New: John Addis

Want to have a special moment with your partner? Just whack it your diary. C’mon! You can squeeze ’em in somewhere.

Just farting around

A few years back, an acquaintance was recounting a moment with his sons on a previous weekend. It was a perfect Sydney morning, cloudless and balmy, and he and his two teenage children had decided to go for a surf. They paddled out past the white water and, refreshed and energised by the sea, waited for the next set of waves to roll in.

Their eyes fixed on the horizon, no one spoke. But there was no discomfort in the silence. My acquaintance looked around, taking in the view of the beach, the opening sky and his two sons. ‘It doesn’t get any better than this,’ he thought to himself.

A foreign company is now offering millions to buy his business. A man not prone to quick decisions is currently “thinking about it”. Personally, I would chew the septics’ hands off. But this was his father’s business and for him, it’s more complicated. Should he decide to sell, I wonder how the sweet moment he shared with his sons will compare with the feeling of banking what will probably be the fattest cheque of his life.

It’s probably unfair to even make the comparison. Building a business is a structured activity. We plan (sometimes), we take decisions, we act. There’s little room for spontaneity. Indeed, one of our tasks is to plan for surprises, to work out what the unexpected will bring. The big payoff is recognition of our efforts. It’s vindication – “F*ck you” money to all the people that doubted us. A cheque with lots of zeros is struggle’s reward.

But what about the price of struggle? How do interminable hours, endless travel and exhaustion affect the quality of our relationships? You may love what you do but how often do you think about the consequences of your devotion to your work on others?

My friend’s surfing story was anything but planned. Born of the moment, of opening the curtains and seeing what the day had to offer, it was the essence of spontaneity. “Have a special moment with my children” is not something that reads well in a diary. We can kid ourselves that when we do spend time with partners, friends, and kids, that it’s “quality time”. But special moments just happen. They’re a function of time, not of activity.

Seductive as it appears, I don’t think that life is just about goals, either setting or scoring. When we stop thinking about objectives and KPIs, and all the other glib little phrases that slip from the acrid tongues of management consultants, something weird happens: we notice what’s going on around us, and we become more involved, more connected, as a result. We start to become a part of something bigger.

The recently departed American author Kurt Vonnegut (link to liked to send lots of parcels. When asked what he thought life’s purpose was, he replied: “We’re here on earth to fart around. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.”


John Addis grows businesses, including IntelligentInvestor and now SmartCompany.

For more Business Buddhist blogs, click here.


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