buddha

Reduce stress, enjoy life and be more effective at business

Business life can be stressful. Everyone with experience of business life knows this. About two years ago I noticed my stress levels peak.  I felt frazzled. I’d get annoyed with people at the smallest thing and I got sick a lot.  I’d be constantly thinking about my business; going to bed, in the shower, watching TV. Business business business.

In the bath I’d watch a Coursera on business strategy, I’s skip lunch and have a coffee whilst replying to emails,  and when my girlfriend talked to me at home I was thinking about how I was going to close whatever big deal I was working on at the time.  If I wasn’t working on something that I deemed “productive” –  growing my business –   then I felt I was wasting precious time. And what’s more,  I extolled all this as a virtue – “I’m always on”. I’m frickin’ John Galt. Constantly on the grind to achieve big goals and save humanity, one marketing campaign at a time. No minute of my day was un-scheduled. My down time was pretty much limited to: gym, dinners out, and drinking (a lot) at the weekend.

Then I shifted my thinking. I set out to nurture the sides of me that I had ignored. I’m a 3D (..4D?) human being after all, not just a business person – I had become the Marcusian one dimensional men, and I wanted to change that. If that sentiment resonates with you, here’s a some things I did,  which I would highly recommend…

Be present with friends and family

Obviously spending time with people you care about is important. But you can occupy the same space as someone and not be present in mind. I try to make sure that I not only spend more time with those I care about,  but I also give them my full attention.

Surround yourself with good people

Make sure the people in your life, are actually good for you. Having the right or wrong spouse can be pretty impactful, as can having caring friends and a support network. If you have “psychic vampires” in your life, get rid of them.

Meditate and practice yoga

I meditate every morning from 6.30am – 6.50am, then I do Yoga from 6.50am – 7.15am. I then get on with my business day, first by reading all the latest pertinent news over cup of coffee with sites like Techmeme.  But first, I meditate.  The effect on my life has been profound. I’m more relaxed, I can focus,  and I treat people better. Meditation truly helps develop your abilities to focus and to accomplish your tasks at hand. Sometimes, I’m wrestling with an issue, and after meditating the answer is clear. I make more effective decisions on the job, it’s helped to maintain my good health, and it has without doubt benefited my family and business relationships.

If you’ve thought about meditating to relieve stress but didn’t know how to get started, there’s a great app called Buddhify – it  teaches you in short, easy steps, how to relax, be present, and be mindful of the moment so you can think clearly and let go of your stress. I love it.  The app’s interesting because it also has ways you can relax and meditate when you’re traveling on the train or bus, just waking up,  walking from place to place, or working out at the gym. Check out the video below…

Read things that aren’t business and aren’t trash

I still read business books, but I now religiously make time for anything books that are not business related. Don’t fall into the trap of reading only for obvious utility IE I read this, I learn about asset in allocation. There are loads of benefits to reading for purely enjoyment rather than information gathering. It increases self-awareness and promotes relaxation. It widens horizons. It develops empathy through sharing opinions and ideas. And If you pick up the right books,  they can enrich your character and build your knowledge about deep human truths – leave Twilight on the shelf and pick up a copy of the Iliad. The classics (old and new) can help us with our pursuit of meaning and the construction of better ways of living for the present. They help us to understand who we are and where we stand. Aside from all that, knowledge for knowledge sake is just good for the soul, it doesn’t have to ‘useable’ per se..

While they were preparing the hemlock, Socrates was learning a tune on the flute. “What good will it do you,” they asked, “to know this tune before you die?” – Cioran

Right now I’m reading one business book (CTRL ALT DELETE) and one novel (The Dispossessed).

Do stuff you love doing

I used to play guitar. A lot. Everything from bluegrass to Pantera. I was pretty good and it used to bring me so much joy. About 3  years ago I stopped totally. Now I make time everyday to play again, even if for 10 minutes. I suck… I could barely play an oasis song when i first picked it back up. But I love it, like before.

I also started playing football (soccer) and tennis as much as I can again, writing (this blog for example), cooking, gardening,  going to see more live music.  Don’t ignore the things you love doing in life – they will in turn make your overall experience much better, including business.

