I’m sitting in front of the open fire in my countryside home, I just finished reading a comic book and I’m listening to Ella Fitzgerald. These last few days between Christmas and new year I felt laziness coming to me. Here in northern Europe, when sunlight is getting shorter and shorter and mist is invading the sky, our bodies and minds are slowing down. It’s time for regeneration. It’s time to reflect on the past and think of the future. For what I’m concerned, I know this period will inspire me more than anyhing else…
There are many ways to get inspired. It can be through reading or listening to a great speaker. It can also be when you meet someone exceptional. Last week, for example, I met a man with whom I worked on a project more than 10 years ago. An ex P&Ger. Like all of us he’s not perfect. But he’s straight and to the point. I know he was already quite old but I was stunned when he told me his age: 80 year-old. Couldn’t believe it. Impeccable. Smart. Quick to think. Whatever he does or will do, I had an immediate feeling of sympathy for him and a good dose of optimism about my own future. Same as when I see the Rolling Stones playing rock and roll on stage at more than 70 year-old. But it’s another story !
My point is how you get inspiration. My experience showed me that you can’t reasonably be inspired when you’re overstressed, when you’re hyperactive, when you’re in the action ! Famous Secretery of State Henry Kissinger had a long career as professor and writer before entering politics. He once said that “great leaders should spend as much time as possible reflecting and theorizing before they come to power because once they’re in responsibility they have no more time to think about fundamentals“. He was very right. But in our hectic times, how could we do that ? After a few years studying, we go right in action and never stop. Some of us go for more training at selected points in time but executive training is generally quick and intense, leaving no time to reflect.
You cannot regenerate if you don’t stop your incredible life rythm. It’s just impossible. You cannot resource your mind if you don’t find yourself back. You need calm, you need solitude, you need to structure your ideas and liberate your creativity. Most executive education programs don’t promote that. They all promise: “here you’ll work 15 hours per day, you’ll spend your evenings prepare cases, if possible in teams, you’ll get as much knowledge as possible in the least possible time, bla bla bla” . It’s just bullshit ! At the end you see groups of ambitious executives, leaders and managers swallowing some quick lectures and discussing pseudo-cases that they don’t even analyze seriously before class. This while at the same time checking their smartphones constantly, replying emails during breaks and trying to solve operational problems left at their office. It’s a joke ! And corporations are paying millions for that kind of “fast (food) learning” !
Look at some great leaders, artists and top level sportpeople. Sophie Dutordoir is the first woman at the helm of Belgian Rail http://deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws.english/News/1.2846022
After a brilliant career as CEO in Suez group, she stopped everything during three years to open a grocery store in a small city. The business establishment thought she had just become crazy. But she was smart. She could regenerate and now will be, I’m sure, a greater CEO than ever ! Same in other professions. All singers and musicians, as most creators, spent years without shows between 2 albums. They look for inspiration in a stressless milieu.
It’s time to invest some time in yourself ! Your first reaction will be to say “no”. “No I can’t. No I cannot leave my job for a week. No, i need to care for my house, my family, my friends. No, it’s definitely impossible” ! So, it’s time to reflect: are you a slave or a free person ? What is your life about ? You care of everyone, everything, but who is taking care of you ? What is your true added value? Are you a true leader or just a good soldier ? Etc.
Never let restlessness guide your life !
Life is not about being exhausted, then rest a bit, then return to being some kind of human machine. It may reassure you but it will destroy your effectiveness and your clear-sightedness. This is not what you’re looking for, right ? Neither burn out, right ? Think of it !
Be inspired !