Balancing act

You perform a “balancing act” when you have competing priorities and you have to strike a difficult balance between them.

Today's story: COVID's second wave
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Balancing act

Today’s expression is a “balancing act.” You perform a balancing act when you have competing priorities and you have to strike a difficult balance between them. We often say this when your decisions can potentially have negative consequences if you don’t get the balance right.

European leaders have to perform a high-stakes balancing act when they design their response to this new wave of the coronavirus. Why is it a balancing act? Remember the two criteria: number one, they have to balance between competing priorities; and number two, there can be negative consequences to not getting the balance right. So, number one, they have competing priorities: they want to control the virus, yes, but they also don’t want to impose lockdowns that are too strict. They have to balance those two priorities. And number two, it’s fraught with danger. That means if they get the balance wrong, there are grave consequences: too lenient and the virus can be devastating; too strict, and the people could revolt against the government.

When I think of a balancing act, I think of a person walking on a tightrope. It’s not easy to walk that tightrope and if you lose your balance—if you don’t get the balance just right—you fall off.

It’s often said that working parents face an impossible balancing act in the modern work world. In the workplace, we face pressure to be connected and responsive all the time and the work day tends to expand later in the evening and into the weekends. However, parents have a responsibility to spend time at home, with their kids, not distracted by work. Kids need a lot of attention, too, and let’s not forget about the personal needs of parents. That sounds like an impossible balancing act. You want to have a good career and advance at work, but also spend the quality time that your family wants, needs, and deserves. That’s the classic definition of a balancing act, and I salute all of you working parents who perform that balancing act every day.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about Facebook and its efforts to moderate inflammatory or untrue content on its site. Facebook also has to perform a difficult balancing act. If they allow too much inflammatory content on their site, they’ll be responsible for the spread of false information, which can lead to some pretty bad outcomes—up to and including mass murder. But if they pull too much content down, they’ll be accused of discriminating against certain users and they’ll lose the trust of their customers. There are many reasons to be unhappy with some of Facebook’s decisions, but you can’t deny that it is a balancing act.

Startup companies often have to perform a balancing act between acquiring new customers and keeping existing customers happy. This is a tough one, and as the owner of an online business, I can attest to the fact that this is a balancing act. If you put all your effort and resources into attracting new customers, then you can’t improve the product for your existing customers. They need some love, too; ignore your customers and you’ll go out of business quickly. But if you devote all your time making the 100 percent perfect product for your existing customers, then you can’t grow, and you’ll eventually run out of money and go out of business that way. So many startup businesses have to perform this balancing act of improving the product and taking care of existing customers, while also marketing to new customers.

Quote of the Week

Time for the quote of the week. Have anyone ever said to you that you’re wasting time by doing something you like? Watching movies or TV is a waste of time; you could be working. Cooking is a waste of time; you could just buy that sourdough bread at the store. Well, here’s a perfect quote for you: “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” That’s by the author Marthe Troly-Curtin and it comes from a novel from the year 1911 called “Phrynette Married.” I can’t claim to have read the book, but I did enjoy that quote by one of the characters. “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

See you next time!

And that’s all for today. Stay safe in Europe or wherever you are. We’ll be here no matter what. Plain English is an essential service. JR and I can’t do anything about the virus, but we can do our part to keep you informed and help you learn a little English during these difficult times. We’ll be back again on Thursday.

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Story: COVID's second wave