As adults, and especially as business people, we often have a tendency to over-complicate our lives: business is notorious for this with its relentless commitment to an ever growing array of acronyms, methodologies and processes – and most of us are guilty of embracing them, often in a vain attempt to ‘big ourselves up’.
However, this pandemic is forcing many of us, some unfortunately through necessity and some via the luxury of the extra time they now have through not commuting for example, to seriously re-evaluate what is actually important to us; what we genuinely need in our lives – what adds to it, not takes from it.
This has been brought home to me in a variety of ways over the last few months, but perhaps one of the most hilarious examples of ‘making the complex simple’ was a recent discussion I had with my 14 year old son, regarding The New P&L – Principles and Leadership podcast series. Before I outline the discussion I had with him, I just want to contextualise it with all the work that goes into a single episode of The New P&L.
I have always been a massive sponge for useless information and I’ve said to a few people recently, that what The New P&L has given me is an outlet for all this useless information I have collected over decades - finally something I read in 1989, heard in 1997 or cut out of a magazine and saved in 2003 has come to fruition – frankly it is nothing short of a miracle; and it has relieved the tremendous pressure on the dusty information filing cabinets in the back of my brain.
For every podcast, I spend hours late into the evenings, researching the guests and their areas of specialisation, what is going on in society and business as it relates to this, then trying to draft questions that are going to inspire the guest and solicit an answer that will engage the listeners. I work hard at it because I’m loving what I am doing with The New P&L and genuinely believe in it and the difference, however small it might be, it might make to the general discourse around the topics I cover. I feel like I have truly found what I should have always been doing, it’s just taken me ages to find it. But I digress – back the conversation:
I was talking him through The New P&L website, discussing the guests’ backgrounds, explaining what we were trying to achieve, how The New P&L – Principles and Leadership was a play on the ‘old P&L’ - Profit and Loss; subtlety trying to show him his dad was possibly a little clever with that wordplay; explaining the topics I was discussing with guests and how I wanted to contribute to the debate in business, on so on, and so on. I never used to talk too much, but when it comes to The New P&L I can’t stop talking, “Principles and leadership this, leadership and principles that”, I went on and on, going deeper and deeper into the conversation.
He sat patiently, listened attentively, kindly took it all in, and then quietly said back to me: “That all sounds awesome dad, but aren’t you really just telling business people to ‘be kind and don’t be a dick?’”
And the simple answer is ‘yes’. This, I guess, is what I am saying when it is all broken down. As are all the purpose-driven corporate values documents we produce, what the industry Foundations, Think tanks, Business seminars, corporate workshops, keynote speakers etc, etc are all trying to say, with all their systems, methodologies, flow charts and acronyms. It was all summed up by the astute and concise observations of a young man who cut through the clouds so he could see the bright sky.
So through this pandemic and beyond, while I look for ways to remove complexity from my own life, I will also try to live by the simple, if slightly rude mantra of a young man with a concise view on life: “Be kind and don’t be a dick.”