Think back for a moment. When did you last come up with a really innovative and ground breaking idea? When did you solve that business problem that had been dogging you for ages? When was the last time you made a business development breakthrough? When was the last time you had a revelation about your future?
I’ll bet a pound to a penny that it wasn’t whilst you were slogging your way through your emails or on the telephone to an irate client and I am darned sure it wasn’t in a meeting. No; the kind of outcomes we have been describing come from reflective introspection in an environment that you find conducive to thought. This is called Purple Time.
The big problem with Purple Time is getting enough of it. Come to think of it, drop the Purple and apply the statement to time in general but whereas with Red Time (activity) you can use, pretty much, whatever you have available to get things done this does not apply to Purple Time. This is especially true if you have a job to do and are expected to do some business development as well.
Consider the time you spend doing activities as fast food time: get it and consume it on the hoof. But, Purple time is more like preparing a fine meal at home for someone special. The lead up to it is all important and the consumption should be considered and savoured and it should definitely not come with a deadline. “Hurry up with your creme brulee would you darling I’ve got the property team arriving in 5″. I think not!
So if you want to be more in control and have a clear idea of where you are going here are my three steps to Purple Heaven: -
- Figure out your Purple Time. It can be different for all of us. Mine used to be running but since I can no longer run it is walking. I also experience Deep Purple Time when I am driving with the radio off although I don’t recommend this as it can be highly dangerous. What were you doing when you had your last Eureka moment?
- Stack the Purple Deck. If you don’t make Purple Time it just won’t happen I’m afraid. It’s not really a matter of booking it in; I’ve yet to add an entry to my Outlook calendar that said “Experience Purple Time”. Whatever your Purple activity is make sure that you go out of your way to get some, preferably on a weekly basis.
- Write things down. If you are not very careful your special time will turn into a sort of a thinking-shop in the same way that many brainstorming sessions at work become nothing more than talking shops. This is all very well but it is the outcome we want not the experience. So, when you emerge back into a less than Purple reality write down what you came up with and, where necessary, insert some tasks into your chosen task management system. Action, action, action!
JC Penney the great American retailer once said “the most seminal moment in my business career was when I realised I couldn’t do it all myself”. He was referring to delegation but I think it is easy to widen the sentiment to other types of assistance.
Most of us have at some point in our working lives believed that we should be professionally self sufficient: not needing anybody else to provide ideas, energy and inspiration. “I bet Alan Sugar, Richard Branson and Simon Cowell never needed any help so neither do I”.
I don’t subscribe to this viewpoint myself. In fact I believe the opposite: seek out as many ideas and as much energy and inspiration as you can from as many sources as you can.
Whenever I am exposed to these sources of inspiration I always think “if they can do it so can I” and it never ceases to energise me.
I read Richard Branson’s autobiography where he shares his early career which was far from smooth. What I took from it was not how to build a global empire but rather that shit happens and you have to deal with it, never give in and always be on the lookout for the next thing. If he can do it so can I.
When I visited Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home in Kent, I was struck by the way he balanced his work life with his hobbies (painting and gardening), how he never lost belief in himself even in his darkest days and his general love of life; it oozes out of every room and corner of the garden. If he can do it so can I.
Reading a quotations book where great men and women have managed to present a valuable piece of their wisdom into a few words especially does it for me. If they can do it so can I.
Just a couple of other sources of inspiration I would like to end on: http://www.ted.com and Director magazine. TED contains loads of videos of passionate and successful people sharing their experiences and beliefs – well worth a visit in my opinion. Director magazine is published by the IOD and has loads of information and stories in it many of them relating to people who have overcome adversity to be successful. If they can do it so can I!
The whole point of this is to seek out sources of energy, inspiration, ideas or anything else that gets you going as often as you can and then use them for that very purpose.
I bet you do this already but do you do it enough?
- Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.
- No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.
- No one has a right to consume happiness without producing it.
- Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.
- Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
- Life is either a great adventure or nothing.
- I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.
- Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.
- People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.
- It is hard to interest those who have everything in those who have nothing.
Learn more about Helen Keller here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Keller.
Here’s a thing. Just before Christmas I was the keynote speaker at the Eversheds IT conference in Birmingham. The event was a combination of me speaking, which took up most of the afternoon, some group work, a couple of excellent videos (not involving me) and then a round up by the CIO.
We then all got changed into our penguin suits and posh frocks and hoovered up some really delicious scoff. After dinner the CIO ran an awards ceremony for the staff and key suppliers who had also been invited to attend.
Now the reason I mention this is two-fold: -
- The fact that they had invited the suppliers really did make us feel part of the team and to be presented with awards for various things (not me I hasten to add) was even more inspiring.
- The employee awards represented genuine achievement across the whole department and whilst everybody could see the fun side they were also taken very seriously; and so they should have been.
As the awards were being presented you could see the recipients grow taller by the second. Honestly it was a pleasure to watch.
