Andrew’s Blog: Thou Shall Not Covet

Thou shalt not covet. This is one of many instructions handed down hundreds and hundreds of years ago to give the human race clear guidance. However, like the terrible cook that I am (except for steak and eggs), I know that there is plenty of room for error in between the reading of the recipe and dinner time, and the same can be said for these commandments. We could be given all the instructions in the world, and it still might not lead us to perfect results.

But going back to the historical order, “thou shalt not covet…” I suppose my question is… why not? Why can’t I look across the road and see a faster, more expensive car and use that as my motivation to work harder? Why shouldn’t I watch the Olympics and want to look like the swimmers when I arise from a holiday swimming pool and therefore kickstart a fierce workout regime? Is there really a suggestion that wanting some of what someone else has and using that as a springboard into action to make that wish a reality is bad?

Why shouldn’t we hear that voice saying, “what you have achieved so far is not enough?” why shouldn’t we be riddled with doubt and the feeling that we are not good enough and we are never going to be good enough? Why shouldn’t we push ourselves past our edge and into a free fall of depression and anxiety and oh… I get it.

This is the Andrew Sillitoe Show, and today we are talking about life in the fast lane.

If you run your own business, chances are you are motivated. Chances are you ask yourself questions, sometimes daily, like “how can this be done quicker?”, “How can this be better?”, “How can I improve?”

All of these questions are important and should be asked. But sometimes they push us to an unhealthy place; sometimes they mean we end up in the fast lane against our will or even our knowledge.

I mentioned the Olympics earlier. If you’ve listened to the podcast before, you’ll know that I have a background in the sport. I am a hockey player, and so I have had a winning mindset for a long time. Playing sport and, in particular, team sports gives you great lessons that you can bring off the pitch and into your everyday life.

Skills such as teamwork, perseverance and hard work are vital in business. A setback in the first half doesn’t mean the game is lost before the halftime whistle blows. It means you can fight back, push yourself and win. These are all skills that I have taken off the hockey pitch and into my business. Sometimes, though, I have found myself travelling at full pelt in a direction I am not sure I consented to.

The fast lane often takes more out of you than it can give back. It could mean you are spending vast amounts of energy and time to simply not “fall behind”. When we are so focused on targets and data, we can forget the real reason we are here. I’m going to ask you a question now… Why did you start on the career path you are on? You can have a few minutes to think about it if you like. It’s not an easy question to be asked, and I know that from experience.

I have pushed myself too far in the past. I have put profit over people and sales figures over my family. I’ve asked you the question, “why did you start in the career path that you’re on” so I can check your answer isn’t “because I wanted to own the fastest car on my street.” I doubt it is. If it was, you might be feeling extremely vulnerable right now, and I am sorry for that. Perhaps you are listening to this podcast in your fast car, and you are so shocked by my almost psychic comment that you might cause a minor traffic accident. If that is you, please pull over now because we have more home truths coming your way and little to no time to wait for roadside assistance.

If you are pursuing your goals because of an inner drive to succeed, that’s great. If you are pushing yourself past your limits to get the next “thing” that you want, I’d recommend you readjust your motivations. I am not judging you. Like I say, I was in that “fast lane” trap myself. Do you know how sometimes you only realise how thirsty you are when you start drinking a glass of water? Work can be like that. You can be moving along really well and at such a speed that you are not listening to your body. It is only when you stop running that you can start to catch your breath.

As you can tell, when I was putting together this episode, I had just been swinging the kettlebell, and it made me thirsty.

However, it remains true that if you are living your life in the fast lane, you might be missing a lot of important stuff as you hurtle towards your ever-moving goalpost.

Yes, striving for excellence is essential, but when I think about why I started my business, it was, essentially, to make a better life for my family and to not turn into my Dad. Since I spent so much time away from my family to pursue this dream and whilst I was at it, I was heading towards the same early grave my father entered, it seemed I was achieving the complete opposite of what I had set out to do. I felt like a defender smashing the puck into my net. I knew what I wanted to do, but under pressure ended up doing the reverse..

The other thing about coveting what you don’t have is that you don’t know what it has cost the person who has it.

Sure after some jealous, frantic googling, you can work out based on the car reg, make and model, roughly what your neighbour has paid for their wheels, but you don’t know how much it has taken. How many missed dinners, forgotten birthdays or late nights in the office. And frankly, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is knowing that you are unwilling to make any sacrifices that will worsen things in the long run?

“Did you renew your life insurance?” My wife asked me this question over coffee this morning.

“Why? I’m not going anywhere.”

It’s a morbid thought, but it was a reality check.

LIFE IS A ONE WAY TICKET.

I must prepare for the worse. How would my family survive without me?

Then came an even worse thought.

I am not indispensable.

My wife is more than capable of making money and raising the family.

Remember: You are not indispensable.

Next time you question taking a holiday, or enjoying an afternoon off or doing the school run, remember the business will carry on.

Your business and team will survive.

Life will carry on, so make the most of the time you have and don’t stress.

Life in the fast lane might feel unavoidable, but if you put the breaks on, you might start to notice that there is more that you’re passing by than you are experiencing.

The graveyards are full of indispensable leaders.