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 Helping Managers and Salespeople Thrive in Turbulent Times Vol. 2, #2, February 2004 
in this issue
  • Beware the Energizer Bunny
  • About Jim Schaffer & Associates

  • Greetings!

    This month we discuss how slowing down may be the only way to get ahead.
    As always, just click "reply" to send along your comments at any time.

    Best regards,

    Jim Schaffer
    President, Jim Schaffer & Associates

    Beware the Energizer Bunny

    By now, even those of us who work for laggard companies have a good idea of what we need to be aiming for this year. Universally, the message seems to be this: we need to go further, faster, and with fewer teammates than last year. For some, there will be enticing rewards for crossing the finish line. For others, the sole reward is being allowed to stay in the race for the next round.

    We've been moaning and groaning about this trend in business for a long time now, but it seems to be "the way things are." And — let's face it — we're good at it! Going fast is exciting, it feels like raw productivity, it's like, well, a drug.

    One of the popular slogans of my college years, along with "Don't Trust Anyone Over 30" (heaven forgive us), was "Speed Kills." An ironic reference to a public auto safety commercial, in our lexicon it referred to the use of amphetamines for energy and entertainment. The rush may be great, it implied, but ultimately, you're headed for a crash from which you won't recover.

    The allegory in business today holds quite well. We're all moving faster and faster and lately, according to my unscientific survey, the great majority of us are feeling signs of wear.

    Is there any way to keep up? To move faster than we already are, achieve the goals set for us, and not burn out?

    The first step is: slow down! I'm not talking about coming to a screeching halt. This is not a tale of "slow and steady wins the race." Try that and you'll be toast before you can say "Voice over IP."

    I am talking about slowing down first your mind, then your body and ultimately your spirit until you develop a calm center from which to navigate your days. It is important to pay attention to all three, and any healthy effect you bring to one will radiate to the others. When you incorporate practices into your day that help you to slow down, you will shift from moving merely "fast" to moving "swiftly."The word "swiftly" connotes elements of grace and economy of movement — more like Mikhail Baryshnikov than Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

    It's a lot easier to move swiftly when you are observing quietly from a calm, centered place. Here's how it's described in the Tao te Ching:

    Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
    Alert, like men aware of danger.
    Courteous, like visiting guests.
    Yielding, like ice about to melt.
    Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
    Who can remain still until the moment of action?

    All good advice in ancient times, but how is this possible in our broadband world? Here are some tips to slow down in order to move more swiftly:

    1. Quiet Your Mind. There are more schools of meditation than former Oracle salespeople. Find one that works for you. If you can't grab twenty minutes early in the morning, sit in your parking lot for ten before you head into the building. Breathe.
    2. Give Your Body a Break. When you shift tasks, take a walk. You think you don't have time for this, but the fact is you do. Say you've been phoning for a couple of hours and now you need to switch to proposal writing. Perfect! Time for a break. I often leave my office near Boston Harbor and take a walk around Quincy Market, look at the architecture while I stroll and then head back. Total elapsed time: 13 minutes. Don't worry — nobody will miss you.
    3. Nurture Your Spirit. Most of us have pictures of loved ones on the desk. They're there to remind us that there's meaningful life beyond the office walls. Other people keep pictures of their sailing expeditions. Sometimes little phrases, spoken silently to ourselves at moments throughout the day, can bring us back to a larger perspective. A reminder from your favorite place, like a seashell or the program from a summer stock theater can connect you with peaceful moments in your life.

    Many years ago, I was one of four Regional Directors for a hot software company speeding down the Long Island Expressway in my friend Lewis' fancy car towards Chinatown for a management dinner. The company was doubling in size every six months and we were all racing like maniacs to keep pace with the demands. We were feeling pretty successful, with lots of cash in our pockets, newly-purchased homes, and snazzy clothes adorning our frames. We prided ourselves on being fast-moving and capable fellows.

    Trouble was, my friend Dom had discovered a boil on his neck, I had gained 12 pounds and developed high blood pressure, Lewis had problems with substances both solid and liquid and Eddie, the stalwart citizen among us, had been discovered in the master bathroom by his wife early one morning, in the dark, staring at the mirror. We were all in our thirties.

    You can move swiftly toward your goal, but you want to get there feeling whole by taking care of your mind, body and spirit. Otherwise you'll reap those rewards feeling like Pee Wee Herman in the glare of front page headlines.

    It's important not to lose sight of the natural order of things: bursts of activity followed by periods of regeneration. Not to honor this is to echo the ironic words of a song by America's Greatest Depressed Poet, Paul Simon:

    "So, I'll continue to continue,
    To pretend,
    My life will never end,
    And flowers never bend,
    With the rainfall."

    Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson!

    To Read All 10 Tips for Success in 2004, click here

    About Jim Schaffer & Associates

    Jim Schaffer & Associates helps management teams & salespeople stay focused, get results and keep high morale — regardless of what may be going on around them.

    Copyright 2003 by Jim Schaffer & Associates.

    To subscribe to this newsletter, simply send an email with your request to: jim@jimschaffer.com.


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