I didn’t see anybody receive an award that the room thought was ill-deserved which only served to strengthen the team spirit and boost morale. Sadly I was flying to Germany very early the next day and so could not stay for the disco but I heard later a good time was had by all. Not surprising: there was enough energy buzzing around to give EON a run for its money.
As I have mentioned on many occasions if you want to establish rapport and strengthen your management techniques one of the key things you need to do is show people that they are appreciated and valued. This awards dinner, and the event as a whole, managed to achieve this with room to spare.
You may not be able to organise an event for your team or your department on the same scale but it doesn’t have to be. Fair and just public recognition for exceptional results or effort above and beyond the call of duty in say, a team meeting will do just as well.
In these hard times you may not be able to award large pay rises or offer promotions and even training is being cut back (shame on you ) but you can recognise contribution which will go some way towards filling the gap.
Congratulations Paul, it was a truly great event.
I have a friend who recently went to Japan. Whilst there he met a Buddhist monk who happened to be leading their meditation session. Now the thing with my pal was he had a big question he wanted answering, perhaps one that we all want to be answered “despite having it all why don’t I feel contented?”.
Having come this far he thought it would be a shame not to ask the question so he did. The monk thought for a while and then said “do more of what makes you feel good about yourself”. Simples eh?
For me this translates from the original Japanese into “do more of what makes you feel energised”. This message kind of supports something my father told me years ago: “don’t divide your life into work and play son; look at it as things you like doing and things you don’t”. Wise words Poppa, thank you.
So how does this help to get your life back then? Well I think we all end up doing things that take energy away from us (for God knows how many reasons) and not doing enough of the things that turn us on.
So here’s the skinny. Start looking at your life as being made up of a number of conductors: those that channel energy towards you (and make you feel better) and those that suck energy away from you (and, guess what, make you feel worse).
This takes a bit of doing actually but when you get the hang of it three things will happen: -
- You will work harder to avoid engaging with the things that are negative conductors – more on this when we explore saying “no” in the next GYLB blog in the New Year.
- You will more easily spot those positive conductors that make you feel good about yourself.
- You will begin to take a longer term view of those stubborn negative conductors that you can’t get rid of easily and how to position yourself to get more of the positive conductors that won’t just drop into your lap.
That last point is the one to focus on. Have you heard this one? “when you’re up to your ass in alligators it is difficult to remember that you are there to drain the swamp”. Cheery thought eh?
All of us, especially me, spend a good deal of our time and energy on the here-and-now and soon-to-be: if it isn’t pressing and proximate (and biting our ass) we just don’t have the time for it. This means that change, which takes planning and thought (just like draining a swamp does, I would imagine), does not come readily which just leaves us with those alligators snapping away.
With the New Year almost upon us why don’t you start by identifying your positive and negative conductors and doing something about them. Here are some of mine: -
- People – I am going to actively see less B1 and B3 and more B2 and B4 people (see #1 http://wp.me/pY2x4-7o)
- Work - more speaking, more writing, more small group coaching, more client liaison (B2 and B4 only), less coaching the subjects I don’t like and avoidance of work I just know is going to be trouble from the start.
- Self – I really like exercise but don’t make enough time for it. I think this must stop. I will treat exercise like a client meeting: booked and honoured.
- Home – clutter drains energy from me more than pretty much anything else. I am going to dejunk big style!
In the final analysis we won’t do more of what energises us unless we have control of our lives. That control won’t happen without our intervention and that intervention won’t happen unless we make time for it. That leads nicely into the next instalment ”saying NO”.
Here’s a story that will make you realise that nothing can defeat the human spirit when it decides it wants to achieve something.
Daniel Kish had is eyes removed at the age of 13 months due to retinal cancer and so has never know the gift of sight. However, you are very likely to see him cycling unaided through his local park or hiking in the mountains in charge of a group of blind teenagers.
Daniel has developed the art of echolocation to fantastic heights. By continually making clicking sounds and then listening for the echos coming from the objects around him he can build a mental picture of where he is and what obstacles are in his way.
Here he is hiking right next to a sheer drop – awesome!
He now spends his time teaching other blind people to do the same effectively giving them a whole new sense and thus providing them with a freedom that they have not experienced since they had full sight or forever if they were born blind.
A remarkable story and very inspiring but what difference does that make to you, you may well ask. Well I think it makes loads of difference. Most of us have a tendency to give up on things if they hard to master (imagine how hard it is to become a human bat) preferring instead to defer back to the old and comfortable ways. I don’t think Daniel opted for this approach.
If you want something badly enough and are prepared to sacrifice whatever it takes to get it then nothing can stop you. Change almost always comes down to perseverance and a willingness to fail – in Daniels case I imagine that this involved real pain.
Inspiration comes from within, change comes from sacrifice and fear crowns the status quo as king!