Thursday, 5 August 2010


Part 1 The Curse of The Short-Sighted Balance Sheet
If you own any kind of machine, you know full well that it requires maintenance. Parts need replacing, the insides need clearing out, and everything needs to cool down. And this principle applies every bit as much to people as it does to machines. And yet people will run mind and body into the ground until it stops working. This is the Curse of The Short-Sighted Balance Sheet.

If I don't rest for one hour, I can achieve one hour's extra work people say. This disastrous false economy shows up only too well on the long balance sheet, as mind and body become increasingly inefficient, achieving less results become less flexible, less adaptable to change. In this first part I will discuss why this complete folly is so endemic in our culture and how long-term success depends on a "heads-up" not a "nose to the grindstone" attitude.

Few of us would disagree that you need to work hard if you want to get ahead, that’s certainly true, but there is some confusion over what hard work actually means. Some people take this concept of hard work and interpret it to mean perpetual work. Hard work is good for you and good for your business. Perpetual work is folly and a disaster for your business.

If you take an interest in formula one motor racing, you will know that in order to win the race, during the course of that race, you will need to make a pit-stop, which serves two purposes, to get refuelled and your tyres changed. In fact, in any long term endeavour, time out is essential for victory.

And yet, while people can see the need to service their cars and their machines, the need to maintain themselves properly is nothing like as well recognized, except in the area of sport and particularly football. No football manager who wants to be in a job next month (because that’s about as long as is tolerated without a result) runs his players into the ground. If a match is not particularly important, the really important players are not used.

My friends, there is absolutely no difference between how a football team and your team should be run. If it happens to be your business, who is the star player in your team? It is you! There cannot be a result without you. When you’re exhausted, so is your business.

And the reason you need to take care of your wellbeing is the same reason a manager takes care of his players, because if you don’t, you won’t win! You see, out there are people called competitors, and it is in their business interest to see you working at less than your best, because if they are, they’re the ones who’ll win your customers and steal your market from under you.

The folly of our time in business is that you beat the opposition by working harder, and it’s untrue. When you and your competitors are both working hard, the deciding factor is not who’s working hardest but who’s working smartest. The winner of the marathon is not the strongest, not even the fastest, it is the smartest, the one who paces himself better than anyone else, so when you’re neck and neck with 500 metres to go, you’re the one who’s got an extra sprint left in you.

My fellow business people, looking after yourself is your key to victory, your key to a result, to the success that you so much want to achieve. Success in business is about the survival of the fittest, and that doesn’t just mean your procedures, your plant, your business plan or your leadership skills.

It means you as an individual, for a business is only as good as the people in that business, and the most skilled talented people around are useless if they’re not running at peak performance. My friends, a new era is dawning in business, and like any new era it has been brought about by necessity and crisis, as across the world the folly of decades of irresponsible lending and borrowing come home to roost.

But I for one refuse to take part in a recession! I will not be cutting back, scaling down or giving up. I will be investing, and I have been and will be continuing to invest particularly in my own wellbeing. My business happens to be bringing balance and wholeness to the minds of others, and I can only do that by keeping my own mind in tip-top match-fit readiness.

My every thought, every feeling, every emotion is managed, controlled, developed, worked on, every mistake learned from, every obstacle treated positively, I have studied and go on studying the wisdom of the ancients and the wisdom of modern thought to keep my mind at the absolute peak of efficiency. And I’m not doing this to become Superman, or a holy man or as a fun hobby, I’m doing it to be successful in my business.

In this new enlightened era of business there is going to be a different emphasis. Business is becoming increasingly less business to customer and becoming increasingly more about person to person. The faceless corporation has had its day. This new dawning has come with the information revolution. Thanks to the information revolution, data, information and the channels of communication and mass market are no longer in the hands of the biggest and richest.

Now, sat at my keyboard, I can find out anything about anything, and I can buy and sell to and from whoever also has a keyboard, so who am I going to choose? It will be people I have got to know and trust. And I am not likely to buy from the stressed, the worn out, the cynical the tired, the fed-up and the too busy to talk to me.

