Do you know the inspirational story of Chris Gardner? His life story is the subject of a film starring Will Smith and his son Jaden – The Pursuit of Happyness (and that is the correct spelling).
Essentially, in San Francisco in 1981, Gardner loses his home, his marriage fails and he ends up homeless with his 5 year old son and only $22 in his pocket. The circumstances are immaterial, but suffice to say he embarks on a one-year internship with the aim of becoming a broker at a large brokerage house. Despite having very little money and having to sleep rough (often in homeless hostels) he manages to care for his son and secure a post. He eventually went on to found his own brokerage and secure his own personal fortune.
In Marshall Goldsmiths new book, Triggers, he makes a prescient observation that “even the most indestructible leader has regrets”.
For those of you unfamiliar with Marshall, he is an eminent business educator, thinker and coach who has been very influential throughout his long and distinguished career.
That leaders have cause for regret is not an idle thought, as Marshall has coached more that 150 CEO’s.
Whilst it might be a prescient observation, it is just a starting point. Regret is a powerful emotion and one that we all recognise in a way that is personal to us. Hence what might be regret for you could be disappointment for someone else – but these are just different colours of thinking about things that may not have gone so well. So what can we learn from it?
How many times have you heard someone say that their life would be different if some fanciful event were to happen to them? As a coach I hear this all the time. Prefixed by “If only…” or similar such words, clients go on to lay out incredible visions of how different their lives could be. I usually follow this up with this question – “Wouldn’t your life be going somewhere you really want it to go, if you started to do something about it?”.
More often than not, the usual response at this point is “Yes, but…”. Two small words, but they are like chains and they weigh tons. Why do I think this? It is because they must be heavy as they are enough to stop the client going somewhere where they really want to be. Chains because they link your dreams to whatever you have invented to hold you back.
You may not have heard of Matt Hampson. This Mothers Day (15th March in the UK) marks the tenth anniversary of him suffering a severed spine during a scrum in a game of rugby. Matt was a talented young rugby player, the game was for England U21, and it was thought he had a promising career ahead of him. His injury has left him paralysed from the neck down, wheelchair bound and he is permanently on a ventilator.
“You don’t really think what could happen to yourself, you think ‘how is what I am doing going to improve the situation?’”. L/Cpl Josh Leakey VC
I am not sure if you saw the story of Josh Leakey this week? It was an incredible story of a modest man who defied the situation he was in to accomplish something in a situation where most people would be rooted to the spot.
So what has this got to do with business, and indeed coaching? If you think about it there are some clear lessons here:
If you focus only on yourself, you may hold yourself back from being the best you can possibly be in a situation.
Think about your actions and how they can help. How many times have you been in meetings where you have seen self-destructive behaviors?
Focus on the outcomes and you might just get there.
If any of these points strike a cord, perhaps you need to reflect on where you are headed, maybe you need to speak to a coach?
“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” (Kevin Ngo)
At the heart of it, this quotation is all about choice. Choice in life, choice in work, choice in career…. Choice applies to everything.
You may disagree after all the word choice doesn’t appear within it. So let me explain.
One of the key skills that coaches like myself need is the ability to listen. This doesn’t mean I hear the words that you speak, it means really deep listening with the objective of understanding. When you do this, you often hear clients talk about what they ‘should do’ and ‘ought to do’. When these are explored, they so often transpire to involve other people’s expectations or imply obligations that may or may not be valid. These things are often at the expense of the clients own needs, life or career goals.
I am not sure how many people know that Brian May’s iconic and signature “Red Special” guitar, was built by him and his father (who was an electronics engineer) when May was a teenager. So songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody were recorded on a guitar that was built with wood from an 18th century fireplace, had a fingerboard lacquered with Rustin’s Plastic coating and a tremolo arm made from an old bicycle saddlebag topped with a knob off a knitting needle.
It would be disingenuous to conclude that the “Red Special” is just cobbled together. May and his father (according to May) spent many hours hand shaping and sanding the guitar body until it was just right. As his father was an engineer by trade, he set high standards and the guitar had to be just right. There are other personal touches, as the dots on the fret board are old mother of pearl buttons and you will notice that on the headstock there is a sixpence.
Popular mythology would have you believe that some rock stars are spoiled prima Donna’s. For years David Lee Roth of the band Van Halen was held up as an example of this because he always insisted on bowls of M&M’s backstage – but the brown ones had to be removed.
On the surface of it, it seems pretty interesting behaviour.
Van Halen was the first band to hit the road with monster shows. You are talking 19 articulated lorries full of equipment. This meant that the shows were complicated to assemble, involved a lot of detail and there were specific requirements of the venue’s where they were going to be staged.