It’s good to be back – and I have to tell you, I missed the blog. This was the longest break since the blog began and somehow Fridays weren’t quite the same…
If you don’t mind, I’m going to hark back to the Olympics, because there was a discussion in the BBC studio on the final Saturday of the Games that I’ve been thinking about for the past two weeks. It goes right to the heart of my thinking, and right to the heart of everything that TAB is about.
It’s the final of the Women’s 800m final. South African athlete Caster Semenya comes from a long way back to take second place. “A poorly judged race,” says Steve Cram. “She left it too late.”
One of the pundits takes a slightly different view. “I just wonder,” muses Colin Jackson, “With everything that’s gone on in her life, did she prefer to finish second?”
Michael Johnson almost explodes. Gold medal winner, world record holder, he simply can’t conceive of anyone wanting to finish second.
John Inverdale asks Jackson to elaborate. “Absolutely,” he replies. “In my time in athletics I knew plenty of athletes who had it all. Who could have won gold, but they settled for silver.”
Inverdale is astonished: but then Denise Lewis chimes in. “Winning brings pressure,” she says. “It’s high profile. Publicity. The demand to do it again.”
Those discussions in the athletics studio were one of the highlights of the Games for me. Full marks to Inverdale for taking the discussions into sometimes-murky waters. And full marks to the BBC for letting him.
The parallels between business and sport are well documented – and ‘what an Olympic gold medallist can teach you about business success’ has become a well-worn path. If one of us isn’t eating rubber chicken and listening to Jess Ennis in the next six months I’ll be astonished…
But maybe there’s another parallel here: maybe there’s an interesting parallel with the athletes Colin Jackson knows – the ones who were prepared to settle for second place.
Do I know people in business who’ve achieved less than they’re capable of? Absolutely. Do I know people who could have been the MD of a PLC or run their own businesses and made a fortune? Yes – how long do you want the list to be?
Do these people think of themselves as failures? Are they unhappy? Almost without exception, no.
There’s an old saying, ‘Take what you want from life – and pay for it.’ While I was in France with my family and while I was in Denver without them, I realised how much they mean to me – and how precious the time with my boys is. Not long now and Dan will be a teenager: Rory is growing up fast. Dav and I are already noticing that we have more time on our own than we used to, and that’s only going to increase.
So yes, I’m determined to make TAB York a huge success and I’m determined to help you all build your business – but there’s something else that I’m determined to help you get right, and that’s your work/life balance.
That’s not to say I’ll sit idly by in a 1:1 while you say, “I think I’ll miss all my targets this month, Ed.” But it is to say that ‘take my children camping’ is every bit as valid a target as ‘double our sales of widgets.’
So yes – I know plenty of people in business who didn’t achieve as much as they could have done. By the same token, I know plenty of people who have achieved every bit of material and corporate success they ever wanted. But in far too many cases it’s come at too great a price. All too often they’ve reached the summit – only to look down on the wreckage of their family life.
Business is great – but on its own, it’s not enough. By all means climb the mountain – and decide how high you want to go. But take the people you love with you. And if I can help, I will.