The Karate Kid, Jimmy Connors and Work – Life Balance . . .

Better learn balance. Balance is key.
– Mr. Miyagi (character in the movie Karate Kid)

I remember quite vividly the original version of the movie, Karate Kid and the classic differences between Daniel, the frantic young boy and the calm Mr. Miyagi, his Karate mentor.  A great piece of storytelling about rites of passage as youth struggles to find its place in the grown-up world.

Many people who work for a living are struggling to find their place in the world they now inhabit as adults.  And the concept of Work – Life Balance is one of the most confusing.  How much time should I spend focused on work and how much on my non-work life?  After all, if I spend too much time with my friends and family I risk not getting ahead at work.  Yet if I spend too much time at work my family life suffers.  And in the current tight job market many tend to focus more on work and reduce the time spent with family and friends.

No one ever said on their deathbed, ‘Gee, I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer’. -Danielle Berry

I discovered the solution to the Work – Life Balance many years ago after listening to Jimmy Conners, one of the greats of professional tennis.  For several years, Jimmy Connors was at the top of pro tennis, number one in the world. And to get to the top and stay there takes hours and hours of practice.

Then he got married and had a child and his game began to suffer.  Was he getting old?  Was his career over?  Sports journalists were speculating on the future of Jimmy Connors in tennis.  Then, he started climbing back to number two and held on to second or third for several more years.  During an interview, he was asked about his drop in rank and then his move back up.

Jimmy replied, “When my son came along I started feeling guilty about not being at home and my practicing suffered.  But then when I took time off to be with my new family, I started feeling guilty about not practicing enough.  I wound up being bad at both!  Then it dawned on me that instead of trying to find the magic balance between tennis and family (50%-50%? 60%-40%? 40%-60%?), I decided to be 100% – 100%!”

The interviewer asked him to explain because it didn’t add up. “When I’m practicing tennis (at work) I am 100% focused on tennis, not thinking about family or anything else.  Then, when I am at home I am 100% focused on my family and not thinking about tennis (work). I can now be effective and find fulfilment at both.”

How many executives and employees come home and are still thinking about work hours after they walk in the front door?  Not very effective is it? Not fully at home and not fully at work.  And the internet, email, BlackBerrys and iPhones make the challenge even harder.  Many live in the “limbo-land” of the ineffective most of the time, neither here nor there.

Try the 100% – 100% solution to Work – Life Balance.  It worked for Jimmy.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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2 Responses to The Karate Kid, Jimmy Connors and Work – Life Balance . . .

  1. Pingback: What I learned Last Week « Grown Up For Real!!!

  2. I have never seen this quote before but is nails my philosophy on work life balance. I will be wherever I need to be, but wherever I am is what I am focused on. Great post John.


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