Lighten Up

Andrew’s Blog: You Need to Lighten Up

It’s often said that when someone is lying on their deathbed, they rarely mention, in those last moments, that they wished they’d worked more. Maybe they wanted to have seen more, travelled more, loved more but rarely, if ever, worked more.

 

Humans are extremely capable of adapting and evolving. We learn to listen to our bodies and respond accordingly in many ways. Fire burns, so we keep a safe distance. If you’re feeling thirsty, drink some more water. However, when it comes to our work, we stop listening to our bodies. We push through with things that make us uncomfortable. We feel we have to stay longer at our desks, work weekends, check our emails before bed and generally go against what our bodies tell us. Your work is better when you are happy, but this fact, we ignore. It is as if getting as many sadness points as possible will make us somehow seem braver and more hardcore to our peers.

 

When I think back to school and the learning I embarked on, it is not often the lessons in the classroom that stick with me but the ones I learnt on the playground.

 

That break time when I saw the new kid sitting eating their sandwiches on their own, and some and my mates went over and asked them what their name was and if they wanted to play with us. We didn’t want to be friends with them. We were being nosey and needed a goalkeeper.

 

I think about the kid who isn’t at the top of the class when it comes to maths and science but can beat the school 100m record by 3 seconds and the pride they took in that.

 

I remember itching for the lunchtime bell to ring because we knew after sitting at our desks for what felt like days we would soon be able to laugh and run but, most of all, play.

 

Those games we used to play at break time were so important, but as we got older, those games, that playfulness we’d see only on the occasional or non-existent “away days”. The time we spent away from the desk when we were young was as crucial for confidence, development and happiness as any correct answer in English. So what changed?

 

We grew up. I, somewhat reluctantly, due to a combination of playing street hockey regularly and the general pressures associated with adulthood which I saw reflected in the grown-ups around me.

 

When I was younger, I was very competitive. I bet I was more competitive than you. See?

 

I became an athlete and a business leader, so it is clear I never lost that competitive edge that began when I was little. My goalposts moved from coming first on sports day to winning gold medals as a coach at global sporting events, but as the prizes got more prominent, the rewards seemed smaller and more than that, they cost me dearly.

 

Success is not the prize in the end. Often people start a job because they are passionate about it today.

 

Think about how many children want to be an astronaut or a footballer or a dinosaur in my son’s case when they grow up. It is not because they want to be acknowledged by NASA or win a playoff final after a long season of injuries or live near a volcano. It is because those things are cool and exciting. It should be the work that brings you joy, not the end goal.

 

It’s not holding the statue at the Oscars that means the most, or else everyone would stop after they’ve won one. Actors continue being actors after receiving the highest honour they can get because they love their craft, so they carry on. Thinking about it, the only person who should have stopped after they won an Oscar is Nicholas Cage.

 

When I think of success, it’s hard to ignore the incredible achievements of Bill Gates.

 

Bill Gates said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

 

There are two things I want to say about that.

Firstly, if it’s true, it clearly shows that Bill Gates has a sense of humour, and I doubt that he has got as far as he has without one, which is the whole point of me talking to you today.

Secondly, I think this quote made me smile so much when I read it because of its truth. It’s not about staying at your desk longer than anyone else. It’s not about how family engagements you missed show your dedication. It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter.

 

There was a reason we had so many playtimes at school when we were younger. Yes, it’s because teachers were sick to the death of children after just minutes with them, but also because setting time aside for play, for laughter, for fun is all part of success. We need to get back to the playing.

 

I’m going to tell you a story about a friend of mine who is an actor. She was doing a show and was nervous. The show was about her being an actor and following her dreams to become one. It was a comedy, and she knew she could make people laugh but had a couple of slip-ups during the show at the start. Then she made a mistake. She said the wrong line ultimately, and everybody knew it. She stopped, acknowledged it, made a joke about how she couldn’t even tell her own words correctly. No wonder she couldn’t get an agent, and it got the biggest laugh of the night.

 

We like it when comedians mess up jokes and own them. We want it when a waiter drops a tray of food and bows when the restaurant claps because they haven’t taken themselves too seriously. Unless it is our tray of food and we are hungry, then it sucks.

