Thursday, 25 September 2014

Don’t give up!

As a rallying call to business, they probably don’t get much more relevant than this and yet it would be hard to imagine a simpler phrase. So how come something so simple can profoundly alter the course of a business and often yield success when disaster appeared to be looming?

The uncomfortable truth, I think, is that this line of thinking relies heavily on gut instinct and a deep-seated conviction which is impossible to put into words. For that reason, not giving up often looks like an illogical course of action and who likes to be thought of as someone who acts without proper thought and consideration of all the issues?

 Over the years I have been fortunate enough to witness past masters in the art of not giving up and I like to think a little of that experience has rubbed off on me. Think of the animated cartoon character that runs off the edge of a cliff and still tries to get back by spinning his feet fast enough to somehow defy gravity – in the same way, business people who just don’t give up appear to be able to perform magic and bend the rules of nature.

This may sound a little fanciful but I believe there’s more than a grain of truth in the theory. Why not harness that feeling of pushing the boundaries and achieving something extraordinary – I think it’s what I’ve been doing for years, if only by instinct.

Of course, this is all tied up with the concept of risk and any business needs to take risks in order to grow. So why not think of adopting this strategy for a small part of your business and see what can be achieved before scaling up fully?

As well as the downside of appearing out of control or deluded there are many upsides to weigh in the balance:

The fear factor itself is liberating and energising. The success is going to taste all the sweeter for having been won against the odds. You will gain infinitely more respect from all the parties involved for demonstrating unswerving faith and perseverance in pursuit of your goals. What’s more, the benefits for that action will be multiple and probably come from all manner of unexpected and very welcome sources to help you grow in new and exciting areas.

You may also appear to be something of a magician as you pull a rabbit out of the hat when all around had given up on you. Who in business doesn’t need a trick or two in their repertoire to keep the target audience coming back for more!

Thursday, 11 September 2014


No, not another column about being lazy! I’m back from the summer holiday now and moving on from extolling the virtues of laziness. What I’d like to offer this week is a little reflection on how difficult it can be to achieve business goals without being properly relaxed.

For me, sport and business are pretty well connected – indeed the very concept of coaching, now rightly so popular in the world of business, originated in the world of sport. So, I often draw parallels between business and my particular sport, which is running. Having started again to run later in life, I’ve benefitted greatly from expert advice when warming up for a large event. The bigger events where money is being raised for charity often have professionals on hand to help you warm up thoroughly. It is no coincidence that these are the events where the best times are always achieved.

With a professional to guide you, it’s easy to make sure your muscles are relaxed and supple enough to cope with the stresses and strains that are about to come the way of your ageing legs. I know this is a physical phenomenon and the stress in business is very often mental but the connection is very definitely real.

After all the brain is a muscle and that’s often where business problems start and finish – inside your head. Physical relaxation very often leads to mental relaxation and it’s a great place to start if you’re looking to improve your business and overall performance levels.

I also know from personal experience that physical relaxation aids focus and clarity of thought – the very tools you absolutely must have to help you cut through complex business issues. It stands to reason that relaxed people perform far better that tense ones but how often do we ignore that fact and plough on regardless?

Ignoring the need to relax can have disastrous effects far beyond a malfunction on the day. To continue the sporting metaphor, muscle damage can ruin a footballer’s season or even end his/her career so the effects can indeed be long-lasting. High stress levels can of course be damaging in a business context and very often the answer to the problem comes from within.

Of course, there are many ways to relax and I can clearly remember a situation that mattered for me. Having failed my driving test on more than one occasion, I was indebted to the instructor who finally got me over the hurdle. His secret of success was very simple – he relaxed me with humorous stories before the test and got me to put my nerves out of mind. Jokes and humour are obviously very light-hearted things but when used to good effect as on this occasion the results can be life-changing.

Don’t be afraid to relax – we all need to warm up like professional athletes, especially in a business world that often requires mental marathons of us!