Work Life Balance. Debunked.


Life Balance wheel - is it meant to run smoothly?

Life Balance wheel - is it meant to run smoothly?

For years now I have been driven into by well-meaning NLP practitioners behind their Life Balance Wheel, determined to get me to score every aspect of my life in a harmonic way. The point of this exercise is to throw into sharp relief elements of my everyday existence out of kilter with the rest. The metaphor being that, if the wheel resembles a Mumbai taxi driver’s wheel (oval rather than round – or worse, Fred Flintstone’s square wheel) then my life is out of balance and I’m thumping along the road, scattering my passengers (friends and family) about in the back like a sack of potatoes.

The most commonly listed areas in need of balance are Friends/Family, Fitness and Health, Career, Money, Personal and Spiritual Growth, Romance/Significant Other, Physical Environment/Home and Fun/Recreation.  The general idea is that, within these sectors, one scores how satisfied one is with that area (usually between 1 and 7) and then joins the dots around the circle. Where the lumpy bits appear, this is where your life is out of balance and corrective action is needed. 


Watch out for the wheel!

Watch out for the wheel!

Any number of Life Coaches out there use this as a basic diagnostic tool to make people feel like they need help from the sidelines to get their life back into balance by spending more time at home or writing poetry. The Life Coach will exhort you to spend five hours of quality time at home each evening – or composing verse in order to get in touch with your creative side.

If you are only 80% satisfied with your career, then you need to score that as an eight on the wheel or 6 on the 0-7 model. You get the idea. A simple little diagrammatic diagnostic to make you feel like you need some moulding around the edges of the clay pot of your life. The wheel is turning and your beautiful clay pot is getting all skew whiff, flanging at the edges whilst your nearest and dearest desperately try to push the clay walls back in. The heroic coach rides triumphantly into the art class and puts the pot back together.

This is such a childishly simple technique that I am embarrassed on behalf of all the coaches out there who take your hard earned pounds. You can draw your own wheel. You can do your own yelling from the touchline. You can achieve balance. The bumps will disappear and your beautiful clay pot will ossify into an ornament.

This is fine. But there is one problem.

All the people I have known who have achieved significant, entrepreneurial, creative, breakthrough success have been out of whack. They have been single-minded, often selfish, mavericks that have driven their loved ones mad. The only wheels they have been interested in have been the type that Jeremy Clarkson drives. The spokes that they relate to are the ones that you throw into the heart of the machine. The balance that they are seeking is the kind that you find on a tightrope.

Boundaries are not extended by responsible public citizens, they are stretched by pioneers. Breakthroughs are achieved by people who like breaking things. Explorers don’t work nine to five. Inventors don’t look for jobs in the Classifieds.  Leaders don’t complete customer satisfaction surveys before making decisions. Take Churchill. He didn’t have great work-life balance. He said “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” A life coach would have called him a manic obsessive.  General Patton put it another way, “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” George Smith Patton was not renowned for his equilibrium either.

“Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world,” said the actress Lily Tomlin. The soma quest for balance is a recipe for mediocrity. We sandpaper down our rough edges of talent, inspiration, insight, humour, genius until they disappear.

Passion, obsession, zeal, ambition, never giving up, being infuriating partners, fathers, mothers, bosses, employees: these are the grits in the tank that gave us the Apollo Moon Mission, Christopher Columbus, Marie Curie and Sir Ranulph Fiennes.


The mill that we tread

The mill that we tread

The trouble with the work life balance wheel is that it just goes round and round and round. Like a hamster in a cage, never ever really getting anywhere.


So who do you want to be? The village postman or an astronaut?


Seagulls by Roy Stannard

Littlehampton (edited)



There must always be seagulls

Just as there were

When I struck  lucky

And met you

Offering you a lift

In a quiet seaside town

Where nothing happens, except us.

That was ten years

And many seagulls ago

But the same sense

That anything could happen

Happens again

As I look into those eyes

Looking at me now

Blue like the sea in July

Always flowing back in my direction

Seeking the next horizon.

We need the seagulls

To remind us

That there is a world beyond

The trampled square we occupy

Where our dreams can take wing

Our children fly

And the people we always were

Will always be.


Roy Stannard

Roy Stannard’s Top 150 Albums of all time

Grace  by Jeff Buckley - Arguably, the best album of all time.
Grace by Jeff Buckley – Arguably, the best album of all time.

OK you asked for it.

I don’t expect you to agree with me, but here they are – some of the best music ever produced on the windblown terraces of God’s own earth – Roy Stannard’s Top 150 Albums of all time.