Do new stuff

Axe throwing? Sure. Meetup group? Okay. Travel.  Try new things, say yes to things you wouldn’t normally do. You’ll learn,  have fun (hopefully), get new perspectives and meet new people.

“You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.” – Nate Berkus

…But also do nothing

If you haven’t read Bertrand Russell’s brilliant essay “in praise of idleness” , I suggest you check it out: http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html

“I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.” – Bertrand Russell

To get me wrong. I love my work. I love my business. I love helping clients. But there is more to life. And if you only care about business and getting money, you will miss out out the multi faceted experience of being on this pale blue dot floating in infinite time and space.

Grow your community 

Someone told me once life is like a 3 legged stool. One leg is you and your work. Another leg is your friends and family. The third leg is your community.  Get out there and make connections with your fellow humans – give a little back. Have a positive impact on other peoples lives, for the sheer joy of doing good. It’s also a great way to meet new people and try new things.  I started to volunteer again and recently really got into Kiva.  Volunteering is not only good for the soul, it’s been shown to literally be good for the heart too.

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand”. – Woodrow Wilson

I also like to just get out there and meet random new people. Connect with people I would otherwise not connect with, for business or for friendship. I have found the app Weave invaluable for this.

Embrace weirdness

Try not to give too much of a f*ck about what people think about you. No great change was made by people conforming to the herd. Be a renegade. The less you care about what people think, the better you will feel and the more you will achieve. If someone calls me weird, I take it as a compliment.

“Where’s your will to be weird?” ― Jim Morrison

Keep fit and healthy

I’ve always gone to the gym. Always liked working out. But I was that typical dude…

 

 

I worked out for looks, not health. Now I’ve switched things up – my focus is on all round fitness and usable strength. I go to the gym, play sports and practice yoga. I cycle everywhere  instead of taking the TTC (where possible).

I’m also much more conscientious about what I eat. I don’t eat any processed food. I buy organic.   I used to dine out and get take away all the time – I still eat out, but I’ve kiboshed the take aways and now I enjoy finding new recipes and cooking myself as much as I can.

Buy less

It’s simple. Minimize your life – you don’t really need half the crap you buy anyway. If you really analyze,  most the time you buy stuff to impress other people or to help define yourself in the way you want to be seen. I’m a BMW man. I wear Ralph Lauren.  No. You’re not the products that you buy, and they won’t make you happy.

Over the last few years I have dramatically scaled back my consumerism. Whenever I look at buying a product that is non essential, I ask, who am I buying this for? Me,  or so I can show off? Do I really need another watch? Why do I want an Audi over a Ford? Why am I spending $40 on a pair of socks?  What value does this product bring to my life?

There’s a certain mental and emotional liberation when your life is not spent shopping. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti- capitalist and I’m well aware of the perceived paradox of a ‘marketer’ telling you to buy less stuff. But I’m a big believer in conscious  consumerism – buy products that you need or add genuine value to your life. Products that are ethical and good quality.  But always question why – why you want to upgrade a perfectly good phone. Why you want to complete that furniture set in your living room with a lovely comforter.

Don’t fall for sleazy advertising that attacks your deep seated desires. No, that car won’t get you the girl. No, buying Sprite will not make you a snowboarder.  Consumerism is like the cycle of samara – you will never fill the void and you always want more. Break the cycle.

Disconnect

I would describe myself as a device addict. I used to be much worse – always checking my phone for emails, Facebook updates etc. I was one of those d-bag you’d see at dinner with their girlfriend checking his phone.  It was the first thing I reached for in the morning and the last thing I looked at at night. No more. I make a point to shut down and be present in whatever I’m doing. I’ve weened myself off the crack of social media updates and likes. The false dopamine stimulators and time suckers. Put that time into something that’s real and tangible. I’m not saying checking your phone is bad, or social is bad. Just don’t be a zombie..

 

 

In short, be a full human and nurture all aspects of yourself. Understand your desires and surround yourself with good people. This will lead to a more more fulfilling life. Since adapting my lifestyle I’ve felt better, I treat other people better, and my business has been much more successful – last year we grew by 60%.  Your work should fit into your life, along with all the other things you value. It sounds trite, but you need balance to achieve success and well being.

 

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