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Can You Have It All?

When news came out last May 2021 that Bill and Melinda Gates were filing for divorce, I felt sad even if I didn’t know them personally.

I was sad because I used to see them as the epitome of people who had it all: wealth, fame, intelligence, status, marriage and kids. They seem to excel in every area of their lives. And the icing on the cake? They work full time in their foundation doing charity and humanitarian work. How cool is that? Who doesn’t want to be like them: financially-free and traveling everywhere to solve world problems?

I even follow them on Linked In and read their blogs as well as Bill’s year-end book recommendations. That is why when their marriage fell apart, I questioned if it is really possible for a person to have it all?

Apart from Bill and Melinda, people were surprised when Prince Harry and Megan chose to voluntarily give up their royal status.

Of course, one can only speculate what really happened but coming from an outsiders perspective, we see them as the privileged living the dream. They have wealth, status, fame, power, influence and heck even the looks. So why on earth would they even think about leaving the palace?

News outlets say that there is one thing they are missing: freedom. They can’t really do things that they would like to do because they are secluded, they are followed by paparazzies everywhere they go, and they are expected to behave in a certain way otherwise, they will be judged by the world because everyone expects them to be perfect.

Even for royals, it’s hard isn’t it?

Nobody is capable of too much excellence

What I’ve learned from the past three decades of my life, is that you really can’t have it all. At least, not all at the same time.

For every choice that you make, there is something that you will need to give up in exchange.

Think about it this way. Actors join show business at a young age and earn huge sums of money. In exchange for this and their good looks, they give up on their studies and the normalcy of growing up as a teen with many friends in school.

A good example of this is Bea Alonzo – a top actress from the Philippines. We love her because she is gorgeous and she is an extremely talented actress. But recently, she revealed that one of her greatest insecurities is not having the privilege to go to college and finish schooling.

Likewise, Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao had multiple championship belts. However, he started to slowly lose them as soon as he focused on his political career.

Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”) started as a professional wrestler. He was really famous in wrestling but when that part of his career was over, he pivoted into acting and much to everybody’s surprise, he even became one of the highest paid actors.

What will you see in the above examples? No one is capable of being successful in everything at the same time. Nobody is capable of too much excellence. When you focus on something to succeed in it, you have no choice but to give up something else.

Even clowns juggle balls and drop some during a circus

In a typical circus, clowns would juggle multiple balls up in the air at once. But at some point, a clown would reach the maximum number of balls he can toss up in the air and he would end up dropping some of the balls to accommodate new ones in the process.

The same is true with life. You can’t keep juggling multiple things at the same time without dropping or deprioritizing other things. You can’t work on so many things at once without losing sight of something else.

As for me, I’ve learned this the hard way. When I was younger, I’ve always tried to get into the honor’s list not just in academics, but in almost everything I do in my life.

And while I was lucky enough to succeed in many things at the same time, I would always reach a breaking point where I couldn’t take on any more goals because I would always find that I didn’t have time and energy anymore to fit it into my schedule and so I would realize that I would need to drop something else to focus on a goal which is more important for me.

In retrospect, that is how I realized the hard way that you really can’t have everything. And to illustrate my point:

In 2008, I focused on blogging. I worked so hard on it that I became one of the top bloggers in the Philippines. My blog was so popular at that time that I even won in the Philippine Blog Awards. On the surface, it felt like I was on cloud nine and people around me couldn’t help but tell me how lucky I was to have it all.

But when I was alone, my thoughts would wonder and I would start to think about other areas of my life where I felt like I was not doing OK. At that time I didn’t have a girlfriend so I felt lonely. My software profession too, was a bit stagnant and mediocre and to add to that, my body was not in good shape – I was a bit overweight.

Then two years later, 2010, I decided to put fitness at the top of my priorities. That meant I enrolled in swimming lessons and started hitting the gym.

The reward came really soon after. In just a couple of months, I lost so much weight that I had to change my entire wardrobe. And while I was doing great in the looks department, my romantic life was again put to the backburner. I was single at that time and even if I looked better due to my new frame, I didn’t have a lot of time to date because I was so focused on my body goals and spending my free time running and hitting the gym.

Then in 2014, I decided to change my priorities and put all my focus on dating and meeting women. I went out with a few women and in just a couple of years, my hard work paid off. I finally found the love of my life who eventually became my wife. And so finally, I wasn’t lonely anymore. We got married in 2016, and we had two kids since. I felt glad that I was not alone anymore.

