Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Balancing Intensity- Learn to Fly


CockpitLast week I participated in my favorite event of the year, EO NERVE in Atlanta. This event is a gathering of entrepreneurs throughout the east coast, packed with awesome social events, phenomenal people, and cool learning opportunities.  At the end of it, we got to play one of the top golf courses in the world, East Lake.   Even more enjoyable than the awesome surroundings was the company of intense individuals that you meet in EO.

What becomes crystal clear when doing fun activities like this with intense individuals is that they not only work their tails off creating awesome companies, but when they play, they play hard. When they party, they party hard. And what I’ve also learned is that when they say they spend quality time with their family, they mean they spend real-deal, dialed-in, all-the-way quality time with their family.

What they’ve all learned is that you can’t claim to have achieved work/life balance simply by measuring time, but you also have to appreciate the intensity and energy dedicated to each.  Time spent without energy is wasted time. Energy without time is frustrating. Balancing this formula of time to energy is the key to happiness, success, and motion.

An example from my personal life is something that I do that many consider risky.  I fly “little” airplanes.  I actually earned my pilots license when I was still in school at Georgia Tech… while also working a co-op job, another contract job, and building web sites as an entrepreneur.  I had a lot on my plate. Flying had always been a dream, but as the reality started to come closer and I started interviewing around for a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), I started questioning whether this was really a good idea to add this to my plate.  Could I handle the stress of the training? The time requirements of building hours, studying ground school books, and just the overhead of getting back and forth to the airport, medical exams, flying club meetings, etc…!?  It was a lot, and I thought maybe before I jump in, I should reevaluate this idea.

One of the flight instructors I was speaking with was a long time hero: intense,  successful in many ways… and a physician that owned several OB/GYN practices around Atlanta.  Not only this, but he was an avid mountain climber, published astronomer, aerobatic and multi-engine rated pilot, flight instructor, extreme hiker/photographer, and on and on… you get the idea.

I asked him this: “I have a LOT on my plate right now… do you think I should be worried about trying to learn to fly airplanes while I have so much pulling me away? So much noise?”

His answer shocked me!

Now is the perfect time to learn to fly airplanes. The reason: when you are flying an airplane, your life literally depends on your focus. If you are distracted and try to withdraw mentally, you will be punished. You will probably die.  This requirement of intense focus is exactly what you need to relax. What you will find is that you will become more effective in everything else in life because of this intensely focused time you will spend each week.

Low and behold, he was right. There is nothing like the requirement to continue living to get you to focus.  I’ll even take that up a notch now that I have a family, and say that the requirement that everything gets the attention it deserves in the cockpit to keep your family safe is, thus far in my life, unmatched on the adrenaline and focus levels!

So my takeaway for you today is to look at your so-called balance and evaluate how your intensity matches up. Do you have fun activities, sports, hobbies, that really get you to mentally engage as much as you do with “work?” Does your family get the same mental horsepower that your company receives? Does your own spirit… your own soul… get the same focus?

ps. If you want to learn to fly, drop me a note, or check out this page from AOPA.




Category: Action, Efficiency, Ideas
  • Noel Coleman says:

    I loved this post. Really timely for me. Thanks, Johnson.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:30 pm

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