Well we’re just a few weeks away from Christmas and our thoughts turn to giving and sharing – love and joy with the people we value most, our families, friends, colleagues and associates. But I’m not going to give you all that old slush – you know it already!! Besides if you need a reminder, just turn to the words of one of Cliff Richard’s countless Christmas hits, or anyone else’s for that matter.
No, instead I want you to think about the spirit of Christmas, giving and sharing, for the whole of the year – not just at the end of December, at the end of what has been a particularly challenging year. Think about this altruism as a part of your strategy and even business plan for 2010.
I’m getting a lot of email marketing coming through now from all sorts of business coaches asking me if I’ve prepared for growth in 2010, if I have a robust business plan to help me to “survive and thrive” and even my own strap-line for next year – “thrive again in 2010!”
I received one business newsletter today, which prompted me to dig up the draft of this blog and actually post it. So, let me start by telling you a little story…..
(But first – Please don’t read on if colourful language offends, because as I embark on writing this, I can’t guarantee that my passion won’t cause the odd choice word to creep in.)
It was a cold and dreary night – February 2000. My mum gave up her battle with cancer and fell peacefully into a morphine aided sleep, with her loving children and grandchildren (my kids) close by – she was 52 years old. All at once my world fell apart – but as a Dad, husband and a boss at work I had to “crack on” and get on with life. As we reach the 10th anniversary I can look back now and realise that my grief has stayed with me throughout that time – not outwardly of course, but every birthday, Christmas – and most bizarrely with every new car or house I bought! (what are you talking about – I hear you cry).
My Mum struggled all her life to provide us kids with a good life – we never had flash cars, foreign holidays or even a home that she owned, but we never wanted for anything – least of all love, she always put us first (Dad was there too, but that’s a different story). She was a true altruist.
The minute I started work – in the motor trade – I was surrounded by the very things we never had as kids, flash cars, a bit of money etc etc. Now, I’ve been very lucky, made some great career choices, some good business decisions and been blessed with the rewards – great, because as a youth of the 1980′s – one of “Thatcher’s youth” my mentality has been around money, cars, houses, possessions – in other words all the outward egotistical signs of success. What a load of bollocks!
So, bizzarely, in my sub-conscious somewhere has been a desire to show my parents just how well I was doing in the hope it would make them proud – in my efforts, I probably tried far too hard and in their eyes came across as an egotistical little twat! And, they were probably right. I realize now that they’d have been just as proud if I swept streets or stacked shelves for a living.
Now, it’s fair to say, this year has been crap! The economy, the weather, the media etc etc And to cap it all we have the release of films like 2012 to really cheer us up!! But, in April of this year I was handed a fantastic opportunity to begin working on hospital radio – great I thought – being an egotistical little twat who likes the sound of his own voice – right up my street!!
What I didn’t know, was that this work is not about just being funny, chatting on air and playing records OH NO!! Before that we walk round the wards talking to patients and getting requests. Now the hospital wards are not full of actors in neat gowns like on House, Holby City or Carry On Doctor – no they are full of people who are very ill – there are signs of blood, mess, tears, pipes coming from places you don’t want to think about, pain and suffering. And, most heart wrenchingly for me – sheer loneliness by some. Just this week we had one little old guy who wanted to talk and give us his life story – he was in his 80’s and has no family and faces Christmas alone or in hospital.
So, in thinking about that I decided to take a long hard look at what’s important – the car NO, the house NO, the branded clothes NO, the property portfolio NO. Love of a family YES!! Health YES, Happiness YES (you may need to work on that a bit – I have!). And be grateful for what you have – a roof over your head, enough money to buy food and great people around you.
This thinking has also helped me to define my purpose, and it is simply this;
“to add value to everyone I meet – and make a difference in the world!”
Having that clearly defined has transformed the way I work, interact with others and approach business – and it’s working!!
I also sold my big executive car and gone for a small, eco friendly sporty looking number – and it feels great!! And actually, my mum would have loved it!
Prior to the start of this renewed thought process, I spoke to our family Doctor who told me he has a great remedy for people who think they are depressed or feeling down – it’s called “get a grip!” – fantastic advice, and clearly not for the truly clinically depressed – but a great shove from a pro for all those who like me earlier this year were feeling a little too sorry for themselves!!
So, I’m now back on top form and in fighting spirit – but with a big difference, I don’t give a toss anymore about outward, egotistical signs of success, I am now concentrating my efforts on adding value and helping others, and it feels fantastic and is very rewarding!
I met with a great lady a few weeks ago who works for a hospice – when we agreed to meet, I for some reason, didn’t realize it would be in the hospice itself, so that was a surprise (and bought back some memories). During our conversation we talked about challenges and the occasional bad day – and she told me that one of their volunteer (yes largely staffed by volunteers!!) receptionists asks her on her way out each evening “did you have a good day?”, if my lady replies with anything negative, the receptionist holds up the current patient list and simply asks “do you want to swap?”
But back to that newsletter I received today! This guy, an international consultant, sends out a quarterly newsletter to promote his business. Nothing wrong in that, good idea in fact! However, it’s full of stories of what he’s done, where he’s been, top flight people he’s met, talks he’s given at this big corporate or that big University – I just wonder, who really gives a shit! I’d rather see something in there that adds a little value, business tips, help and advice etc.
After receiving his last newsletter, I bounced it off a friend of mine who said that this guy doesn’t care what the content is, as long as it lands in people’s inboxes – ummm! I could buy into that before – when I was an egotistical twat!
So, I actually feel sorry for this guy, because I wonder who he’s trying to impress – deep down in his subconscious???
I just remember the words I said at my mum’s funeral;
“we remember a life of love, giving and caring for others – in 100 years from now, it won’t matter what car you drove, where you lived or how much money you had – but it will matter that you were important in the life of a child!”
So, being an Altruist is not just for Christmas – it’s a way of life!
Have a fantastic Christmas!