The Peter Pan Principle

Peter Pan

I had the distinct pleasure last week of working with a group of sixth form students on a youth enterprise day at a college in Birmingham. To be honest, I was really unsure what to expect from the day but the reality was totally inspiring and revitalising. To create the context these were sixteen to eighteen years old students spending the day looking to acquire a greater level of employability skills and it was a delight to see the way they threw themselves into the tasks of the day with real conviction and enthusiasm.

These young people have yet to develop any real business skills, knowledge or experience. Their understanding of strategies, models and all we learn as we craft our business skill is almost non-existent. What they did have though in bucket loads was enthusiasm and this manifested itself in genuine creative flair.

It set me to thinking about how easy it is to lose this enthusiasm as we become older and wiser. I remember as a young man in sales being told by an older, wiser and more respected salesperson that I suffered from an overdose of enthusiasm; it was a comment that crippled me at the time. Enthusiasm was a major part of who I was and to this day it still is. I tried reigning myself in and controlling my raging enthusiasm, only to see my sales figures plummet through the floor and me with no option but to leave the company for a new role. Fortunately in the new role enthusiasm and creativity were not only encouraged but celebrated and my career received a new lease of life.

This was well over 20 years ago but it is something I have always remembered. Indeed it was something that came quite strongly to my mind whilst watching the way the various groups we were mentoring worked through the difficulties of their tasks.

Now I am not saying that enthusiasm on its own is a more powerful force than knowledge and experience, but what I am saying, and what I saw demonstrated last week, is that knowledge and experience coupled with that vibrant brand of youthful enthusiasm is a most potent force.

There is no question that as we lose the innocence of youth and take on the experience of being so grown-up we can also lose the magic of that youthful enthusiasm. Our responsibility and need to be more serious coupled with the pressures of living in a fast paced competitive world all but suffocates our childlike enthusiasm. And I suppose what I am saying is, I know we cannot live our lives with the freedom and carefree spirit of a Peter Pan. We have to grow up but is it possible as we do that we can keep a little corner of ourselves young, free and uninhibited to culture that special breed of creativity and enthusiasm the young enjoy?

So let’s set a challenge, every once in a while let free the child within and throw a good dose of childlike enthusiasm into our difficult and trying world and see what happens.

You never know…

Big Bang Your Business

 

Niccolo Machiavelli the 16th century Italian philosopher stated that “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past,” and even in a world that changes with incredible speed there are lots of lessons to be learned by casting a backward glance. I want to spend a few minutes looking at how something from our rather distant past may be help us in growing our business today.

To do this let’s take a journey back in time some 13.8 billion years, to a time of – well we are not really sure – perhaps nothing. However around this time 13.7 to 13.8 billion years ago the universe as we now know it came into existence with a burst of energy so large and temperatures so unimaginably high that the remnants of it can still be detected by scientists today. This was the start of the universe, energy; nothing solid and physical that we would associate with our real, material universe we interact with every day.

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So what happened to take us from a massive burst of energy to the physical reality that allows me to feel the keys of the laptop under my fingers?  The answer lies with Albert Einstein and his E=MC2 equation that turned the world of science on its head early last century.

Einstein’s theory states that Energy and Mass are interchangeable. One of the most dramatic examples of this was the Hiroshima atomic bomb that converted a mass of uranium into energy unleashing energy in the most devastating proportions. However Einstein’s equation also suggests that Energy can create Matter (mass) and that’s what we see at the big bang.

The initial burst of energy that was released at the beginning of the universe created matter, particles of energy that eventually formed protons, neutrons and electrons that became atoms the basis of our physical reality. This soup of particles created from pure energy began an amazing journey that has led to the spectacular cosmos we inhabit.

A great story but how does this help our business growth. The answer is ENERGY. The universe was created out of energy, everything we see around us comes from energy and if we want to Big Bang our business growth the foremost thing we are going to need to do is input a source of energy.

I understand that we will need a vision, a plan, strategies, objectives, KPI’s, management philosophies, measurement tools, CRM software, a new website – and the list goes on and on. A lot of these things will have an important part to play in the building of a successful business. BUT, they are tools that assist with rather than the originators of growth.

Energy is the beginning of everything and whilst I am a firm believer that energy in business needs to be directed, focussed and managed into areas where it will bring the best results. Without that initial energy you will not have to worry too much about management as you will have little to manage.

As entrepreneurs, business leaders and managers we are the people responsible for leading our businesses forward. People look to us and mirror our persona and behaviour. If we exhibit low energy attitudes in the workplace how can we expect to inspire the people around us into making a real difference.

I have had the pleasure of recent times to engage with a number of young entrepreneurs who have achieved fantastic growth within their businesses. They all have different personalities, different skill sets, education and experience but they all exhibit one common trait – high levels of energy.

The truth is we have a choice every day as to how much energy we will bring to that day’s proceedings. My experience is that energy is contagious, if you mix with energetic people you feel a boost in your own energy levels and you too can be an energy radiator within your business.

Think back through your business or your career.  I guarantee the highest moments of achievement correspond to the highest levels of energy imparted into the business. Einstein predicted that energy and mass are interchangeable. If you want to increase the mass of your business you need to input energy.

Machiavelli exhorts us to learn from the past, the big bang shows us what can be created from nothing but energy.  Give it a go and BIG BANG your business.

 

Want a good performance – then get a good nights sleep

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“You can sleep when you’re dead.”

We have all heard the saying attributed to Thomas Edison and it has been used in various formats in songs, movies and by lots of us hungry, ambitious, hard working corporate climbers over the years. And why not? There is nothing wrong with hard work and dedication. But as the years have progressed I have begun to understand the importance of a good night’s sleep in terms of performance in the workplace.

It was back in 1924 that two psychologists John Jenkins and Karl Dallenbach first experimented on the effects of sleep on the memory. They had two students at Cornell University learn nonsense syllables then tested their memory, what they found was that the students remembered more of the syllables when they had been to sleep between the learning session and test session than if they had stayed awake.

There have been experiments over more recent years showing that new memories stick better after sleep, as the neural activity in the brain during sleep is actually rehearsing the day’s events and memories leading to a strengthening of the neural networks. Scientists have even gone as far as understanding how the different phases of sleep REM or NREM (rapid eye movement or non-rapid eye movement) will reinforce differing memories with REM sleep aiding the more emotional memories and NREM the more factual.

In 2000 a study by the University of Southern California using MRI technology showed that regions of the brains prefrontal cortex, an area that supports mental faculties such as working memory and logical and practical reasoning, displayed more activity in sleepier subjects. Researchers interpreted this result as indicating that the brain of the average sleep-deprived subject had to work harder than that of the average non-sleep-deprived subject to accomplish a given task, and from this indication they inferred the conclusion that the brains of sleep-deprived subjects were attempting to compensate for adverse effects caused by sleep deprivation.

At the end of the day sleep is something that is a universal need of all animals, even though being in a state of unconsciousness is not a good idea when you may end up as someone else’s dinner.

So when you are next contemplating pulling an all- nighter or cramming some study way past midnight – stop and consider if maybe a good night’s sleep and fresh approach in the morning may be more beneficial.