Now more than ever, and increasingly so in the future, you will need to be positive, healthy, calm, balanced and friendly. You will not be able to hide behind a desk and the company any more, so you had better be fit and well in mind and body, because it is to the healthy, not the obsessive and the manic to whom the future of business belongs.

Can you feel it? Can you feel the wind of change blowing? The prize of survival does not go to the biggest and best, ask anyone who used to work for Lehman Brothers. It goes to those best able to adapt to changing environments.

Wellbeing is no longer an optional extra. It is becoming a key essential component of business success, and if you are a business owner you have a stark choice to make. You can convince yourself it doesn’t matter and ignore it, or you can get on the bus and take advantage of the opportunities out there to get yourself and your team at the peak of condition.

A team that is sound in mind and body and morale that is sky high will always and every time stuff the pants of a competitor where everyone’s worn out, stressed, depressed, overworked and ill. And from now on, as the individual becomes increasingly important, so wellbeing will also become more important.

But be aware also that like any other aspect of your business, it must be done right. Bringing in the masseuse every Friday might be very nice, but will not necessarily make an effective wellbeing policy. The policy must be targeted, assessed, measured for effectiveness, tweaked and fine-tuned.

The policy must address the need, not just nod in the direction of wellbeing. It must be actively sold to the team and its need recognized. Bring in practitioners who not only do therapy but truly inspire, who can make real and measurable differences to performance, who raise morale when people know they are coming.

But above all else don’t pretend it’s an issue that will go away if you ignore it. Not only will you see happier and healthier people take all your business from you, you may find yourself another victim of the litigation culture, ex-employees suing you for constructive dismissal, or your competitors head-hunting your key players because they offer a comprehensive wellbeing package.

The rise of a wellbeing orientated business-culture is not a drag to be resented, it is a win-win situation for everyone. For those of us in the wellbeing industry, our time has come. We’re no longer a fringe market for hippies and tree-huggers, we are now being drawn into the very heart of the corporate environment as our product becomes increasingly valued.

For business and even Western Culture in general, the tide is at last turning from the work all hours culture, because we’re all getting a bit fed up with living in a society where there’s so much anger and stress. Mental illness and stress-related industry is costing us all an absolute fortune in lost man-hours, labour-turnover and that’s even before we talk about the burden on the NHS. The time has come to start doing it differently, and a bit later I would like discuss some of the personal benefits of wellbeing, but for now, thanks for reading.

Part 2 Moving and Meditation
A wise man once said that all man’s problems stem from the fact that he cannot sit quietly in a room on his own for half an hour.

We live in a culture that has by and large lost the ability to truly relax. What we have instead is what has been falsely labelled recreation. What it actually is in the main is distraction. When people finish work, they often reach for a drink or turn on the telly. Neither of these activities actually do anything to restore balance to mind and body.

When you come in from a busy day, your bloodstream awash with stress hormones, your mind with a hundred different problems, what you actually need is to restore chemical balance is to something that’s going to release different chemicals in your blood that aren’t going to harm you. This is why recreational pharmaceuticals like alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, opiates and many others fall down. However entertaining they might be, they don’t restore balance to the body, in fact they upset the balance even more. They temporarily make you feel better at the price of making ill even faster!

The irony is that within your own mind and body lies the ability to make you feel how you want to feel at zero financial cost and actually make you feel better in the process! And the techniques to evoke them are very simple and have been known for thousands of years.
All these techniques can be summarised into two things, movement and meditation. One of the easiest ways to discharge all that stress hormone is simply to get yourself moving in some way. Owning a dog is absolutely excellent for stress. With a dog, you get movement and meditation in one package, because when you’re out in the fresh air, taking in a bit of nature, your mind naturally becomes calm. So if you own a dog, you’re already halfway there.

