Subscribe

Is Life A Dichotomy Or Can We Really Have It All?

Life-Dichotomy-Duality-Polarity

All throughout my life I’ve been torn between the desire for what feels like two opposed worlds.

One is leading a high octane, high impact life; building an empire, making an impact, contributing in meaningful ways and fundamentally rising to the pinnacle of my human potential. A life that allows me to make a mark and leave a legacy.

That world is characterised by fast-paced action, high stakes, high pressure, continuous growth, and momentum. It’s a life of chasing logarithmic returns, exponential growth and competitive advantage.

Ultimately, it’s a life of restlessness fuelled by an insatiable ambition.

Then the other side of me desperately craves the simple life; having a cabin in the woods, living off the land and being fairly cut off from society and commerce, connecting deeply with nature, escaping urban jungles and going from megabits to sticks and bricks — building life one block at a time. It’s a life of linear returns, organic growth and cooperative advantage.

Ultimately, it’s a life of modest desires and contentment.

The question that I’ve grappled with for years now is — can these two worlds co-exist, or are they distinct and contrasted with one another?

Put another way, must we make a choice, or can we make them work in harmony?

If the perfect blend of both is achievable, then these two worlds are simply a duality, or exist in polarity to one another, on a continuum of experience.

However, I question whether that’s the case in reality. That in fact, we must make a decision and choose a path. Like a fork in the road, most things in life are in fact a dichotomy and we live within a fantasy that a blend of the extremities can co-exist.

Dichotomy vs Duality vs Polarity

Dichotomy: A contrast or division between two things that are opposed to each other or are sharply different. A division of a class of something into subclasses that are mutually exclusive. I.e. they are separate

Duality: A classification into two subclasses or opposed parts. I.e. two parts of one whole

Polarity: the presence or manifestation of two opposite or contrasting principles or tendencies. I.e. two ends of a spectrum

These three phenomena fascinate me when it comes to exploring all aspects of life. Is life a constant choice of never-ending trade-offs or can we in fact, have it all?

My Journey

Over the last 7 years I’ve been helping to bring a vision to life which is to see a world full of entrepreneurs solving more meaningful problems by standing out, scaling up and doing good in the world.

At Dent Global, a company I co-founded with Daniel Priestley and Glen Carlson, we call these entrepreneurs Key People of Influence. Our collective values for both our team and our clients are to be brave, to have fun and to make a dent in the universe.

What many people may not fully appreciate is that the life of having a big impact and running a fast growth business can often feel similar to weathering the storm on the bow of a ship at high seas. Mast in one hand, guiding the ship with the other. Sometimes the stormy weather continues unabated for years on end. It’s easy to let the storm wear you down.

Of course, that’s just one side of me. I, like you, am a multi-faceted human being. But often I see myself in just two simple divisions — the driven side and the not so driven side. Each vying and tugging for front and centre placement in my psyche. As quickly as I follow one, the other calls.

And here’s the thing.

It’s just so easy to feel violently thrashed about by our cravings and aversions. Thankfully, we live in a world of abundance (not without its costs). Unfortunately, we’re constantly presented with options, opportunities, and trade-offs in a very visible and visceral way. Social media is the birthplace of psychological affliction from seeing the lives of others and wanting theirs to be our own.

The challenge is not to get pulled into someone else’s set of values at the expense of our own. We all live life according to a hierarchy of values (consciously or unconsciously) of what is most important to us. We all have our own supreme destiny calling on our lives.

Yet we’re often lead astray from our path simply because we’re not well attuned to what that path is. I believe the greatest journey of self-awareness is to get still, often enough and for long enough, to hear that subtle calling.

Crossing the chasm

On the other side of the chasm is the answer to some of these questions and, I hope, the potential for discovering how to blend and find harmony between life’s dichotomies.

However, there exists a tension between the two and I’m incredibly curious to explore how others manage their own dichotomies in order to release that tension.


In the not too distant future I plan to release a podcast that is devoted to exploring the dichotomies that exist in people’s lives and share how they’ve navigated them. The podcast is a purely selfish one, but I hope that in satisfying my own curiosity others will get value from it as well.

I’d love to know — where do you see the dichotomies existing in your life? What are they and what would you like an answer to? Comment below!

  • Adriana Irace

    I really liked this article Mike.This is exactly what I have been thinking for the last two years. Being almost 60 I wonder if there’s still time for me to become an entrepreneur. A successful one. Some days I feel strong enough and I dare to dream about it. Some other days I feel just a teacher. That makes me think that we are always choosing something. It is always about us and how we feel when we choose. We can have it all or we can have nothing. It is always about us. Maybe that’s the essence of life? Adriana