One of the most memorable flights I ever had, was a short hop over to London. I was seated beside the comedian Frank Carson who, sadly, passed away recently. Frank told about 337 jokes during the 50-minute trip. There were adults kneeling up in their seats – similar to the way kids ‘look back’ at people sitting behind them – just to listen to him. 50% humour, 50% packaging (“It’s the way I tell ‘em”), 100% funny.
Great Mimic: At the time most mobile phones had a standard ring tone. Frank was able to mimic the tone (“Burrrrrp, Burrrrrp”) and kept doing it throughout the flight and then shouting: “Turn that bloody thing off. I won’t tell you again”. It was the first time I was ever sorry when the plane landed. Later that day I was due to make a presentation to a mixed managerial audience and asked him for a good opening line. He told me a very non-PC (but brilliant) joke, which I couldn’t use at the event, but have milked ever since. Afterwards it struck me that Frank was ‘on stage’ all the time when he was in a public space. Despite the fact that he wasn’t being paid, he played the role of comedian.
On Duty: Many executive roles are stressful. The day is filled with ambiguity around competitor strategies, customer defections, pending legislation and more pressure on pricing than Marge gets from living with Homer. Like Frank Carson, many executives feel that they are always on duty. Dinner meetings with potential funders, investor relations, staff celebrations. Even the Christmas party is a place of toil for senior executives who have to watch what they drink, what they say and particularly, what they do. We know that an element of pressure is great. It helps us get up in the morning and perform during the day, putting air in the tyres. But there is a general consensus in the medical community, that too much pressure over a sustained period of time is seriously detrimental to health. We always knew that ‘all work and no play’ made Jack a dull boy; now we also know that too much pressure over a sustained period can make Jack a dead boy. Or Jill. There are plenty of indispensible people in Glasnevin Cemetery to prove the point.
Personal Oasis: You need to find a backstage space, out of the floodlights, where you can Chillax. Have a drink, wear jeans and a t-shirt. Just be yourself, expressing opinions that will not be reported in the media. Fling aside the execute persona and return to being whoever you were before you became really important, famous or both. The Catholics among us were taught that even God took a day off during the week (‘On the 7th day he rested’). Perhaps you should consider doing the same.
PS: Having a bad day? Two animal rights defenders were protesting the cruelty of sending pigs to a slaughterhouse in Bonn, Germany. Suddenly, all two thousand pigs broke loose and escaped through a broken fence, stampeding madly. The two helpless protesters were trampled to death (perhaps only ex-Butchers would find that story funny).
PPS: To put that relaxation idea into practice, here’s what the next generation is producing. The girl in the attached clip, wrote and performed this song in an audition for the Irish Youth Music Awards. There’s hope for the future…
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