How to Strike the Perfect Balance Between Buddha and Elon Musk

Mike Fishbein
Jul 19, 2015 · 8 min read

Many of life’s most important questions are rooted in finding a balance between “Buddha” and “Elon Musk.” This was covered in part one of The Buddha-Elon Musk Paradox.

But everyone is different and they all have their own opinion, so how can you know what’s best? …

What’s your opinion on black licorice? Not that many people are indifferent about it. Black licorice is pretty polarizing, either you love it or you hate it.

Reading about black licorice isn’t going to help shape your opinion. Looking at pictures or watching documentaries won’t help much either. If you want to know if you like it or not, you have to try it for yourself.

The same principle applies for most things in life. You can consume as much information as you want, but the best way is to take matters into your own hands. Below are a few ways to do so.

#1. Take Personal Responsibility for Your Emotions

There many things in the world that you can’t control. You can’t control the weather. You can’t control everything that happens to you. But, one thing you can control is your mind and the way you perceive things. You can choose to be happy with certain situations, and you can choose to be unhappy in those same situations.

Regardless of what you choose to do in your life, you must have a solid foundation and understanding of self. Otherwise you will never be happy, no matter how beautiful the beaches are or how expensive your watch is. It starts with taking personal responsibility for your emotions.

#2. Incentives: What Makes You Happy

Every decision comes with costs and benefits, pros and cons….and they’re different for everyone.

If you are really good at making money and starting companies, then the incentives are more aligned for you to be more like Elon Musk. You might be able to achieve that material success and that can bring you a lot of happiness. Then, you can go on vacations, eat gourmet food, donate money to a cause you believe in, or do whatever else you want.

Conversely, if you are not skilled at making money and you don’t consider yourself to be an entrepreneur, trying to be like Elon Musk is going to be very unsatisfying.

You might never achieve your goals. You might constantly be striving for more and never truly appreciate what you really have. Or, you might make lots of money and still not be happy.

Different people enjoy different situations. Maybe you enjoy selling. You enjoy talking to people, trying to make a sale and you love a tough challenge. In this case, a more Elon Musk track might lead to more happiness, potentially regardless of the outcome.

Now, in a different light, if you enjoy being alone, reading, and studying philosophy or psychology, then you might want to spend all your time doing that. You may be better off working as a beach lifeguard, librarian, or as a ski instructor. In this case, being Elon Musk and working 80+ hours per week is probably not going to be satisfying for you.

#3. Experiment: Test and Iterate

Try being Buddha. Try Being Elon Musk. Work 80 hours weeks and see how it goes.

Travel, seek out new environments, meet new people who live a Buddha lifestyle, Meet people who have tried being like Elon Musk, and see what it’s like.

Gain some new experiences, try new things, and see what makes you happy. If this scares you, then maybe you need to decide how important it is to you before you try anything (stay tuned for part 3).

Take some time to be alone, take some time to see how your mind works when you are by yourself when you are away from social conditioning.

After you do that, you’ll be able to answer some of the following questions:

What do you gravitate towards? What do you want to do with your free time that makes you happy? What do you do get excited to do on a Saturday when it’s your day off? Do you go and read Cosmo or do you go read a marketing book? Do you go socialize with friends or do you go to work even if you don’t have to?

Just go and see what you do when you’re on your own. This may require some traveling, to get completely out of your surroundings and completely into a new frame of mind.

Think about what makes you happy. Think about the times when you were so happy that you lost track of time. What about the times you got so excited you felt like you couldn’t focus?

Try it out, and if you don’t like it, then great! You haven’t failed. You’ve just learned one more thing about yourself!

#4. Start Small

I live in New York city, but I just went to to Ithaca, New York. It’s a very rural area. I stayed at a beautiful AirBnB right on a lake and it was really nice and relaxing. I went by myself. It ended up being an amazing weekend.

Try taking just one weekend you might otherwise spend partying and do something different. Do something that’s good for your mental health, like going to the gym or eating healthy.

