Posted on April 28th, 2010 by Colin and is posted in Career
On the 31st of April 2010, metaphorically speaking, I take my final bow on the corporate stage to go play in the public domain and follow my passion of helping others live theirs.
This marks a significant ending in my life.
When we give ourselves time to think about it, endings can enrich our lives. Endings make things unique and valuable. The intent of this post is to highlight the preciousness of my experience by capturing what working in the business world has meant to me.
The last seventeen years have been an amazing time and I’m hugely indebted to everything the corporate world has given my family and I. It’s enabled me to grow into my potential and afford us opportunities and possibilities and a life way beyond what I though was possible all those years ago. The business world has been a crucial arena for me to express my highest values – love, service and spirituality – whilst knowing that these are words not typically associated with business.
I’m immensely proud of the lifestyle my boys have been able to enjoy and the opportunities they’ve been afforded, especially our year long sabbatical on the magical Island of Fuerteventura.
Before I launch into the five things the corporate world has taught me, here is a little background information which will help create some context around my five lessons.
Before entering the corporate world at twenty nine, I’d drifted from one job to another. I’d been a network marketer, shelf stacker for Tesco’s, cheese scraper for Sainsbury’s, window cleaner, a green keeper for a private golf course, gardener, milkman and a taxi driver. Although I enjoyed many of these jobs, I knew this wasn’t what I was put on this planet to do.
Just before joining Speakers International, I’d started to study NLP, Erickson hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy, with the goal of starting my own therapy practice. That was until a friend called me to find out if I’d like to join Robbins Research and be a field sales representative selling tickets for Tony Robbins’ seminars.
I said yes and really enjoyed driving the length and breadth of England, dropping into company sales meetings to deliver a power packed one-hour pitch. In that one-hour we had to build rapport, deliver some value and close people for £175 per ticket. For each one we sold we got £25 commission and, if you didn’t close them there and then, there was no food on that table that day!
Although it was high pressure I loved it! I had started to find something I loved and I was good at and after two years of that, a few of us got together to start Speakers International, a company that focused exclusively on providing mindset solutions to our clients.
In 2006 we started a new chapter in the history of the company as we merged with Rogen to form a global consultancy called rogenSi – a consultancy that focuses on getting clients exceptional results through sales strategy execution.
So this brings my timeline up to date and leads me to the five great lessons the business world has taught me:
1. Maintain a grateful heart
I’ve seen with my own eyes how some become very cynical and sceptical about the corporate world. I’m not going to deny there are lots of things that are not good about it – the politics, the rules, the backbiting and infighting. The corporate world can, and does bring out the ugliest of characteristics in people – control, fear, insecurity, self-interest – that includes me!
That said, we could all spend our time whinging and complaining about what’s not right (many do!), but a higher path to travel is to be grateful for what we have, whilst being in pursuit of everything we want. Thankfulness does wonders for the soul and being thankful can become a way of life.
There are a number of things I’m very grateful the business world has provided for me. Here are few of them:
(i) Being paid to learn
I’ve never attended one, but I know Business Schools cost a small fortune. I, on the other hand, have been paid a lot of money over the years to attend the best business school on the planet. Its teacher is one on the most qualified in the world –its called experience.
The price of admission to this unique and highly interactive school is the willingness to be a student. The curriculum has been purposely designed to meet my needs and I’ve learned some awesome business and life skills. On top of the everyday learning experience, I’ve been paid to go on some amazing courses, learn some life changing stuff and in the process I’ve met some of the greatest teachers on the planet, including Cheryl Richardson, Tony Robbins, Brian Tracey and Stephen Covey to name a few.
I’ve visited over fifteen of countries (some many times over) in the last seventeen years – including America, Australia, Canada, Italy, Oman, Hong Kong and most of Europe.
Prior to starting Speakers International, I’d only flown six times and that was holidays to Spain and the Canary Islands. One of the most rewarding and enriching experiences I’ve had travelling abroad is to see how life is lived in cities and countries outside my own background. I believe it help can each of us become more tolerant towards each other, and help us connect with human kind’s past, and quite possibly build a bridge towards the future.