1.          Jeff Buckley: Grace

2.          Van Morrison: Astral Weeks

3.          Carole King: Tapestry

4.          Led Zeppelin: II

5.          The Beatles: Revolver

6.          Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland

7.          The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses

8.          Radiohead: OK Computer

9.          Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers

10.        The Doors: The Doors

11.        Radiohead: The Bends

12.        Massive Attack: Blue Lines

13.        Patti Smith: Horses

14.        U2: The Joshua Tree

15.        The Beatles: The White Album

16.        The Smiths: The Smiths

17.        The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground & Nico

18.        John Lennon: Imagine

19.        Bob Marley: Exodus

20.        The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

21.        The Clash: London Calling

22.        Steve Wonder: Songs in the key of life

23.        Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge over troubled waters

24.        Led Zeppelin: IV

25.        The Beatles: Abbey Road

26.        Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde

27.        Beach Boys: Pet Sounds

28.        Neil Young: After the Gold Rush

29.        Nirvana: Nevermind

30.        Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run

31.        Pink Floyd: Dark side of the moon

32.        Joni Mitchell: Blue

33.        Frank Sinatra: Songs for swingin’ lovers

34.        Love: Forever Changes

35.        Television: Marquee Moon

36.        John Coltrane: A love supreme

37.        Marvin Gaye: What’s going on

38.        Lou Reed: Transformer

39.        Bob Dylan: Highway 51 revisited

40.        The Who: Who’s Next

41.        Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures

42.        The Band: Music from Big Pink

43.        The Veils: The Runaway Found

44.        Nitin Sawney: Human

45.        Rod Stewart: Every picture tells a story

46.        The Aloof: Sinking

47.        Roy Buchanan: Roy Buchanan

48.        My Bloody Valentine: Loveless

49.        Oasis: Definitely Maybe

50.        Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes

51.        Sex Pistols: Never mind the bollocks

52.        The Rolling Stones: Let it bleed

53.        Muse: Origins of Symmetry

54.        The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street

55.        David Bowie: Hunky Dory

56.        Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden

57.        Jimi Hendrix: Are you experienced?

58.        REM: Automatic for the people

59.        John Martyn: Solid Air

60.        The Jam: Sound Effects

61.        Manic Street Preachers: Everything must go

62.        Mercury Rev: Deserters Songs

63.        Amy Winehouse: Back to Black

64.        Otis Redding: Otis Blue

65.        New Order: Power, Corruption & Lies

66.        Bjork: Debut

67.        The Killers: Hot Fuss

68.        Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet

69.        Elvis Costello: My aim is true

70.        The Arcade Fire: Funeral

71.        The Verve: Urban Hymns

72.        Elbow: The seldom seen kid

73.        The Sound: From the lions mouth

74.        Crosby Stills & Nash: Crosby Stills & Nash

75.        British Sea Power: Do you like rock music?

76.        Echo & the Bunnymen: Ocean Rain

77.        Tim Hardin: Hang onto a dream

78.        Mew: Frenger

79.        Muse: Black Holes and Revelations

80.        Bob Dylan: Blood on the tracks

81.        Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun

82.        Teenage Fan Club: Grand Prix

83.        David Sylvian: Secrets of the Beehive

84.        The Dears: No Cities Left

85.        Doves: Lost Souls

86.        Young Disciples: Road to Freedom

87.        Adorable: Against Perfection

88.        A Tribe Called Quest: The low end theory

89.        Chicago: Chicago I

90.        Shack: HMS Fable

91.        Bloc Party: Silent Alarm

92.        Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey

93.        Specials: Specials

94.        James Taylor: Sweet Baby James

95.        Youssou N’dour: The Lion

96.        Elvis Costello: This years model

97.        The Ramones: Ramones

98.        Santana: Santana

99.        The Blue Nile: A walk across the rooftops

100.      PJ Harvey: Stories from the City, Stories for the sea 

101.      Sonic Youth Daydream Nation

102.      Neil Young: American stars ‘n bars

103.      Wilco: Being there

104.      The Bible: Graceland

105.      Glasvegas: Glasvegas

106.      America: America

107.      Cream: Fresh Cream

108.      The The: Soul  Mining

109.      Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis

110.      Beverley Knight: Who I am

111.      Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left

112.      Lamb: Lamb

113.      Ash: 1977

114.      Coldplay: A rush of blood to the head

115.      Suicide: Suicide

116.      Underworld: Dubnobasswithmyheadman

117.      Lindisfarne: Fog on the Tyne

118.      Jellyfish: Bellybutton

119.      Easyworld: Kill the last romantic

120.      Leftfield: Leftism

121.      Deacon Blue: Raintown

122.      Pulp: Different Class

123.      Tracey Thorn: A distant shore

124.      Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup

125.      The Lemon Trees: Open Book

126.      I am Kloot: Play Moulah Rouge

127.      Wire Train: Ten women

128.      The Silencers: Letter from St Paul

129.      Fleetwood Mac: Rumours

130.      David Bowie: The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

131.      The Band: The Band

132.      Aretha Franklin: Lady Soul

133.      Stevie Wonder: Talking Book

134.      Sly & the Family Stone: There’s a riot goin’ on

135.      Cream: Disraeli Gears

136.      Janis Joplin: Pearl

137.      The Stooges: Raw Power

138.      Joy Division: Closer

139.      Elton John: Yellow Brick Road

140.      Cat Stevens: Tea for the Tillerman

141.      The Smiths: The Queen is Dead

142.      Blood, Sweat & Tears: Child is father to the man

143.      Al Green: I’m still in love with you

144.      The Smiths: Meat is murder

145.      The Police: Ghost in the machine

146.      Dire Straits: Brothers in arms

147.      Mott the Hoople: Mott

148.      Miles Davis: Bitches Brew

149.      The Cure: Boys don’t cry

150.      ABC: The Lexicon of Love