11 February 2018

building relationships, goal setting, life lessons

The Maldives, where Gail and I set new goals each year.

Sitting here on the beach, looking out across the sea, finally on Rangalli Island with my wife after an incredibly busy end to 2017 and start to 2018, I am trying to switch off but my mind is doing overtime!

We come over to the Maldives to switch off. To get out of the rat race, almost cut off from the rest of the world. It’s bliss. But, as for cutting ourselves off, it never usually works out that way. We have ended up creating a community for ourselves here on the island when we return every year. We know the teams here incredibly well. We get to know other guests; our children are forever nipping off on their own to meet new friends.

Sitting here in a rare moment of peace and quiet as the sun sets, I can’t help but think about these relationships and those we have back home. Good timing, I suppose, considering that it is Valentine’s Day this week!

Nurturing relationships

Why this thought process? Perhaps it was triggered by a text I received yesterday from one of the UKFast team. James, on his wedding day, text me to say that ‘none of this would be possible without you’.

What a message to receive. To give some context, he didn’t mean the loan of my Bentley for his wedding car. James met his now wife Charlotte at UKFast. They joined the team at a similar time in similar teams, around seven or eight years ago. Since then, they’ve dated, moved in together and had a wonderful son, Zac.

These are the stories you dream of being a part of as a business owner. Gail and I have always aimed to create more than just a workplace. We want a real family business where everyone feels like a family, not a team. Within that, James and Charlotte have literally built their own family. It’s an honour to have played a small part in that.

lawrence jones mbe

The wedding car arrives at James and Charlotte’s wedding.

Our lives are driven by relationships, by the people we choose to spend our time with. It’s all too easy to detach these days. We can easily shrink back, spending our time buried in screens, never really interacting with one another.

But is that really living? When we reach out to others and get to know them, life is just better isn’t it? There’s no replacement for sharing a joke with someone and laughing until your eyes water. There’s no replacement for a well-timed hug or pat on the back. Being sociable is in our biology – we’re wired that way.

The Fountain of Youth

Having these networks not only makes your life happier and more fulfilled, it seemingly will make your life longer. On our travels, I listened to a TED Talk by psychologist Susan Pinker. The theory behind the talk is that the secret to living longer may in fact be down to your social life.

This theory is based on the life style of a community in Sardinia when centenarians are the norm. The villagers there constantly intersect with one another – sociability is a way of life. Close personal relationships and constant face-to-face interactions are in fact the fountain of youth itself.

According to Pinker, social interactions – even as simple as a high five – increase oxytocin levels in the body and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Dopamine is generated too. All subconsciously. And there is a difference between face-to-face and online.

It is extraordinary to hear Pinker lay it out so simply, explaining how people with cancer are more likely to recover when they spend time with a network of friends, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

So, this week, I will be making sure that I take every opportunity to spend time with others, to encourage my daughters to continue meeting new friends away from their smartphones, and to spend some time in the sunshine with my wife – screen free.

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