I follow a friend’s blog about Murder, Mayhem and Medicine for two reasons: he writes well, and the subjects are usually far away from my daily fare of computers, clouds and security. In a recent post he wrote about a beautiful plant, the oleander. It is a common shrub in warm climates and produces beautiful, fragrant and colorful blossoms. However, the sap from leaves and stems is highly toxic. Yet from this poison comes a successful drug used in China and Russia to treat congestive heart failure and arrhythmia. On the other hand, the drug has also been an instrument of suicide in those same countries.
There are probably hundreds of other examples of wonderful medicines that can have terrible consequences when misused. It is a delicate matter of balance.
Balance is important in almost everything. Some people thrive on the thrill of what I call fail-bad balance, like high wire artist Freddy Nock. He walked up seven different cable car wires in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in seven days to raise money for UNESCO. In a fail-bad balance situation, when something goes wrong the consequences are usually very bad. He had no safety wire, but he made all seven.
Think of the great sporting events you have seen or even participated in. The winners are always working right at the edge. The difference between a perfect 10 and out-of-the-running is often just a hair’s breadth.
At the other end of the balance spectrum is what I call fail-safe balance, and the best example is the Weeble. Hasbro introduced them in 1971, and our kids had 2 inch and 2 foot tall Weebles. Their motto: “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” Our kids pretty much proved the motto was correct. We helped a bit.
In sports, hobbies and games, “winning” is the goal, however you have defined it. It really doesn’t matter that you don’t “win” every time; the result of not winning may be embarrassing but is usually not a serious problem.
Some people try to run their business on a fail-bad plan. As long as nothing goes wrong, they do amazing things. Then they go out of business because something or someone messed up. Most successful businesses are run as fail-safe – lots of controls and independent checks to make sure that when something goes wrong it can be quickly corrected or dealt with. Many corporate IT organizations have spent years if not decades building a fail-save IT environment. A few years ago a major airline had a serious fire in their datacenter that held their operations system. This is the system that, among other things, creates reports that the FAA requires prior to a passenger plane backing away from the gate. The result of the fire was that they could not get into their building for over a month. However, not a single flight was delayed because they had a disaster recovery system in place that they tested often and it worked. They had created a fail-safe balance between cost and availability. And it certainly paid for itself in just that one event.
Many IT executives view a move to the Cloud as a significant perturbation to their environment, one fraught with opportunities to fail-bad. They are right; it can increase risk. However, if properly planned and managed, the move to the Cloud can mitigate that risk and provide important opportunities to reduce your existing risk. Many Cloud Service Providers can provide a more secure environment and include disaster recovery options that you could never afford on your own. Design, plan and implement for a fail-safe balance.
The last word:
Balance applies to your personal life. It is important to create a fail-safe balance between your sanity and the things “that must be done.” Maybe they don’t all have to be done. Just sitting and talking with friends and family can be important to maintaining that balance. I love a great home-cooked meal, and Suzy is a great cook. But sometimes a quick to prepare and easy to cleanup picnic around the kitchen table is a better idea, even if there is snow on the ground. It is all a matter of balance.
Happy Holidays and a prosperous 2013, by however you measure prosperity.
Keep your sense of humor.