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Why living the good life is very bad for business

Ian Whitworth /

employee monitoring

Scene Change co-founder and Motivation for Sceptics blogger Ian Whitworth. Source: Supplied.

Oh my! So much to do! So little time!

To be a success you have to delegate hard. You need help for all those little tasks that distract you from productive work.

Airport bookshelves offer endless advice on saving your precious time: get someone else to answer your emails, do your laundry and walk your dog. App stores are packed with thrilling disruptive tools to bid these tasks out to a new underclass of helpers.

Plus, as you get more successful, you treat yourself to the little luxuries that a busy business person like you deserves for all that ass-busting effort, like the limo to and from the airport, and fair enough too.

And yet, those things will also make you worse at what you do.

Hit that irritation gym

All the good business people I know are deeply interested in the little everyday problems they encounter, and coming up with ideas to solve them, even if it’s just as a mental exercise.

Just going about your daily life is a gymnasium of irritations large and small. Stupid labyrinthine phone-hold menus. Delivery people who decide you’re not home without knocking. Cost-comparison websites that find you the ‘best deal’, and then follow it up with phone harassment worthy of a court restraining order. The list is endless.

Better business comes from smart people going: Fuck this, I’m going to find a way to fix it, and humanity will be the better off.

If you palm all your annoyances off to people who get paid much less than you, you’re now way out of touch with 95% of your customers, and the human race in general.

All your problems are smoothed out for you. Your queue is shorter. You don’t mix with people who aren’t like you. You don’t know what really matters to regular folk, so it’s much harder for you to recognise genuine opportunities. You lose your instincts for how normal humans behave, and that’s the single most important skill in business.

Your good life is bad for your business

In your world of convenience, nobody would wait outside a store in the cold for hours to buy half-price bed linen. They wouldn’t buy a bottle of wine for less than $30. Your lack of reality calibration shows in all the little decisions you make on pricing, marketing messages, and your mental images of who your customers are.

Gradually your idea of the real world shrinks to reflect the circle of people in your office, ashtanga yoga class or golf club.

You can’t understand people worse off than you if your only first-hand contact involves someone parking your car. Understanding and insight comes from talking to people, far more than the shonky stereotype clusters your marketing department serves up, pretending it’s some breakthrough in predicting people’s behaviour. Their theoretical PowerPoint constructions are right sometimes.

And so is astrology.

You also lose touch with your staff. Because it presents no problems for you to move your premises away from public transport, and now your people have to pay twice as much to get to work. You cut shifts for casuals and now it costs them more in childcare than they’re earning. You have no understanding of how hard their life can be as they battle to make ends meet. So working for you becomes … just another job.

Please, think of the giraffes

When you have kids, delegation can free up precious time with them. But if you have your team of servants do all the crappy jobs, your kids grow up seeing that as normal, and that makes them more likely to become Donald Trump Jr. So if your kid ends up shooting giraffes, don’t say you weren’t warned.

It’s easy to forget how much small kids love ‘helping’ parents with dull household tasks. Take that away and you kill off a whole, delightful side of your relationship with them.

And if you delegate 100% of your dog walking to a dog walker, you don’t deserve a dog.

Get your ass out of the office

If you own a business, a big part of your role is to have better insights and ideas than your competitors. To do that you need to deliberately immerse yourself in the regular world. If your mind is all business, all the time, your ideas will be stale.

If your mind isn’t free to drift, your only inspiration will come from inside your cubicle farm. You can tell those ideas when they hit the market — grey, limp little products and campaigns spawned by hours looking at nothing but competitors’ web sites. Get out of the building, now.

I like catching the train. Trains are great. A moving exhibit of normal folk with the odd bonus freak thrown in. For the remarkable deal of about $4, you get to observe them for as long as you like. See what media people are using, see what people are reading and wearing at the moment, overhear the sort of conversations teenagers are having. It all soaks in and helps you make better decisions.

Talk to cab drivers

For some transport variation, always talk to cab drivers. Tip: if they’re a different colour to you, don’t ask them where they came from. It’s not so much offensive as boring. They get asked that about 20 times a day, so you start a well-worn formula conversation where you learn nothing.

Plus they probably came from the same place as you.

You don’t have to do it every day, but cook your own food. Go to the supermarket. Assemble your bookshelves. If Edison had a low-priced team of candle trimmers and oil-lamp refillers coming around to his house every day, he wouldn’t have bothered inventing the light globe.

Embrace everyday annoyance, your new inspirational friend.

This article was first published on Motivation for Sceptics. Read the original article.

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Ian Whitworth

Ian Whitworth is a reformed branding and advertising creative director turned entrepreneur, who co-founded corporate audiovisual company Scene Change.

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