A few years ago I delivered a cake to a friend’s little boy’s birthday party. I created an epic pirate ship being wrestled into the depth by a giant purple kraken! I created the cake as a favour because our boys had been friends since we met on the maternity suite. I was fully booked as usual but squeezed this cake in amongst all my other orders and pulling yet another all-nighter to get it and ourselves ready for the party in time. I bet you’ve all been there right?
Finally, the party day arrived and I sat in a chair bleary-eyed at the playzone with everyone ooing and ahhhhing at the cake on display when another friend’s husband came and sat next to me.
He turned to me and said, “that cake is absolutely amazing! Wow! How is your business going?”
I replied enthusiastically, “Oh it’s amazing, it’s going so well, I have so many orders it’s absolutely killing me!”
I waited for the inevitable congratulations and what I got instead was a puzzled look, a concerned frown and this reply…
“well if it’s killing you the business is dying too, because you ARE the business and there is no business without you.“
Words totally failed me at that point because in a world where success is quantified by how exhausted you are it was totally surreal to be told the truth like that. So although the conversation moved on and I doubt he would even remember who I am these days or that conversation, what he said struck me – hard.
“well if it’s killing you the business is dying too, because you ARE the business and there is no business without you.”
I was instantly brought back to a story I’d been told by a lovely, gentle chap, sat in small wooden cabin in the middle of the New Forest several years before, who told us stories as I and fellow listeners huddled round a farmhouse table munching on cookies. A story I’d forgotten and a sentiment I’d let fall into the dusty part at the back of my brain somewhere smothered by my ambition and anxiety-driven workaholic tendencies.
If you will allow me a few more minutes of your time I’d like to share the story with you all…
Year and years ago I was recommended a week-long NLP (neuro-linguistic processing) course in the New Forest called Pegasus after a series of unfortunate events. The guy who ran it was a fabulous chap called Reg and I cannot put enough strength of feeling into telling you how much his course changed my life.
I went thinking I would learn how to handle difficult corporate clients. I came away a completely changed human being having learned how to handle myself instead. The core of the person you know today was founded that week I am in no doubt. His lessons and insight come back to me time and time again, some 15 years later.
The course is set in the beautiful New Forest and is a mix of workshops, forest games and of course the famous high ropes sessions.
I can tell you so many stories from that time and maybe over the course of this blog I will as they are all absolute gold. Today though, I want to tell you this one.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
This was one (of his many) tales …..
There were two groups of woodsmen camping in separate parts the forest. Each group argued they were easily the best, they were the biggest and strongest men, had the best saws and could EASILY cut more wood than the other team.
In the end, they decided to have a competition to prove who was the best. Each team was convinced they would win so they set out first thing in the morning and worked as hard as they could – each team cutting and piling wood higher and higher racing the get the highest pile.
The first team slogged away, heaving wood, cutting hard, saws whirring non-stop, sweat pouring down their faces and never stopping. They cut and cut and cut. They knew they had to be winning because from through the forest they could hear the other team’s saws stop and start, stop and start, stop and start.
‘Lazy woodsmen’ they thought, ‘taking tea breaks and lunch breaks and having naps. They’ve got no stamina, no staying power. WE will win, we will graft on and on and we will win.’
So the end of the day approached as it always does and the team were exhausted. They stepped back and looked at their enormous pile of wood knowing they couldn’t have worked harder. They patted each other on the back, certain of victory.
They walked gleefully to the other site and when they arrived they stood dumbfounded looking up at the most giant mountain of cut wood ever, it was TWICE the size of their own, TWICE!! They stood looking from one to the other in disbelief.
The team leader turned to the other teamleader and said,
‘How is this possible!?’ We worked all day, we never stopped, we are exhausted! You kept stopping, we know you stopped. We heard the saws stop!’
The other team leader gently smiled and replied to him
‘We didn’t stop. We took time out to sharpen our saws.’
Re-charging, resting, taking time out to hit the reset button, restore and re-build your reserves, say NO to taking on too much work, choosing NOT chase down every opportunity thinking there *might never* be another one, cramming orders in to appease clients or friends and family or not let anyone down will not only kill you. It will kill your business too.
It will also make you less productive and achieve less in the long run. Dull saws do not cut wood well.
Because YOU are YOUR business. You are it’s biggest, best, shiniest, sharpest saw you’ll ever find, and if you don’t look after your most precious tool (head’s up – it’s still YOU) – the business will fail.
So here’s what you need to do. Build rest stops into your business development plan without guilt. Build them in now, not later when it’s a good time because I assure you there will never be ‘a good time.’ There will always be another shiny thing, opportunity or simply MUST DO thing to run after at the cost of you. Because YOU are what you are trading with each and every time you say yes to whatever or burn through yet another 80hr week. It’s all you, and you are finite.
Build time in to sharpen your saw.
Amazingly I still need constantly reminding of this as I am the absolute worst for disregarding myself in hot pursuit of my dreams and ambitions, or out of some misplaced loyalty and guilt. So maybe I’m writing this as much for myself as I am you.
So if you catch me burning out to the extreme and saying, yes, yes, I’ll rest soon…. perhaps you’ll pull me up on it as well? Deal?
I hope you enjoyed taking a moment to read my thoughts and they resonated with you, please hit the subscribe button so I know I’m not just story telling into the void! Thank you!