Going for a walk, preferably every day and preferably round a park is another excellent stress reducer, so invest in a Gore-Tex anorak and a jumper for winter and you’ll feel better for it. There are in fact many different excellent therapeutic ways to get yourself physically moving.

And the other thing you need to learn is how to make both mind and body still, the practise commonly known as meditation. There are two common sources of resistance to this practice. The first is the widely held and false belief that if you’re not doing something or having something done to you, you are wasting your time.

Resting is not doing nothing! This is completely untrue! While you are resting, and proper resting means learning how to become utterly still, your mind and body are actually a hive of activity - a wondrous regeneration worthy of Doctor Who takes place! Your body is being repaired and refitted in a way that I will go into shortly.

The second source of resistance is that meditation smacks of religion, hippies and mumbo-jumbo. This is because originally it was. If you wanted to learn how to still the mind you used to have to sign up with some sort of spiritual religious person, and he would teach you how to become physically and mentally still.

Of course you also had to then sign up for his religion as well, or at least do all the rituals, which was fine if that was your religion of choice, not so great if your beliefs were elsewhere.
But these days my friends we live in the information revolution, where all human knowledge and experience can be Googled, and so you don’t have to sign up with anybody to learn the ancient techniques of mind-calming and stillness, and in fact you can use them to strengthen your own beliefs or none, there are plenty of atheist meditators out there as well as the spiritual and religious ones.

Meditation in itself is purely a technique that calms mind and body and restores balance. What meditation does is to set off a whole body system known as the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the rest, digest and repair mechanism. It has five principal benefits:

1. Boosts immune, digestive and reproductive systems.
2. Boosts cell regeneration and prolongs life
3. Promotes clear thinking.
4. Strengthens concentration
5. Sleep better

Our ancient ancestors, who originated in West Africa, did not need to meditate because they didn’t spend all day worrying about orders, customers, bills clients and tax returns. They were surrounded by nature and it was the most natural thing in the world between hunts to calm yourself in front of the campfire. But unless your going to give everything up to live in a tribe on the African Savannah, you are going to have to artificially induce that naturally calm state.

You know, your body is incredibly patient with you. It has been designed by the mechanism of evolution to be resilient and adaptable, to cope with and adapt to every kind of environment the planet has to offer, but it cannot sustain imbalance indefinitely.

How ironic that we here in the northern hemisphere lead a lifestyle most in the third world can barely dream of, where we have eradicated diseases so prevalent in the third world like leprosy, malaria, measles, diphtheria and tuberculosis, only to make ourselves ill in all kinds of new ways because we aren’t looking after ourselves, and the time has come to get real.

However much we can control nature and shape our environments, we are products OF nature, and if we want harmony in our minds, our bodies, our relationships, our businesses, our family our country and between nations, we need to get back into harmony WITH nature, because nature is more powerful than us, and if we push nature too far as we have been doing, both to our own bodies and the planet, nature on which we all depend will stop looking after us.
If we want to be successful in business, in our relationships, and in life, we need to come to terms with the fact that we’re not islands. Our wellbeing has a direct effect on everyone else. Particularly, if you’re the boss, you set the tone for the whole place. If you are grumpy and stressed, the whole working atmosphere will be grumpy and stressed. If there is disharmony within you, your home and business will be disharmonious.

On the other hand, a team leader at peace within, is going to inspire confidence, and with confidence comes loyalty and commitment, and that means results, success, and the things you want for your life.

The science fiction writer Aldous Huxley once wisely commented Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. One of my personal heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. commented that we live in a world of guided missiles and misguided people.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are not here very long. We are only the most transient of visitors to a world that was here long before us and will be here long after we’ve gone. Let us make the very best of our day in the sun. Let’s take pleasure in the creation of our businesses, the generation and distribution of wealth and make the very best of all we have and all we’re capable of doing.

In order to that we need to be in harmony with the nature from which we arose, are still intrinsically linked to and ultimately dependent on. Look after yourself, and life will look after you.

Thank you for reading!