At the end of the second of 3 days with Andy, a new client, he summarised his insights so far. Andy’s summary was about 5 minutes long, sharing what was fresh for him in that moment.
“So, I think you’re saying that worry is the loss of perspective” I said after he’d finished.
“Yes” he said. “That’s a summary of my own summary of what I’ve taken so far. It’s amazing to see the absolute truth of that!”
The previous day, on Friday, as we got started, he listed all the things to me that he wanted to resolve. They included things such as his past, his ‘recurring demons’, things in his personal life, his work, his company, and an overwhelming fear of the future. A long list of what he called his ‘struggles’.
Here we both were, by the power of video-call, 24 hours later and he had seen the truth about all the things that had consumed him for years.
Now, back to the day before, Friday. Two worries that were gnawing at him the most were the burden he felt towards his employees and the cashflow in his business in the coming few months. Andy has run his business for the past 14 years and it has grown to have over 40 employees, as a specialist supplier to several athletic footwear companies. Their work is unique and protected by patents. In listening to Andy talk about his business, his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I love what his business is up to and I’m excited about their future. Their vision of getting more people off their butts and onto their feet inspired me to go for a long walk on the Friday evening after our first day was done!
Andy felt less inspired. His employees, suppliers, customers, supply chain and cashflow had all become bulky to him. He felt responsible for the happiness of his employees, and that any mistake he might make as the CEO could be catastrophic (his word) to their lives. The cashflow challenge that the business was facing was causing him sleepless nights.
As I was listening to him, I was confused. Confused by how he’d taken on the responsibility of his employee’s happiness. Confused by the burden he felt on the cashflow. Confused by the story he had about himself about not being ‘perfect’ in setting up some of the commercial agreements with their suppliers and customers in the past. I told Andy about my confusion.
“I understand you have some challenges in the business right now. I know you care about your team members. I know that you might have set up some of your business agreements differently if you knew then what you know now” I said.
“My wish for you, over our 3 days together, is to see that the feelings you have towards these challenges, along with all the others you’ve told me about, are not as they seem. They are not caused by your cashflow, by your business agreements, nor by your job as the CEO. None of those things cause you to feel anything. And that as a result of knowing the truth of this, you will feel more clear, have better ideas, be easier on yourself, and enjoy every aspect of your life more.” Andy smiled at me through the screen.
“That sounds amazing” he said, then his brow began to furrow. “I don’t see how you could possibly do that”.
“I won't” I replied. “You will. My job will be for you to see how we all work and how all human emotions are created. When you see that, you will see cashflow as a maths problem, not an emotional one. You will see that you are never responsible for how any of your employees feel. And you will become wiser with your business agreements, without kicking yourself for things you agreed to in the past. And that’s just the work stuff. What we’ll look at will take care of all the things in your personal life too.”
A relaxed smile had come back to Andy’s face. I wanted to leave him with one point:
“Andy, how things look isn’t always how things are. I’ll leave you with that for today, and I’ll see you in the morning”.
That next day we explored how the mind works. How well we are made. How much less we need to do mentally to bring out the best of yourselves. How fresh, new ideas come along. How the past and the future can only exist in our minds via the incredible gift of thought. How all emotions are created by that same gift.
That when we are in a negative thought spiral, everything looks darker, more real, more permanent and that we are prone to take things personally.
He settled down. And saw the truth that cashflow is a maths problem, solved by ideas to bring in business revenue. He saw that he and every employee are a ‘new ideas machine’. He saw that his caring for his employees did not mean he was responsible for their happiness. He saw he is made to learn from the past, not to live in it.
And, as he said himself, that worry is the loss of perspective.