Let’s start where we left off last week – with a quotation. This one’s from Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide) and it’s about writing. Writing is easy. You just stare at a blank sheet of paper until your forehead starts to bleed.
Douglas – RIP – clearly wasn’t talking about a weekly blog of around 500 words. But I know the feeling – usually around 7pm on Monday. When you’re committed to a weekly blog, seven days pass remarkably quickly. Sometimes I stare at the screen and think ‘what am I going to write about this week?’
But this one’s easy – at least starting is easy. And it’s a simple introduction as well, because all I need to say is “thank you.”
Last week’s blog on quotations had the highest number of views of any of my blogs, and the highest number of comments. So thank you – your replies make the blog what it is. Besides, where else would I find a group of people who respond to a business blog by offering me quotes from Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh? And I keep thinking of what Dave Rawlings said. There are only two questions that matter, ‘Who are you? And what do you want?’ Curiously, those were exactly the words Mandy Cartwright used when I offered to carry her books home from school…
When I was writing last week’s blog, I was looking for a couple of slightly off-beat quotes as a contrast. For some reason I Googled ‘Jack Nicholson quotes.’ There was everything you’d expect – including some I won’t share with you – but there were a couple that really interested me.
The minute you’re not learning I believe you’re dead – which exactly chimes with so many of last week’s quotes about the constant need to adapt to change.
And this one: There’s only two people in your life you should lie to…the police, and your girlfriend.
Before you ask, no, I’m not in trouble with Inspector Plod – and no to the other one as well. The reason it struck a chord was that the first business quote I can remember was also about lying. The book was Up the Organization by Bob Townsend, the man who built Avis into a global company, and this was the quote:
Friday night playing poker is fine. Otherwise don’t lie. Not to your wife, not to your children, not to your boss, not to your team and most of all not to yourself.
I read that when I was just starting in the business world and without sounding too good to be true, I hope I’ve lived by it ever since. And it’s especially true about the Alternative Board. Because if I’m not 100% truthful with the Board members, I’m cheating them. And if Board members aren’t 100% truthful with each other and – like Bob says – with themselves, then what’s the point?
(I hate writing this, but the older you get, the more you realise that when old Grimesy – or whatever your Physics teacher was called – said, “You’re only cheating yourself, stupid boy,” he was right.)
Should you lie in business? My view is no. If the client wants it in two weeks and you know damn well it’s going to be four, then the sooner you say so the better. Because two weeks from now the client’s going to know anyway, and the solids will hit the air conditioning even harder. Should you lie to your staff? Again, no. Because sooner or later someone will find out, and there goes your credibility, flying out of the window.
You may disagree. (I’d be disappointed if someone didn’t.) And remember to keep those quotes coming – I’ll publish an updated list in a fortnight or so. Here’s one more from Bob Townsend to finish: If you don’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all. Because if you don’t do it excellently, it won’t be profitable or fun. And if you’re not in business for profit or fun, what the hell are you doing here?
PS. Next week is special for me. It’ll be a year since I signed up to The Alternative Board. So to celebrate, look out for a totally different blog…