But as I focused more and more on married life and my software engineering profession, my blogging hobby and my fitness routine all fell apart. I found myself seldomly writing on my blog (read: I lost readers) and soon after, I also gained so much weight due to the lack of time to hit the gym. Eventually, I had to change my entire wardrobe again but this time for bigger clothes. It was a bit depressing to see the blog I worked hard for and the body I built for so many years start to slip away. I felt down for months. The frustration is just so palpable. But it is what it is.

You can’t have it all at the same time

But as I looked back, the whole journey I had in the last 10 years was eye-opening. Because that is when I came to the conclusion that you really can’t have it all. And maybe, that’s OK.

Maybe it’s OK that during your teens you focused on getting that degree and diploma instead of having fun with your friends playing computer games.

Maybe it’s OK that during your twenties, you focused on hitting the gym, looking your best and finding someone to love even if your job seemed to be mediocre at first.

Maybe it’s OK that during your thirties, you focused on your spouse, kids and career so you didn’t have the time to maintain those six pack abs.

Because at the end of the day, each one of us is like a clown in the circus. During different stages of our lives, we pick a different battle. We pick a different ball to juggle, and in the process, we may end up dropping another ball with lesser priority at that time.

And you know what? Maybe, that’s OK.

During the course of our lifetimes, our goals would change often depending on which stage of our lives we are in. It is virtually impossible to succeed in many areas of your life, and keep succeeding in all those areas while you continue to take on more goals. It’s simply not sustainable. Because as soon as you take on more goals, you will realize that you will lose grip of the other areas of your life that you previously succeeded in.

After all, you are not a superhero. You simply can’t have a ripped body, while also being a CEO of a company, a good husband/wife, an “always there for my kids” parent plus a rich, influential and famous person all at the same time. Your time and energy are limited and at some point one of these areas will break. But the more important question is, which one of these things will you let go of? And which ones would you like to keep?

Pick the battle that makes sense to you in your current stage in life

So what’s the trick here?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you should pick your battles depending on which area of your life you are in. Focus on 1-2 main goals which you want to excel at and pick 2-3 secondary goals which you would like to keep as a form of your “support system” to keep you going.

As an example, if you are a student, you may want to double down on either becoming the top of your class OR becoming a varsity player. Pick one of those as your goal and make sure to become so good at it that it will be impossible to ignore you. Then pick 2-3 secondary goals to make sure you have the right support system in place. Maybe one of your secondary goals would be developing good friendships to make sure that you have a strong support group when things don’t go well.

Then when you graduate from college, you may want to focus on building your career and getting promoted. Then maybe you can choose fitness and having a romantic relationship as your secondary goal to have something that would inspire you as you progress on your career.

And when you get married and have kids in your thirties, you may want to shift focus to being a good spouse and a good parent before anything else. You can put your career on standby mode while you watch your kids grow for a few years before revisiting your career. You may also want to maintain a healthy weight as a secondary goal because health is always wealth especially when you have little kids depending on you.

In this example, you can see how you could switch priorities from one to the next. You can rotate your goals and make sure that at one point in your life, you have succeeded in them before you step on to another phase in your life. And once you go to the next stage, you can pick another goal that would make sense for you at that time and try to focus and succeed in it while putting your previous goals in the backburner or in autopilot mode.

After all, even Ronald Raegan was not an actor and a president at the same time. He was an actor first then years later became the president of the United States. Because even he, knew, he couldn’t do everything at the same time. He jumped from one goal to the next depending on which stage of his life he is in.

And so, even if your goals change from time to time as you navigate through life, one thing that should remain constant is having a support system that will always keep you in check. Whether that would be your faith in God, a romantic relationship, a friend or a family member, or better yet, all of the above – you should always have someone to help keep you on track and also to watch your back in case something does not work out.

So the answer is NO, we can’t be the best at everything all at once. But by trying to not have it all at the same time, but instead, trying to pursue your goals sequentially one at a time and rotating them while also keeping a healthy balance of your relationships, is the ultimate key to having it all.

Hi, my name is Chris and I am the founder of Pinoy Guy Guide. As a guy living in Bonifacio Global City in Manila, Philippines, I have a strong interest in writing about men's fashion, lifestyle, pop culture and gear for guys.

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