All In Or All Out?

by  John E. Smith  |  Self Leadership
All In Or All Out?

We who would help others be more effective leaders might need to watch our language. One of my pet phrasing peeves is the currently popular business phrase all in.

 I am regularly asked if I am all in with regard to some project, initiative, or cause. I’ll bet you have been asked this or a similar question, or maybe you even use the phrase yourself sometimes.

“Are you all in on this?” is a question with the unspoken implication that being all-in is a sign of commitment and engagement. You really do not have an option to respond “No, I’m just mostly in, thanks,” because that sounds like you are not supportive.

I suspect that this phrase is much like 110 Percent – it sounds great and stirs up some folks quite nicely, but does not make any sense when you think about it.

Whether is is phrased as a question or not, we regularly experience those who demand that above and beyondeffort or insist that they themselves always work at the mythical 110%. Motivational speakers who have nothing new to offer often seem to fall back on this idea. Either you are all in or you are out.

For those who feel I am stomping on good, old-fashioned American initiative and drive, think about it. When you pour maximum effort into something, you are burning energy at a high rate. You may burn bright, but you will not usually burn for very long.

If you are completely devoted to a work project, you have little or nothing left over for other aspects of life which should claim some of your attention and energy. Who wants to be around someone who is all in for work goals and neglects relationships?

On the other hand, someone who values relationships above getting the job done is not really all that popular either, except when the relationship is with a narcissist. The point here might be that being all in for anything carries the risk of over-emphasis and being out of balance with all the aspects of life.

Here’s my suggestion. Maybe a better way exists if we redefine all to be less absolute and more of an inclusive term.

Consider being just enough in to accomplish our goals in the areas of life which are important to you. This allows the person who cares about career success to focus on achieving that goal, but not to the cost of having very small attendance at their celebratory events as they smash record after record.

The person who values relationships above all else is to concentrate on growing a healthy relationship without the burden of trying to work excessive hours to the exclusion of all else.

Can we have it all? Only if we have it reasonably. Forget all in and be just enough i to make it all work reasonably well.

Moderation in all things probably does mean no stars on Hollywood Drive or mentions in the history books, but it just might mean you are pretty successful with work, family, friends, and your community. That ain’t so bad.

What life balance strategies have been your best bet?
Photo Credit: Morguefile

About The Author

Articles By john-smith
I enjoy helping people learn and grow through intentional, strategic, and social interventions. I coach, teach, train, facilitate, organize, write, speak, design, and lead at the intersection of leadership, learning, and human behavior. I am a CCE Board Certified Coach (BCC) with specializations in both Leadership/Business and Life/Personal coaching. My primary blog is The Strategic Learner on Wordpress.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Page Cole  |  28 Apr 2015  |  Reply

Here’s my rant… I too am irritated by the “110%”… it’s not mathematically possible!

As an individual, I have to factor in lots of variables when determining how much of myself to give to a project or event. If on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest effort, I’m working on something that is critical to the success of my team and my organization, I can & should expect a 5 from myself. If it’s not as critical, say a “2” level project, it won’t get the same effort from me. I won’t sacrifice time with my family, critical time needed for more important projects or just time relaxing on some project that isn’t critical. It doesn’t mean I’m lazy, or don’t want to do things well. It simply means I want to do the most important things extremely well, and that I’m smart enough to know that my time, energy, resources and will all have limitations to them. Since there are limitations on those things, there’s no way I can or should go “all in” on everything I’m associated with.

John E. Smith  |  28 Apr 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Page – thanks for a thoughtful and very realistic response.

I have found that even those things which could claim my entire energy output don’t get everything. Other things do not stop or recede just because I have a big deal going on.

Love your comment that ” I’m smart enough to know that my time, energy, resources and will all have limitations to them.”. That is the key.


Join The Conversation