The search for progress, not perfection

How am I doing with balance? I try to exercise every morning, and while I am doing this, I talk on the phone or read my iPad or watch videos to learn as part of my commitment to lifelong learning.

I go to Mass and pause for a few minutes to reflect. I read the Gospel. I’m late most days, but I’m there every day, working on balance. I always think I can fit in one more thing — one more call to make, one more chapter to read, or one more project to finish.

I’m an optimist at heart, thinking I can talk faster, read shorter, work quicker. I think I could drive faster saving five minutes with no red lights. I am overly optimistic and often try to do too much.

And I am never going to run out of calls to make or things to read. Knowing you are a certain way and admitting your faults — this allows you to learn and grow. We are all human.

I realize I cannot be in multiple places at one time. I can’t say yes to every speaking event request, social invitation or philanthropic request. I want to say yes to all of it. I want to be there for every person who asks. I don’t like to say no. But I have learned that I can do better when I can find balance.

There are times when I don’t realize that my efforts to focus are going awry. For example, one evening, many years ago, I suggested to my three young daughters, two sons and wife that we go out to dinner at a restaurant that’s close to where we live. They said, “Dad, we don’t want to go to that restaurant.” I pressed, “Why not?”

I’m thinking it’s the food. I’m thinking it’s the location. Off to dinner as a family we went and, after about the 20th person stopped at our table to say hello, I realized why my daughters were opposed to the place I chose.

They gave a message that I didn’t understand. It had nothing to do with the quality of the food, the service or the ambiance.

It was because there were too many people there I know, taking time away from our evening together. I listened, but I didn’t hear what they were really saying. I didn’t use that second-level thinking that Howard Marks, founder of Oaktree Capital, talks about.

There’s a correlation between great lessons in life and investments. Adding value in investments is a lot like adding value in life. You must add value to create value. In this case, I thought I was adding value spending time out with family, but my daughters saw it differently because they knew that time would be interrupted.

Balancing is a challenge. My guess is, as much as I will try, I will still struggle.

Will I ever find it? It’s progress, not perfection. All I know is that I will work very hard at finding balance because I understand my basic instincts.

I’m in touch with the way that my mind wants to operate. So, I make a conscientious effort to retrain that nature and nurture healthy habits through lifelong learning, through self-reflection and by keeping a priority list and by reviewing it daily. ●

Umberto P. Fedeli is CEO of The Fedeli Group

Umberto P. Fedeli

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