Job Seekers: Are You In a “Balls Out” Job Search?

I know you have heard the term “balls out” used with regard to something going very fast. It has become one of those phrases with a meaning that is universally understood even without a detailed knowledge of its origin. I have a t-shirt that I bought to support the “Balls Out Racing Team” at the Reading Motorcycle Club that teaches boys and girls as young as age ten about the value of competition in tackling life’s problems. I love the double-take reactions that I get when I wear that shirt… No dude, it is not dirty! Just so you don’t have to search for it on the internet (and believe me you really don’t want to go there) the term comes from the days of steam engines. Balls Out refers to the centrifugal flyball governor that regulated the speed of the engine. The weight balls on the governor would extend as the engine speed increased and when it was running at the full allowable safe speed it was said to be going Balls Out.


Boulton & Watt Engine of 1788

Any activity that is at risk of going out of control could use the principle of a governor to control the pace. A job search is no different. Sometimes the way is smooth and sometimes it is pretty rough traveling, but a constant pace is necessary to reach the destination. Here are a few principles of regulating the job searching engine that should apply:

  1. The function of a governor is more or less intermittent. It does not begin to exercise control unless the specified limits are reached. Do your job search activities have such a limit? It is difficult to measure such things as personal effectiveness or stress, but to ignore that limits exist is an invitation for something to explode. The discipline to impose limits comes with understanding the dangers of the worst case scenario. The urgency to reach the goal of a new job does not override the need for proper diet, exercise, sleep and personal relationships. When these vital factors are impacted it is time to impose restrictions on the search.
  2. One factor of a mechanical governor is to maintain a constant speed regardless of the load. Consistency of effort is crucial to forward progress in a job search. Sensing that your search engine is coasting means that you have power to spare in tackling other new ideas. This is the time for the “What if I tried this…” questions. If the path seems to be bogged down with obstacles it may be time to back off and take things more slowly. “What tasks can wait until later…” doesn’t kill the effort, but it will help balance the load. There will always be a changing environment to force adjustment in the effort to insure maximum output.
  3. It has been said that a job search is like a full time job. To have a Balls Out search the speed must be maximized and not allowed to just idle. The governor is only a tool and just one part of the process. It is important to recognize other controls that may be needed. To forget to turn up the heat when necessary defeats the purpose of setting limits because they are never reached… and neither are the goals. Turning up the steam in a search may be required because the destinations do not come to you. You must go to them.

The Balls Out approach can be used to find that new job and also guide you through making a meaningful contribution once you find it. The constant analysis of your personal goals and abilities makes you an effective employee, neighbor, friend and person.

Picture Credits:

  • Centrifugal governor illustration is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
  • Boulton and Watt centrifugal governor-MJ picture used under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license – Free to share.
  • RMC Balls Out Racing T-Shirt Photo



    • Cyndy Trivella on October 12, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Great analogy Tom!

    Yes, a comfortable pace (with focus and attention, if I may add) is an absolute must in a job search. To “unbalance” one’s life while in a job search, is tantamount to putting all eggs into one basket, which can lead to disappointment and disparity.

    IMHO, everything in life is a Yin-Yang paradox where balance teeter totters, when all the while demanding stability.

  1. Another function of a governor is to limit speed based upon the capabilities of the machine. A care engineered to go 200 mph has a different governor setting than one whose max speed is 125.

    My 100% isn’t yours; but your 100% on one day can turn into a new measure of 100% when you identify best practices used by others and incorporate them into your way of “doing.”

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