?

What if you committed to doing so in the next 24 hours?

What’s the worst that could happen?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash