Monday, 23 February 2015


We live in a world where being busy is most people’s default position.

A friend of mine told his sons, “if you snooze you lose”. And children have never worked so hard. Five year olds do more homework than I did when I was 11.

And the badge of courage is to seem even busier than you really are. It’s pretty bad anyway isn’t it? You have a shortage of breath, a vile temper, are sleeping badly, getting up early to cram in extra work and really needing that glass of wine in the evening. Somewhere recently I saw this fantastic insight. People are so busy they don’t eat, they “inhale” their food.
So how are you? “So busy I can’t believe it, it’s ridiculous”.

Combine the following: self-pity, stress and a curious sense of pride and satisfaction. Welcome to 2015.
But is it true that everyone’s unusually, mind-numbingly busy or have we all just lost our sense of proportion?
I think Thomas Cromwell was pretty busy apart from being multilingual and seeming to manage what was the Tudor Civil Service pretty well singlehandedly.

Yet in Wolf Hall we see him thinking at least as much as rushing around. And he doesn’t rush anyway. He prowls. Take up prowling - it might change your life.

Anthony Trollope wrote a lot of great novels as well as holding down a huge and successful job in the Civil Service.  They used to call someone who such had a broad portfolio of activities a Renaissance Man.
Stop being stressed, start celebrating. Having a lot to do gets you nearer to changing the world. Being active feeds your brain. Be a Renaissance man not an ungracious moaner. And you know what? It isn’t that bad. Trollope had to learn French and German in a year for his job which makes AS levels look just a bit easy in comparison.

And now for obedience: Thomas Jefferson said: “A little rebellion now and then isn’t a bad thing”. Nor is it - it was only when I started to be a pain in the arse at school arguing, disagreeing with masters, looking for new ideas that my brain started to work.

In most workplaces I’m beginning to detect a lemming-like obedience which worries me a lot (and it’s worrying a lot of CEO’s I know). Here’s Sam Goldwyn’s contribution: “I don’t want yes men around me. I want people who tell me what they think - even if it costs them their jobs.”

I think he was joking. I hope so.

We need to think more, plan better, choose to do what matters and start arguing if something’s being done that’s wrong, illegal or which could be done better.  In a world of great change we need to prowl more, think more and question more. We’ll enjoy our jobs more and we’ll get on better too.  Because few things are worse for everyone’s morale that being a busy sycophant.

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