The Hunt for My Pullover: In Ireland we call them Pullovers or Jumpers. Preferably made from pure wool, it’s the single best way to keep the damp at bay, during the 9-month weather period (October to June) in Ireland when the major meteorological change is the intensity of the rain.
Purple Rain: On this particular Tuesday, I definitely needed a Pullover. It had been raining steadily for 22 hours. The wind was howling in from somewhere east of St. Petersburg. To make matters worse, I’d forgotten to put the office heat on ‘timer’ and the place was colder than a Polar Bears’ testicle. Chained to the computer to finish a report, I was feeling sorry for myself. Whatever the opposite of a Purple patch is, this was it. Something had to be done. Fast.
No Chocolate: It was mid-way through the Catholic period known as Lent – the 6-week run in to Easter. While no-one in our house is religious, Linda keeps a fasting tradition going as a form of self-discipline – with a complete ban on chocolate during Lent. It’s a hard rule to enforce. For example, I could just put €6 of petrol into the car and have a sneaky Mars bar 7 times a week in the garage during refills. But, that solution seems like hard work. Meanwhile, Linda keeps herself busy – buying multiple Easter Eggs for our kids/her nieces/nephews/mother and stacking them in full view on the Mantelpiece in the ‘good room.’ And, like that Oscar Wilde quip, “I can resist anything except temptation.” On such a gloomy day, I definitely needed a fix.
The Raid: The most important thing when launching a stealth mission is to bear in mind the 11th Commandment: ‘Thou shall not get caught.” While this may sound self-congratulatory, it actually required quite a bit of dexterity. Maneuvering my left hand through the tiny gap in the bottom of a Galaxy Easter egg and wriggling out the enclosed packet of Minstrels. A slight bend, but not a single tear in the cardboard box. Result! However, the main problem with chocolate is that it tastes like more. Outside, the rain was lashing down, with not a glimmer of hope. There was nothing else for it – but to go back in again. You have to be brave. That’s what I always say!
Reflection Time: Answer me this: Have you ever (since you were 7+ years old) eaten a huge Easter Egg in a single sitting, wolfing it down in case anyone entered the room and you’d be caught red-handed? I felt queasy for about 12 hours – the potent combination of an upset stomach intertwined with remorse about being weak-willed. Hey, I’m guessing that your empathy may not be in overdrive right now. Perhaps you are busily recalling the wonderfully evocative phrase: “Serves you f***ing right!”
Managerial Discipline: Great managers, in my experience are highly disciplined. Of course, there’s some genius about – people able to foretell market futures, invent computing languages or come up with something equally exotic. But most managerial careers are built on discipline, not inspiration. Woody Allen said: “80% percent of success is just showing up.” I believe it. You start by learning to manage yourself and you eventually lead others. So, how exactly do you ‘manage yourself’?
Routines & Resilience: By developing routine processes and sticking to them. By working hard and ‘trusting that the process will deliver.’ By taking account of what other people say and coming back to them – whether the answer is a Yes or a No. By positive self-talk which doesn’t allow you to be moany, embracing a ‘woe-is-me’ narrative – becoming addicted to your own misery. And by resisting metaphorical Easter Eggs that come in the shape of ‘sick days’, taking it ‘handy’ or otherwise slacking off the rope. William Wallace said: “Every man dies, but not every man truly lives” (I’ll make the working assumption that he meant that to apply to women too). Most of the successful people I’ve bumped up against to date, have two things in common. The first is that they exercise personal discipline. Hard work. Routine. Focus. The second thing is that they don’t buckle when (some) things inevitably go south. They have mastered the art of resilience – by building on previous triumphs (which are like credits in the bank) and by understanding that not everything in life goes swimmingly well. They know that 92% is as good as it gets.
Cast Iron? It’s not a cast-iron success formula. Some people deal with awful health issues, for themselves or close family members. Accidents can ruin lives. And so on. The notion that we have full control is a myth. But the opposite notion – that we have no control – is a much more destructive myth. If you can develop a powerful routine and wrap some personal resilience around that – you are well on the road to success. The bonus point is that you’ll be as happy as a hammer in a nail factory.
Too Late? Perhaps it seems too late to start all this stuff? You might be 30, or 40, or 53 and feel that things haven’t gone so well to date? May I suggest that you steal shamelessly from the JK Rowling line: “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
So, how should you respond when someone says they don’t believe this “You are the CEO of your own life bullshit?” Tell them (honestly) that you’ve yet to meet a rich cynic!
PS Lighter Note:
Last Will and Testament: Dave Smith is on his deathbed and knows the end is near. His nurse, his wife, his daughter and 2 sons are with him at the hospice in London. He asks for 2 independent witnesses to be present and a camcorder to be in place to record his last wishes. When all is ready he begins to speak:
“My son, Bernard, I want you to take the Mayfair houses.”
“My daughter, Sybil, you take the apartments over in the East end.”
“My son, Jamie, I want you to take the offices over in the City.”
“Sarah, my dear wife, please take all the residential buildings on the banks of the Thames.”
The nurse and witnesses are blown away. He’d seemed like a very ordinary guy and they had no idea of the extent of his holdings. As Dave slips away, the nurse says to his wife:
“Mrs. Smith, my deepest condolences. Your husband must have been such a hard-working and wonderful man to have accumulated all this property…”
“Property?” she replies.
“The arsehole had a window cleaning round.”
From John Mc Glynn: Marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning all you need is two hearts and a diamond. By the end you’ll wish you had a club and a spade!
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