A lesson in perspective

The news business is a brutal mistress. News is continuous, the deadlines are ruthless and the pressure to produce the latest surprising, insightful and deep content that is factually correct is a daily – in fact hourly – challenge.

It is also a highly addictive profession because we love what we do. We can spend long hours talking on phones, chasing stories, bashing out copy – much of it at our desks, looking at screens and keyboards. The temptation is to eat hurriedly and badly, skip exercise and unwind at the pub.

That level of stress and addiction can lead to burn out. Some turn to alcohol or drugs. At the upper echelons of our profession there are a lot of divorced, depressed blokes who look like they could keel over in a heartbeat.

Maybe that is why I have come through the profession with such a focus on health, reinforced by the pain and distress of having a child that had a chronic health issue when younger.

In fact for me, in life, there is health and everything else. If I have a problem that is weighing me down, the way I find perspective is to ask myself: is this a health issue affecting family, friends or colleagues? If not, it goes in the ‘everything’ else basket that can be dealt with and solved. Of course, the downside of that is when it is a health issue, I immediately feel much worse.

I have also taken that attitude towards health into my new role as entrepreneur. As you all know, running your own business is exhausting, stressful and all consuming – if you let it. From day one I put in circuit breakers: the gym, lots of beach runs and bushwalks, making big parties out of small family events, always having a great book on the go. I couldn’t tune out of my son’s health issues but I can certainly switch off at a second’s notice from my work.

I was reminded of this today when reading a remarkable reflective piece by Lou Coutts. I first met Lou when I was at BRW. He had a rare ability to write deep reflective stories on management that were also personal.

He embraced rather than ignored the fact that most of us are just humans trying to do a job the best way we can. Some of his pieces impacted me deeply. This one in particular put into words what I felt about my staff.

I read this piece just as the GFC was declaring itself and everyone was talking about cutting wages to get through. Then and there vowed to myself that no matter how bad it got, I would not cut hours or wages and in fact, I would make sure my staff got pay rises.

They did and they remember. When I started SmartCompany I caught up with Lou, who in his typical forthright way told me he was not sure it would work. I asked why and the problems that he outlined went into my business plan. SmartCompany is the success it is today because of Lou and people like him (including Colin Benjamin) who generously shared their entrepreneurial knowledge with me.

Lou is facing his own health crisis and he sent out this piece to his friends. It touched me deeply. Read it. Go on holiday. Be in the moment.

To read more of Lou, go here.

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