(iii) Finding my Purpose
All the jobs I had prior to starting Speakers International were merely a means to an end – a job. What I did was pretty irrelevant, since the jobs I took were only a means to earn money and pay the bills.
Through Speakers International, and latterly rogenSi, I’ve found my calling or vocation. We spend a great deal of our lives working and it’s our calling that gives us the highest level of enjoyment and satisfaction. While most workers understand jobs and careers, very few work in a way that reflects their true vocation. I feel I am now doing what I was put on this planet to do – remind people who they really are and inspire them to be it. And for that I’m eternally grateful.
2. Get around people who believe in you more than you believe in yourself.
There’s no doubt the positive effect great Mentors have had in my life. I’ve been fortunate to have a number of people who had faith in me and my success. And it’s quite possible I wouldn’t be where I am today with out it. We all need people who see us greater than we see ourselves, people who hold us to a higher standard than we hold of ourselves. They can liberate us from our self-imposed limits.
We all have times in our life when we really need someone to believe in us. You see, it’s easy for people to believe in us when things are going well. That’s the norm. But when times are difficult, when you’ve screwed up and most people are distancing themselves from you, the ones who still show their belief and confidence in you are rare and precious.
I recently posted a blog about one such individual, my greatest mentor – Jim Rohn. Jim was one of those individuals who had a profound and lasting influence on my accomplishments.
As one of my colleagues says, “I can see what I can see because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Make sure you have some giants around you.
3. Focus on what you are good at, and look to get a little better each day
This has been a primary focus of mine over the years. I’m certainly not the brightest kid on the block (those who know me will testify to that) but I did take to heart the advice my earliest mentor Jim Rohn gave me – work harder on yourself than you do your job. He’d go on to say, “Formal education makes you some money. Self education makes your fortune.” Jim believed strongly in self-development and self-improvement.
The biggest challenge I’ve encountered in the corporate world is the paradigm – self-improvement = fix your weaknesses. Corporate conventional wisdom says we should work on improving our weaknesses. I know that’s not what’s always said but often than what’s lived in the day-to-day culture. But this is a terrible waste of money, time, talent and opportunity.
There is now plenty of research showing that focusing on improving weaknesses doesn’t lead to vast improvements in performance. Often it’s because we have little or no interest in the area we are trying improve. Worse still, it undermines our self-esteem because we are constantly paying the most attention to our weaknesses.
Yet, when we look closely at anyone at the top of field they’ve got there by devoting their life to developing their natural talents. It doesn’t matter what field they’re in; they all got there by focusing on their areas of strength.
I’ve found working to develop my natural talents has been self-rewarding and motivating. It’s allowed me to continually tap into more of my potential and to climb to higher and higher levels of ability, achievement and success. Do I know my weaknesses? Of course! We all should. But I look for ways to partner with others whose strengths complement them, which makes for great working relationships.
Focus on your strengths and experience the deep satisfaction that comes with being superb at something,
4. Character is more important than control
The path to true authentic confidence is being comfortable in your own skin. To take that a step further, to be comfortable in your own skin you’ve got to know who you really are beyond the labels the corporate world gives you. You are so much more than your title or the roles you play. Your title is just that – a title! Who you really are is what’s left after you remove all the titles and roles the world has given you.
Do you ever feel like you’re an imposter? I know I have at times in my working life and it’s not been an easy thing to overcome.
We feel like an imposter when we’re able to act confident on the outside but we don’t really feel confident on the inside. One of the hidden causes of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is trying too hard to be who we’re really not. We really want to appear a certain way, to impress or gain approval, so we act out of a façade or persona.
Often this ends backfiring and instead of building authentic confidence we actually become less confident.
Coming from the corporate world it’s uncomfortable to admit this but many – too many – organisations reward the superficial over being authentic. They may talk about the need for character, but what’s rewarded is persona. They have lovely value statements on the wall like respect, trust, integrity, but what’s recognized are attributes of the ego – control, image and status.
There are great rewards for those who go along with this, and equally great threats for those who rock the boat. If you’re in the business world you’ll be all too aware of the consequences this type of egocentric leadership has on the culture.
