To Be Balanced, You Have to Be a Little Off-Center

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The tray refused to spin. In my attempts to master this quirky restaurant skill, I’d chipped or broken nearly a dozen plastic serving trays over a month and was no closer to success than the day I started. Didn’t matter how fast I twirled the tray onto my finger, or how fastidious I was in keeping my finger perfectly in the center—the tray always teetered off or stalled out.

As someone who prides himself in his athletic abilities and hand-eye coordination, this was a particularly devastating third world problem.

After a month of no progress I quit. (Incredibly, I found something better to do.) But last evening I was just finishing dinner and washing off my dishes when I absentmindedly began to spin a tray. I was not aware of this event. But after ten seconds I slowly became cognizant of a whirling plane atop my finger. The one time I’m not looking at the damn tray and I finally manage to get it right! As soon as I focused on the plate, it dropped pathetically and without ceremony.

Coincidence?

I spun it again—immediate drop. And again—same result. And again—was I hallucinating the first time? Then I closed my eyes for one last go… It spun without any catastrophic perturbation until I was fully satisfied. All because my eyes were closed.

Reflecting on my vast accomplishment while putting up my last dish, I realized something:

In all my attempts to stay perfectly centered, I’d only managed to throw the tray off balance as it stalled on my fingertip. When I finally closed my eyes and forgot about perfection…that’s when I finally got it right.  And life is an awful lot like that tray. If you’re perfectly centered, well, you’re not alive. Because life is constantly moving and bucking you off your center. But if you can groove off-center and move with it through it’s dips and sways, dancing around the center, but not inhabiting it, you can be perfectly balanced in life despite your lack of centeredness.

This might be a bunch of malarky. Or it could inspire you to go easy on yourself, to stop trying to control everything, and to find your groove. Not perfection.

Written by Daniel Dowling
Hi! I'm Dan, founder of Millennial Success. When I'm not getting six-packed--that's "hit in the face" in beach volleyball--or reading Jane Austen's novels for the fifth time, I'm helping people make every day a breakthrough as a writer and coach.