8 January 2012

I met a very interesting professor from Stamford recently who wrote and spoke about happiness and the importance of it in business.

He explained that happiness is something that comes from within. It depends entirely on your internal state and the lens that you look at life through. So, if you’re unhappy, you will probably see the bad in everything. If you’re immensely positive and happy then you’re bound to approach life with a spring in your step and see the good in everything.

Let’s face it, there is good in everything and everyone. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder.

I have met many people who assume that money is the “be all and end all.” But money doesn’t bring happiness. People bring happiness; family and friends and the things you do with them. The more you give, listen and contribute, the happier you seem to be.

If you are lacking in any of these areas then they are the places to invest more time and energy. I am not the finished article by a long shot but I am aware of where I need to spend more time so there is hope for me yet!

I delivered a talk recently to my sales team and account managers. I was trying to get their attention and help them to start the year off with their best foot forward. All too often, people take too long to brush off the winter blues after Christmas and New Year’s excesses.

I asked them what makes people successful? And why are some people more successful than others? Whilst there are no hard and fast metrics to measure this principal, I have learnt that people who take their time more seriously than others inevitably cram more into their days and eventually, over a long period of time, the small steps they make each day mount up to be a big journey. I mentioned something similar in last week’s blog.

To put it into perspective, I got people to focus on the end of that journey. What’s the final destination? And what will your last words be when you are on your deathbed?

It is a great question and, as I have been there, I am able to give an accurate depiction of what you are bound to say.

It was only 11 years ago but I remember every second as though it were my last, probably because, at the time, they were.

Deep under the snow, I had the life squeezed out of me.

My last breaths were hard and fast. I remember the heat from my mouth as I suffocated and whilst all this was going on, my mind was busy at work.

And what goes through your head when you are alone underground, cemented in an early grave, very much alive, even if it is only for a few more minutes?

I can tell you with certainty, when it’s your turn (and, sadly, your turn will come), you won’t be thinking of the money you have or haven’t made. You will be thinking of one thing; relationships.

It’s people and relationships that are the only things of value. Nothing else matters.

I spent my last few minutes feeling massive regret and I can promise you I will never be in that position again. I will live trying and I will die trying.

There is nothing in my mind more important than this.

It’s difficult for me to explain to you just how valuable your last few minutes on the planet are. They mean everything, but I am not eloquent enough to put it into words. I do believe that if you knew now what I have learnt, you might approach your life slightly differently.

The best way to try and understand the emotion is if you put yourself in a position where you find out you are never going to see someone you love dearly again. It is sprung on you; they are emigrating and you have one last day with them.

What do you do?

Well, I know what I’d do. I’d change whatever plans I had for that day and dedicate every last minute to being with that person, making it as memorable and magical as possible.

However you look at this, the actual parting when they leave is going to hurt.

Imagine not having a full day, only having a few minutes to come to terms with the fact you are not going to see them again, only this time they aren’t there with you; you are alone. It’s fair to say this is much tougher.

This is bad enough, but imagine not just that one person, but every great person you’ve ever had the pleasure to spend a minute with in your amazing life, a life that 5 minutes ago you took for granted.

And whilst they can’t hear your goodbyes, they can’t see your tears, you will crave their breath on your neck or the touch on your skin.

Take a minute and think about it. It puts a lot into perspective when you simplify everything to just raw emotion. Trust me, there is nothing more important in any of our lives.

The feeling I had that day is not a feeling I’d wish on anyone. It is far too extreme to have to deal with on a daily basis, but occasionally I go there to reflect, usually around now! Each time I visit, I get a little more. There is more to discover, but it’s just too painful to immerse myself completely and I am not ready to completely share the whole experience just yet. One day maybe. The bit just below the surface can only be described as an avalanche of emotion; quite ironic under the circumstances and the snow.

It’s an intense place and it’s a time that, when it comes again, I am ready for and it’s not the cold, dark, lonely place I remember all too vividly.

So, with that in mind, ask yourself if you are investing in your friends and family enough? I know I’m not. When was the last time you really showed someone how you feel? And, even if that was 10 minutes ago, do you do it enough?

And when you tackle your day or week ahead, what if you were to get up a few hours earlier, to guarantee an extra few hours? Even if you did this 6 days a week, you’d give yourself an extra 624 hours, but of working hours, that’s like adding 78 days to your year.

So, why lie in bed when you can start the day off in the gym or with a brisk walk in the fresh air and squeeze that extra little bit out of life.

Anyway, most importantly, enjoy the week ahead and make a difference to your own life by making a difference to others.

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