 

We like to laugh. And it is good for us.

 

A 2011 study done by Dr Ursula Beermann, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Innsbruck, looked at how different people reacted to themselves when they saw their reflection in a funhouse mirror. Those who laughed at themselves the most had the fewest negative emotions and were more prepared to acknowledge they were “not the centre of the universe.”

 

That’s why I have installed a funhouse mirror in my office.

 

That’s not true, but I do try and laugh at myself more. I try not to take myself as seriously and have reluctantly discovered I am not the centre of the universe, nor do I have the world’s weight on my shoulders. This allows me to stand a little taller and smile a little more as I do so.

 

A 2009 study conducted in Maryland found that people who laughed more were less likely to suffer from heart disease. Not only that, research has found it improves short term memory and increases your pain threshold. This means, presumably if you fall over and laugh about it, you are far less likely to hurt yourself when you do it. I am not, and I can not stress this enough, telling you to run at walls to see how funny it can be, but next time you trip, and you think nobody’s seen you know that almost certainly somebody did, and they found it funny, so you might as well too.

 

Next time it’s raining, and a car drives past through a puddle and splashes you, swear at them, by all means, but then, when they are out of sight, laugh about it, but make sure they’ve gone. You don’t want to give that horrible driver the satisfaction. And get out of those wet clothes, so you don’t catch a chill. It is essential to laugh at yourself, but it is harder to laugh when you have pneumonia.

 

Put, laughing at yourself makes you live longer and makes you better to be around.

 

Your career is a marathon, not a sprint unless you are a sprinter, and then your career is exactly that. Of course, targets, goals, awards and medals are important, but there should be other measures by which we judge ourselves and each other.

 

If you get to the end of the day and you feel like you’ve not laughed yet, you’ve been too careful. Invest in a funhouse mirror. Dance like nobody’s watching, or if this all seems too much like hard work, you can fake it until you make it.

 

Research has shown that the body gets as many benefits from fake laughing as it does from a genuine one. Sitting for three minutes with a pencil in between your teeth, forcing you to smile, has an immediate and positive impact on your mind and body. Also, you might be less likely to be bothered at work because people don’t want to talk to the strange person at the desk who is chomping down on their HB pencil.

 

These are jokes. I hope they have made you laugh. And if they haven’t, laugh anyway. It will make me feel better. And I promise it will make you feel better too.

I can make your life longer and more enjoyable.

All you have to do is lighten up.

Andrew’s Blog: Speak Your Truth

How many lies have you told today?

Depending on what time of the day you’re reading this, the number could be extremely high. I don’t want to rustle too many feathers so early into the blog, so rest assured they don’t have to be big lies. I’m not out and out calling you a liar.

But chances are unless you’re living an exhausting and time-consuming double life or have been a successful secret agent, the lies won’t be big ones but you will have told some. But how many?.. Roughly?.. I would be surprised if your answer is zero. In fact, if your answer is zero, I think I will call you a liar…

 

A recent study conducted by the University of Massachusetts found that in a 10-minute conversation, 60% of people told on average 2-3 lies. So depending on how long you’ve been awake today, chances are you are racking up mistruths into at least double figures. But don’t feel bad. It’s not just you doing it. People are lied to between 10-200 hundred times a day. It seems we’re all at it.

 

So is honesty really the best policy? Or are we being lied to about that, as well?

 

This is my blog where I talk about balancing living in a complex world. Thanks so much for reading in. I’m really glad you could join us…Honestly.

 

As you heard from my introduction, truth-telling may not be as commonplace as we think it is. However, this idea does prove that telling the truth can be difficult. If it was easy, surely more of us would do it more often.

 

There is a science to the lies we tell. For example, studies show that about 25% of lies are told for the benefit of others, to protect them, support them and assure them that no one would have noticed how drunk they were at the staff party, and they really have nothing to worry about on a Monday morning.

 

This means, however, that the rest of the lies, the 75% of the lies we tell, are to benefit ourselves. The thing is, though, they might not be benefiting us as much as we think.

