On Quincy Jones’ 82nd birthday party he told everyone:
I wish everybody here a long, long, long life. Filled with a whole lot of love to share, health to spare and friends who care, ‘cause that’s really all that’s important when you get down to it.
The key to compounding is duration. The longer you live, the more compounding you can harness in your lifetime.
But how do you live a longer, fulfilled, happy life?
How Not To Do It
From the cradle we are force-fed the idea of going all in on a career. You can’t do it all without shortchanging something, right?
For investors, life is more than compounding money. Anne Scheiber was a “successful” investor turning ~$21,000 into $22 million over four decades. Yet, she lived a long, angry, sad and lonely life.
For musicians, life is more than playing music. There is a long list of famous musicians who disregarded their health. They took hard drugs and led unbalanced lifestyles.
Without health, all is for naught. Many of the greatest musicians died before age 40.
Looking For Insight
What we can do is look to other fields for insight. Search places where sample sizes are much greater. Maybe balance has always been the ideal. We are just too naive to notice it.
For millennia humans have been creating alloys. That is mixing a few base metals.
Pure metals are often too soft or weak to be useful.
Steel, a mix of iron and carbon, overtook iron and bronze as the stronger alloy for tools. It also held a sharper edge longer. Since, new combinations of two alloys have been developed. Each new combination led to incremental advancements in strength, corrosion resistance, etc.
Jien-Wei Yeh, a researcher at National Tsing Hua University, was unsatisfied with conventional metallic alloys. Then, in 1995, Yeh was driving through the Taiwanese countryside. In a flash Yeh got an idea that forever changed materials science and metallurgy.
Why not mix together many different kinds of elements to increase the confusion and complexity and to enhance the chaos? This would allow the alloy to become more homogeneous in composition, possessing good properties without forming compounds.
In other words, alloys had previously consisted of one primary material mixed with small quantities of one or two other elements. Think bronze - 90% copper, 10% tin. Why not stir together similar quantities of four or five elements or even more?
In 2004 he confirmed his hypothesis by mixing a few mixtures of five to ten elements together. Each had superior properties to even the best alloys. He had discovered a new class of metal - High-entropy alloys.
Balance Is The Key
Balance is the key to strength & durability. The strongest metallic alloys are composed of five or more elements with ROUGHLY EQUAL PROPORTIONS.
And balance is the key to compounding life.
Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman led balanced lifestyles. Each were wildly successful in their respective long lifetimes. Each spent only a few hours a day focusing on their most important work. The rest of their time was spent hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. From written accounts all seemed fulfilled with their lives.
For those who prefer to learn from the mistakes of others, here is the opposite of balance. Let’s listen to someone who lived a fully unbalanced life and what they learned.
Dustin Moskovitz worked with Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook when they were both Harvard students. Moskovitz followed Zuckerberg to Silicon Valley. Moskovitz said he believes that if he’d made more time for experiences outside Facebook - such as sleeping, eating well and exercising - he would have been a better leader.
Not only did the individuals above lead a long life, they were more creative. Their balance instigated higher entropy. Time spent doing everything except work gave them more input & more ideas. These individuals allowed widely varied ideas to bounce around their head - be it while hiking, sitting or napping. The enhanced chaos led to new, unique novel ideas just as enhanced chaos leads to High-entropy alloys.
Career is only one factor of life. It is merely one element on the periodic table of life.
Family, friends, love, community, etc are also present on the periodic table of life.
To go all in on one element you become soft, weak and ephemeral. That is why pure gold (24 carats) is rarely used in jewelry: it cannot survive much wear and tear.
To go all in on two elements is exponentially better than one. You could go all in on career and dabble in health. That is the equivalent of becoming 18 carat gold, the most popular gold jewelers sell. 18 carat gold is ~75% gold mixed with other metals.
Go all in on five elements (family, friends, health, wealth & mental) and you become a high-entropy alloy. You’ll be stronger, live longer and allow compounding of ideas & experiences to create a truly magical life.
In other words, balance unlocks compounding in your life.
Start with balance. When you are younger with fewer obligations, choose balance. Make your health, relationships and self-improvement priorities. Make these priorities habitual.
Before I was married and had a kid it was easy. I ran and worked out. I studied self-improvement. I took time to write & think. I spent time with close friends and my now wife.
But as things change you have to adapt. I got married and had a kid. My child is a huge priority. Some things, like my guitar playing, has taken a hit but I would never trade all of the time I’ve spent with my daughter for anything else.
As my business has grown, I have to adapt again. With COVID and winter weather my running/working out has been pretty non-existent. I know I need to allocate more time to health. It’s time to hire more help with my business so I can rebalance.
Focus on balance. When balance is at the forefront of your mind it is easy to gauge and adapt to new situations. Figure out where you are now. Take a mental accounting on how you allocate your time each day. What is lacking? Can you offload things you don’t like doing to others?
Schedule time for family. Schedule time for your mental and physical self. More responsibilities necessitates more efficiency. Always adapt.
You will be one step closer to unlocking a long, long, long fulfilling life. Filled with a whole lot of love to share, health to spare and friends who care, cause that is really what matters.