‘For most of human history, we all would’ve been dead by now. We get to this age and we think, “What the hell am I still doing here?” It’s disorientating’ – Wendy Rhoades, Billions
As the fictional performance coach in CBS’s ‘Billions’ TV Series, Wendy applies her psychiatric skills to remove the money-making blockers of the traders under her care.
The problem we have as leaders – regardless of age – is that at some point the all-consuming act of growing a business starts to develop wobbles. Wobbles into which questions arise. It can be when things are particularly tough: the failed deal, the loss of a key colleague or client. Paradoxically it can also be when things have worked out: we’ve sold, or exited, or got the Group leadership promotion. Regardless, it starts in the same way. You start to question why you’re here, whether it’s all worthwhile, what does the future hold?
Of course, you could just have an affair with a younger member of your team, buy a red Ferrari and start to wear cowboy boots. Then when you’d decided to stop playing out an eighties cliché of a mid-life crisis you could apply the correct solution.
As Homo sapiens we have two primary settings: ‘from’ and ‘to’. Most of us, by default, seek to move from danger, distress and discomfort and towards safety, happiness and comfort. As CEOs and business leaders the external viewer would assess that we’d done pretty damn well on most of our primary ‘to’ objectives. The problem is that most of us are like thoroughbred race horses. From an early age it has always been about passing the exam, getting into the university, the job with the prestigious fi rm, the promotion, then the top position, the independence, the control etc. etc. Our lives have revolved around goal achievement.
So, like the thoroughbred taken out of racing, a lot of us don’t know what to do if we’re not blinkers-down aiming for the next goal, target or milestone in the next race we choose to compete in.
Fortunately, the solutions are relatively simple:
1. Ignore the wobbles and the questions - questioning is for weaker mortals.
Just aim for an even bigger target in business or your personal life and throw yourself even more heavily into its pursuit. Hopefully your loved ones and friends will remain there for you and you’ll die satisfied because all you’ve ever known is goal achievement. Not to be dismissed out of hand as its better than sitting on your arse in front of reality TV with a multipack of Monster Munch.
2. Retrain yourself.
Like the thoroughbred that has to be lovingly re-programmed following a career in racing to function like a normal horse, relax into your own life. Focus on all that you have to be grateful for before the children have left home, your partner has run off with their yoga instructor and you struggle to tie your own shoe laces.
3. Apply yourself.
You can achieve more in a day than most people can in a week. Start to bring your massive strengths to bear on things bigger than yourself. Don’t stress at first about finding your ‘Why’ or bigger ‘Purpose’. Start small with something wider than your current circle of influence. What local wrongs can you help put right? Volunteering for a charity can help you experience feelings and discover aspects to yourself that you never knew existed. Then, maybe a year in, unleash those thoroughbred entrepreneurial/ leadership tendencies and have a bash at making a real dent in the universe........
‘The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you found out why’ – Anonymous (often attributed to Mark Twain)