 

If I ask you to think of what you want, what would your answer be? Unless this question is at the forefront of your mind daily, it might be hard to answer, but I am going to encourage you to have a think.

What do you want?…

 

I want to be really clear that I want you to search for an honest answer. Today we are going to start getting to the truth. This question was probably easier to answer when we were younger.

 

I think the reason we as adults like asking children, “what do you want to be when you grow up” is because the answers are often hilarious. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was 6, I would have said a Hockey Player. I said it with confidence, honesty and determination. If you’d have asked my friend Katie when she was 6 years old she would have told you she wanted to be a Dinosaur.

When I asked my son, he said to win the Stanley Cup. Of course.

 

All of these dreams were clear, honest answers to the question, “What do you want to be?”

As we get older and have more regular visits to “the real world” not only, often, does our passion go, but also our honesty. I am going to invite you to have a quick think about what you want, and I want you to answer honestly. Only when we know what we are seeking will we know when we find it. Being honest about what you want is the first step towards achieving it. So be honest. What do you want?

 

Once you’ve worked out what you want, the next challenge is, of course, how do we make it happen? This question is another where lying to yourself and others will not serve you no matter how much you think it will.

 

Let me give you an example. I, as many of you, know by now, play hockey. I love playing hockey, and I am motivated to keep playing and improving as much as possible. I want to be the best player and teammate I can possibly be. If I want to achieve this, I need to be realistic about how to do that. It means taking into consideration training; it means eliminating alcohol intake, making sure my diet is providing me with the fuel I need to succeed. The least I owe myself, and the least you owe yourselves is honesty about what it takes to get to where you want to go.

 

There is a famous image; I’m not sure if you’ve seen it or not, of a ballet dancer on pointe, where they are upon their tiptoe in a ballet shoe. The image next to it is her foot without the ballet shoe on it. Her toes are bandaged, plastered, cut and bruised. Now, let me be very clear, the takeaway from this isn’t nor should it be “if you’re not bleeding by the end of the day, you’re not working.” There is little to no benefit from ending your workday with less blood in your body than you started with. But I think it is a helpful reminder that success takes hard work, sacrifice, compromise, enthusiasm, dedication and honesty. The ballet dancer makes it look deceptively easy, but they know how much it took to get there. They are honest about what it takes. And we should be too.

 

Success in business and in your personal life takes honesty. From listening to your body and really hearing what it has to say, whether that is “we need to rest” or “we could do with some exercise.” all the way to the terrifying thought that someone in your business may be able to do a job just as well as you. A thought that I confess, I struggle with sometimes.

 

If you run your own business, as I do, you know it is not just a job. It is a passion, a life choice, a tangible, real part of your existence. It is often one of the first questions we are asked when we meet someone. Remember those events we used to be allowed to reluctantly go to when we are trapped in the dreaded small talk of-

 

“…sooooo….what do you do.”

 

Although this pandemic has been going on for so long now, I almost miss an awkward small talk. My point is, the fact that running a business takes so much energy and passion means, by default, that many of us fall into the “control freak” category of humans. And there are plenty of us there.

 

We are unable to contemplate that someone else could do the job as well as us, and maybe that is true, but if we are honest, as we are trying to be from now on, remember, it shouldn’t stop us from delegating.

 

Running a business shouldn’t stop us from asking others for help when we need it. Running a business should actually force us to be better at it. It shouldn’t stop us from listening to all ideas before making a decision. Honesty comes in all shapes and sizes, and when it comes to speaking your truth, it has to come with the courage to share your truth with others and allow them to do the same. Elton John wrote, “sorry seems to be the hardest word”, but being more of a Beatles fan, I tend to relate more to the song “Help”. There is a strength in letting go and asking for help. And there’s a truth to it. And that’s what today is all about.

 

You are not under oath unless you currently are, and in that case, why and how are you listening to this podcast? But most of you are not under oath. So please don’t think that, following this episode, if you want to be a successful leader, you can never tell a lie again. But try and focus a little more on speaking your truth.

 

The great Mark Twain once said, “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” so start speaking the truth to yourself.

Want to level up your leadership? Start with the Ten Daily Habits