The Dichotomy of Life

2 min read

a top balanced on the floor

“A leader must care about the troops, but at the same time the leader must complete the mission, and in doing so there will be risk and sometimes unavoidable consequences to the troops.”

Jocko Willink, The Dichotomy of Leadership

Have you ever felt like you had to balance many things in life?

Two opposing views always seemed to come to mind, but when you went too far one way, you ended up becoming too extreme, losing balance, and reorienting by going to the other extreme, only to fall once again?)

I’ve lived that unhealthy lifestyle constantly.

Going back and forth, finding balance seemed impossible to achieve, and it never seemed to end.

But there were moments when I achieved serendipity.

When I experienced balance while facing the two opposing views.

When everything fell in place.

Those moments were concretely revealed in Jocko Willink & Leif Babin’s book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership” (a follow-up book to “Extreme Ownership”).

Though the book was about leadership, I gained takeaways to become more creative and effective in my own life through the secret I’m about to share with you.

The secret is to learn to have a paradoxical mindset.

A paradoxical mindset is the ability to face two opposing views and accept them both at the same time.

  • It’s what allows teachers to execute tough discipline, “being cruel to be kind”.

  • It’s what allows leaders to love their teammates, and yet be able to focus on the mission.

  • It’s what allows artists to accept the current norms of life, yet go against the grain and create art beyond our imaginations.

By learning to accept two opposing views, we can learn to:

  • analyze the cost-benefits of two opposing political, social, and economical sides.

  • be emotional and yet radically logical decisions at the moment.

  • accept reality, yet go to the edge of innovation.

This is a powerful concept.

A paradoxical mind will not help you get through anything in life.

But it will help you make decisions as you go through life

Ultimately, recognizing the dichotomy of life will allow you to embrace the dichotomies in life.

That awareness will not only help you to not get stuck on extremes but also bring clarity on how to balance both sides.

To desire security while embracing change.

To maintain systems while changing the status quo.

To lead and yet be able to follow.

“So as a leader it is critical to balance the strict discipline of standard procedures with the freedom to adapt, adjust, and maneuver to do what is best to support the overarching commander's intent and achieve victory.”

Jocko Willink, The Dichotomy of Leadership

Questions to ponder: 🤔

  • What dichotomies do you recognize in your life?

  • How can you learn to take a paradoxical mindset in the opposing views you face in life to journey towards balance?