Try going to sleep early one night and see how that affects your mood. Try going on a run at midnight and see how you feel the next day.

Try taking a weekend trip to a random city you’ve never been to. Or, try spending a weekend alone instead of going out with your friends.

Do a digital detox. Turn your phone off for the weekend and see if you can survive. I promise you, you will, and it will be refreshing.

Run small experiments first to get data quicker and ease the pressure of making a larger decision.

#5. Give it Time and Enjoy the Process

Getting to know yourself does not happen overnight. It takes patience.

If you get impatient over trying to find a balance and experience anxiety as a result, then it’s a paradox. You’ll never find the balance when you’re acting out of fear.

You have to have confidence that you’ll figure it out. You have to love the idea of learning about yourself rather than fear failure and uncertainty.

One mindset that I have taken is to be passionate about figuring out what my passion is. This has helped me enjoy this process and not to put too much pressure on it.

I was joking with my friend that figuring all of this out was my master thesis or something, as if it’s something I’ve been trying to figure out for about the past five years of my life.

But, you know, it’s actually more than a thesis. It takes longer than five years to truly get to know yourself. And it’s more valuable, too.

So, I’m giving it time while continuing to explore different avenues and also working hard on my business.

I remind myself to enjoy it and to be grateful for all the small things in life.

Once you think you’ve “figured it out”, you’ll be faced with other challenges and problems. It never really ends! :)

But, if you learn to love the process of “figuring it out”, then it’s much more sustainable.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Everybody is going through this, whether they show it or not.

Other people don’t even have the luxury to even consider this. Some people can’t even make these choices because they have to work in order to feed their family. They can’t spend their money on travel; they have to feed themselves. They can’t start businesses; they don’t even own a computer.

So, be grateful that you even have this opportunity to consider. You’ve got the power over what kind of lifestyle you want to live and what philosophy you want to adopt.

#6. Find Balance

I’ve created my own little bubble within New York City. I don’t hang out at the big midtown clubs with all the bankers and models. Instead, I hang out downtown, at the restaurants and parks I like and create my own reality.

I hang out with other likeminded people who are interested similar things. Some of my friends are like Buddha and some of my friends are like Elon Musk. I’m able to strike a balance within New York.

It doesn’t need to be all-or-nothing. You don’t need to be on a beach in Thailand or working 14 hours a day in New York City for the rest of your life.

When trying to make big decisions, it’s important to remember that nothing is permanent.

You can be Buddha for a month, only to realize you want to be more Elon Musk. You can move to NYC, realize it’s not for you, and then leave.

In addition, you don’t have to be Elon Musk, or Buddha, all day every day. It’s not all-or-nothing. You can take vacations and sabbaticals for months or even years at a time.

It’s Your Choice: Take Action

How would you answer the following question: “How can I fall in love?”

You can’t. The reality is there really is no true correct answer. And the same goes for finding a balance between Buddha and Elon Musk, or any other major life decision.

You can never make a perfect decision. You can never decide overnight what the rest of your life is going to look like.

But hopefully by now you have accepted that and are okay with it.

However, you can commit to trying new things. You can learn to love the discovery process and no longer act out of fear. You can learn to choose be happy. You can learn to love yourself and your life, no matter what.

Instead of overthinking, take action.

Identifying what’s important to you is a great starting point — whether that’s staying in your comfort zone, not failing, conforming, etc — or becoming your best self, making an impact on the world, etc.

Take some time to be alone so you are free of distractions and other people’s opinions. Take a weekend even in your own city just to be yourself.

I like to wake up early and take about half an hour to space out in the morning. I just let my mind wander. It’s kind of my version of meditation and that’s been extremely helpful for me to just sort of get in touch of myself.

Then, try and see for yourself!

There are however two more important considerations. Considerations that may be holding you back from taking action, or from being happy regardless of what decisions you make. Part three is about nonconformity and “the why.” Check it out here.

Mike Fishbein

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Writer, marketer, deadlifter. More at

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