Shine Bright Like A Diamond

I enjoy watching the leaders around me and trying to learn their secrets. Mostly, they inspire me to do better, achieve more, however, it is not always the case. Sometimes it is from their failings that I learn more about myself.

Such as an occasion from many years ago…

 

What happens in the War Room stays in the War Room

We called it the War Room. It was the meeting room we went to when deals got “complicated” or it looked like we were going to lose something. We had just come up with a plan to save a major sale from going to the competition and the team had been dismissed leaving only my mentor and me to discuss further. It was at that point that he turned to me with a look of panic on his face and said: “We need to cut Steve from the deal”.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Steve himself had just left the room with his own action plan which had been agreed to by my mentor. And now, before we have even had a chance to row our life raft in the direction of land, my mentor was trying to throw him overboard.

This was a man I had looked up to for years. I had sat through countless lectures from him on the best way to to work with other teams within our business and now, in this moment with the heat on and the eyes of the executive team glaring at us, he was cracking.

I’d been working with Steve on this particular sale for the past six months. At that point we were in the final critical hours, when this multimillion dollar sale would either arrive or vanish and my lecturer of business morals had completely lost his nerve.

He was scared that a last minute issue with one particular part of our proposal would unhinge the entire sale. Like cancer, he wanted the problem surgically cut from the deal. This was a new level of pressure for him and he was having trouble coping.

This pressure was not new to me, though, I had felt it many times before and since. I had sweated under the heat of its spotlight and I knew its taste. If you have ever been up against a do-or-die deadline you will know it too.

Also like me, anyone that has suffered from anxiety, and exited stronger, knows exactly where their limits are, having broken them so many times. Right then, I was not even close but he was over the edge and making bad decisions because of it.

He may not have cared who was sacrificed to meet his ends but I did. I couldn’t even mask my disappointment or anger. “Don’t ever say that to me again!” I said before walking away. You could say it was a tipping point in our relationship.

From that point on his panic spiraled. He was so convinced that we would lose that he started to distance himself from everyone. He complained loudly about what we had supposedly done wrong and how he thought we should have done it. He also told the executive team that he had tried to guide me but I had flatly refused him.

I ignored him completely. I just kept my head down, pulled my team together and we rowed that life raft for land. Whenever any of us got tired, another would row harder in their place. Soon the business was divided between thinking who was the greater fool: me for not giving up earlier and dragging my team along, or him for abandoning us when things got tough.

For the record, we won that deal (as a team) and it was one of the sweetest victories of my professional life.

I never quite looked at that man the same again and I wasn’t alone.

Is this just another lecture on teamwork?

No, and please don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect. I generally try not to judge other people but I am loyal. And even under immense pressure, with the heat on, that is one area I won’t surrender.

Pressure and heat affect people in different ways. Perhaps there are other areas, outside of loyalty, where I would have cracked but in that instance, I was made of harder stuff.

Past pressure had already hardened me.

So my lesson today is this.

There are plenty of people out there that will try and tell you what to do and how to do it. Some of them through blogs just like this. They may use inspiring words or motivational speeches to get their messages across.

But how do we know what they would actually do themselves when the heat is on? We don’t.

So I would like you to consider this. Diamonds are the hardest natural material made on earth, and also one of the most beautiful. But they don’t start out that way.

They start out very common indeed as carbon (just like coal). However unlike coal, natural diamonds are forged under high pressure and high temperatures.

Like most of us at some point that carbon feels the pressure of its situation and faces it’s own tipping point.

Will it succumb to its environment and look for the easy way out, become coal? Or will it absorb the pressure, harden itself for the next test and the many after that? Will it become the diamond it always had the potential to be?

If it does, and you also can, please remember this, like me you don’t have to be flawless just persistent!

 

Confessions Of An Insomniac

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It is 1am now and I have just washed down a sleeping pill. One of the good ones too, I haven’t had one of these in years. But with any luck, I will finally get the sleep I need and be out of it for most of tomorrow.

I know that my stories are usually thoughtful and uplifting, at least, I hope so anyway, but not today. Today I feel broken. Regardless of what I have written to you in the past, I’m not perfect, so perhaps it’s time to just let my fingers wander across this keyboard and write whatever they want

I haven’t slept in days, not properly anyway. An hour here, another hour there, but not a full deep sleep and it’s finally taking a toll.

It started with me getting a stomach bug a week ago and has continued through the week as my daughter caught the same bug. Her room is right next to ours and last night I lay there for hours listening to her whimper before she finally threw up and went to sleep. By then it was too late for me.

I don’t know how long I will be able to sit here on the floor typing, for now, it beats bed. Bed feels like a jail to me at the moment.

I’ll go upstairs to bed when I start to feel dizzy. Then at least, I shouldn’t have to wait long once my head hits the pillows.

Is it just me, with my anxiety, or do a lot of us get like this from time to time? If this was one of those standard blog posts I would google it, but not tonight. Perhaps I just don’t need to know everything.

I was angry earlier at my wife. I was just frustrated and tired and took it out on her. It upsets me now that she didn’t go to sleep with a smile on her face, and that’s my fault. Don’t worry it wasn’t a big thing, we’re good, but just the same, it still not something I’m proud of. I need to apologize in the morning.