There’s been a few business folk I’ve met over the years who have demonstrated that ultimate power comes not from being right but being real. Their actions arise from a deeper place within themselves. Their behaviours come from the essence of who they are rather than the learnt external personality. They are spirit-lifters to the people they serve.
This type of leadership transforms circumstances and opens up possibilities.
A unique characteristic of being human is self-awareness. Cultivating self-awareness allows us to cut through the layers of the ego. The ancient Greeks have a famous saying, “Man, know thyself.”
This is a significantly important saying because it reflects the understanding that self-knowledge is the foundation on which all other knowledge is built. If we don’t know ourselves, who we are, it becomes difficult to know anything else in depth either.
Many people I’ve met over the years, even senior leaders, know more about their favourite sports team, the latest news, or the latest cool app for the iPhone, than they do about themselves. It’s important to know the news of the day but it’s ten times more important to know yourself.
Knowing ourselves means knowing what we really value, knowing what is really important to us. When we choose with self-awareness we are able to keep in mind what we value most in life. With self-awareness we can intentionally create from a deeper place.
Only when our values and activities are aligned will we feel content and comfortable in our own skin.
5. Stop to start
Let’s start with a fact – work will take over the rest of your life if you don’t stop it! How do I know? Well, my own personal experience and the experience of coaching hundreds of execs.
Technology today ensures we are constantly connected to the office, blurring the line between work time and personal time. We can soon find ourselves trapped and exhausted by a raging current of busy-ness, at times finding ourselves unable to keep up, stuck in a continual fast forward motion, rushing to get the next task done.
This type of a demanding lifestyle, if sustained, can extract a personal cost. If we don’t stand guard, work can creep further and further in to our non-work time. Like a fast growing vine, it can end up choking our health and close relationships.
I have to put my hand up and say I’ve been guilty of this over the years, it’s been a tough lesson to learn and it all comes down to a simple ritual that’s becoming long forgotten in our busy, “I haven’t got time” modern world……….Pausing!
Pauses mark a small ending, before another beginning. Something ending is often not as exciting as something beginning. But it’s as necessary for a well-lived life.
One of the reasons why life is so unfulfilling for many of us is because we have lost, or never found, the habit of pausing and reflecting on a day, or a week or a month, or any period of time.
To reflect is to become conscious, and when we’re conscious we see it’s not only important to achieve our tasks on time, but also to achieve them in an enjoyable manner. Yet in the midst of our daily pressures and routines, and the go, go, go of our work life, it’s not easy to stay conscious.
There are a number of reasons for this, and one of the reasons is lack of education. It’s rare to find someone who has been taught to listen back to the day. Or listen back to the week. Or listen back to the month. Of replaying a period of time lived through our body.
Very few training programmes in the business world teach us to pause, take time out and gently think about what has been, both that which gave us heart and that which wounded us, that which lifted our spirits and that which deflated us. Such details about the day tell us a tremendous amount about ourselves – about how and who we are.
And so it is, therefore, that we miss a kind of instruction of feelings remembered and thereby stagnating a possibility for growth. For they would tell us everything we need to know about ourselves.
Pausing can help us understand our character, our underlying motivations, preferences and attitudes. Pausing can also help us understand our relationships and what we need from them and what we offer to them in terms of caring, openness, and closeness. Pausing can help us get clear on our purpose, on our values and our life vision which are all necessary for an authentic life well lived.
What we need to see can be hidden from us in the dark room of the unconscious, leading many of us to success without joy, and achievement without meaning. Without a pause we may find the outer goals are being met but the inner goals aren’t. If we continually neglect our need to pause we can become disconnected from who we are and what’s important to us. And however it happens, it can be a long journey home.
When I was lost, taking a year long sabbatical (a long pause) with my family, significantly helped me to find my smile. As a result I’ve come to hold timeouts in high regard. Purposeful timeouts, however short, can nourish our thinking. – allowing for reflection, creativity and a re-evaluation of what’s important to us.
Build more pauses into your life gradually. Stop to start again through choice and realise their benefit to you.
So there we go, an attempt to pause and reflect on the last seventeen years and what they’ve meant to me and the lessons learnt.
Thanks for reading. I wish you a wonderful career and a wonderful life.
If you are inspired, please leave a comment