Balance is something I am constantly striving for, and sometimes it can feel like a losing battle. Finding a middle ground between work and play, being social and being alone, partaking and passing: it’s difficult to know how far to walk on either side without becoming unbalanced and unhappy.
One area of my life that I work especially hard to find balance in involves the contrast between improving myself and helping to improve others, or put another way, being a Gentleman and being a Scholar (both terms can apply equally to men and women, by the way).
For the purposes of this article, being a Gentleman involves giving of yourself…serving others before you are served. A Gentleman makes sure that those around him are taken care of, enjoying themselves, and moving forward. If they need a leg up, he’s there to help, and if they are feeling down, he’s there to offer an understanding shoulder to cry on.
The Scholar, on the other hand, is a bit more introverted, constantly working to improve himself and paying more attention to his own development than the development of those around him. A Scholar believes that by improving himself he is helping those around him because what he can and will achieve will positively impact the world at large.
Both the Scholar and the Gentleman are commendable people, as they are both aiming for something greater and have noble intentions. I believe that it is possible to be both, however, and that doing so results in both personalities being more effective. Oh, and you’ll be much happier, too. Nice how that works out.
Crossover advice for the Gentleman
If you identify more with the Gentleman, it probably means that you are pretty good with people. You like to see others succeed, and with a little more work on yourself, you’ll be in good shape to help them reach even greater heights.
A big part of your personal development will involve partitioning your time more effectively. It’s likely that you don’t spend as much time on yourself because you are busy with others, so taking an hour per day to work on YOU and just you will be all you need in the beginning.
Use that hour to develop a new skill set (more or less all of the world’s knowledge is available online, and most of it for free and in tutorial form), read that book that’s been sitting on your shelf for the past 4 months, or to start up that exercise regimen that you’d been putting off.
The trick is to make this hour a habit. Once you have, people will get used to it and accept it, and many will likely go out of their way to help you out with your goals the same way you’ve been helping them.
After a month or two of consistent hour-long self-focused appointments, change it to 2 hours. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can achieve even the loftiest goals when you take the time to work on them every day. Further, you will get more efficient in working with others when you know you have a time limit, so you won’t be hindering those efforts with your personal time. Finally, you will have a much larger collection of knowledge and skills which you can share with others, which you will continue to grow with your personal time.
Crossover advice for the Scholar
As a Scholar, the absolute hardest part will be taking time that you’ve enjoyed all to yourself and giving it to other people. A change in perspective can help with this, though, as can seeing other people succeed as a direct result of your help and the knowledge that by helping others you are also helping yourself.
Consider this: the more capable people there are in the world, the easier life is for everyone. The more capable people there are in the world, the more likely that we will have a cure for cancer, recreational space travel, and regenerating limbs in your lifetime. When there are more successful people in the world, the overall wealth is greater, because more people are creating wealth (they aren’t taking it from you or anyone else, they are actually creating value, just the same as you).
Additionally, while you are helping other people you are also helping yourself. Going over subjects that you already know pretty well with someone who doesn’t understand them solidifies them even more in your mind, and can help you make connections that you hadn’t made before (in the past you have answered questions that you thought to ask, but now you are answering questions that THEY thought to ask). Going over the basics of a subject that you are an expert at can also reemphasize old knowledge that you forgot, or teach you something new that has changed since you last studied it.
Finally (you’re going to love this one), every time you help someone out, you are, in essence, making little investments in other people. You are giving some of your time in hopes that they will succeed, and if they do, that they will remember your role in their education and help you out if you ever need it. Not every investment will pan out — they may not end up remembering you or their career may fizzle or any number of other eventualities — but this investment is like any other kind in that the ones that DO end up maturing pay huge dividends. The person you help out today may be your business partner or boss or ally tomorrow, and that puts you in an excellent position. You get all that for the costs of a few hours (or even minutes) of your time.
Both Gentlemen and Scholars can achieve a much greater level of happiness from crossing over, working on this kind of balance tends to get rid of little weaknesses that we don’t even realize we have and fill in the blank spots where we didn’t even realize something was missing.
I don’t want to leave out the fact that the satisfaction of helping someone out and improving yourself can be their own reward, but I did want to focus on the purely practical aspects of both first, as whether we want to admit it or not, we usually consider both angles before making a lifestyle-altering decision.
If you are a Gentleman or a Scholar, try crossing over a bit in order to strengthen your primary efforts while also balancing out your life. You, and likely many others, will be happy that you did.
Let me know how it goes by commenting below!
Update: April 24, 2016
Balance is still something I talk and write about quite a lot, as it’s something that I find a lot of people (including those who are high-performers, extremism being their one obvious weak-point) need to be reminded of and helped with.
It’s interesting to note that I could have written about this in many different ways, but by naming something, you make it your own, in a way. Think about Malcolm Gladwell and the 10,000 Hours, Tim Ferriss and Lifestyle Design, Marie Kondo and Tidying Up. All of these things could be expressed differently, with lower-case points made rather than upper-case titles defined. By sticking with the lower-case definitions, we’re able to be more specific and ingrain more details and meaning, but that doesn’t tell to be as memorable, it doesn’t tie the idea to your name or blog or whatever, and it doesn’t sell books.
I think that’s what I was aiming at here: to make the ‘Gentleman and Scholar’ dichotomy a thing that I wrote about. I’m glad it didn’t stick, but it’s one more thing that I tried on for size back when I first started writing and decided I didn’t like.