My eyes are getting a little fuzzy now. It’s moments like this that I’m glad I did those touch typing classes, because whatever I think plays out to the screen. Which is probably a good thing because I can’t even focus on my fingers or the words right now.

I’m going to need to close this up somehow. Quite frankly I’m not sure if it will ever reach an audience, but if it does, know this.

I didn’t publish it to whinge. I value your time and attention too much for that.

And I didn’t publish it because I wanted to get sympathy from anyone.

No. If I do publish, it will be because this is just another one of those tipping point moments that I sometimes talk about. This is the moment when I say enough is enough. I need to sleep for at least 4 good hours to get my sanity back. So if popping one of these little (prescription), orange pills is what it will take, then so be it.

Can’t feel my face anymore. Time for bed. Wish me luck.

Loyalty – How to Earn It and When to Let It Go

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Loyalty. Some wield the word like a sword to cut into those they feel betrayed by. Others demand it without any thought as to how they might earn it first. But truly understanding loyalty is, and always has been, necessary for survival.

It was only through loyalty and trust that early humans were able to work together to hunt and gather food, build shelter and generally claw their way out of the animal kingdom. It is how our species developed into the dominating force we are today.

But surely it can’t all be good. Perhaps there are times when loyalty can be dangerous. If your best friend jumped off a bridge would you, out of loyalty? I would hope not but how do you make that decision?

How do you know when to be loyal and when it’s in your best interests not to be? Or Loyalty – How to Earn It and When to Let It Go.

Let’s break it all down and see.

 

Firstly what is loyalty really?

Our good friend Google tells us that Loyalty is defined as ‘a strong feeling of support or allegiance’. As a definition, it is short, precise and utterly useless.

In my opinion, to really dive into loyalty and to give us the intellectual skills to question it, I believe that we need to understand how it is created, and associate a measurement system to it.

 

The beginnings of loyalty

Let me give you an analogy to help us all understand it a little better.

Consider for a moment two boats coming together in open water, much like any two complete strangers passing in the street. Even though they may engage each other, there is nothing to keep them from simply drifting apart, never to meet again.

Let’s suppose for a moment these boats do engage each other for whatever reason, and one sailor throws a rope over the bow of the other boat. They have now formed an attachment built on trust. Either boat could pull away and break the rope, but neither would be significantly damaged, because their connection was just that single rope.

To understand this in the real world, I had an occasion where an employer demanded my complete loyalty on day one of my employment with them. While I was thankful for their employment, they had yet to invest even a single day in me and were making demands on my future. They had offered me employment and I had turned up to give them my best, however, we had only thrown a single rope across the bow of our two ships.

 

Developing the bonds loyalty

Getting back to our two ships drifting in the tidal wilderness of the open ocean. We captains of these mighty vessels have decided that it is in our best individual interests to stay together, perhaps to weather a storm or for medical reasons. We now start to throw many ropes across the bows to bind us together, like a needle and thread binding two pieces of fabric.

We enjoy fruits of our new union. We exchange ideas and information, trade goods and services and share our successes and failures together. Our loyalty to each other is getting stronger with each new rope that has is thrown across the bow.

Consider this stage like a couple building a life together. At the start of their union, it is only time and material possessions they share. However, as their relationship develops, they may have children, shared many experiences, lived together and invested completely in each other’s future. They may have even forgotten how to sail the waters alone, feeling that they may never need to again.

 

What happens if we break loyalty?

As we have discussed, breaking away early with no rope or only a single rope to bind us, will have minimal impact.

However, breaking away at the later point, now that we have invested heavily, could be disastrous as we have come to depend on each other. Pulling away now would cause major damage to both ships and potentially all they have built together.

Liken this stage of loyalty to a couple together for many years, torn apart by separation or divorce. Everything they have built together, every rope they had thrown across each other’s bow severed at once, potentially causing major emotional damage to at least one but likely both parties.

 

Does that mean we are loyal forever?

Not always. If one ship were to develop a leak it would make no sense for both vessels to sink. Our loyalty is served by trying to offer assistance first, trying to limit the damage second and then finally, if there are no other options, cutting all ties.

It may be in the best interests of the sinking ship to concentrate on its own situation, unencumbered, without fear of damaging its partner further. It can focus on rectifying its own damage before rejoining the union.

 

So what does all this ship talk mean for the real world?

It means loyalty is important for supporting each other. It gives us the ability to support others and have them support us. Whether personally, or in the business world the results of loyal relationships are often bigger than the sum of both halves.

However, we can not forget our own wellbeing in the equation. If both sides aren’t equally balanced, then the demands of one and un-met support of the other, could cause major damage in the medium to long term.

 

Last word on loyalty

If you have a rope or two thrown across your bow, consider your own situation. Make sure both parties are invested in the partnership. Make sure both ships are buoyant and capable of handling the open ocean. Make sure your loyalties are being returned.

If your loyalties are not in order it may be time to talk it through or take the action required.

May your ships be forever tethered!