Wednesday, 12 June 2013

"Forever is a map of nows,
Charted every now."


A friend of mine comes to stay. She says "I want to retrain." She is a production manager.
"Yes. I feel I need to move into a caring profession."
"But you're already in a caring profession."
"Haha. I don't think making soap is a caring profession. No one would see it that way."
"I might. But what would you be doing in a caring profession that you're not doing as a production manager?"
"I'd be making a real difference to people's lives."
"And you don't now?"

I recalled a story she had told me some time ago. She had a production worker - let's call him Mike. He was one of the best workers she had. After he had been working at the plant for some time, she noticed that he seemed downcast, not himself. Asking around tactfully, she soon discovered the reason. He was being bullied by some other workers who were threatening to reveal to the boss - my friend - something they had somehow discovered. The secret was that Mike had been to prison - not something discovered in the recruitment process.
My friend acted decisively, calling Mike into her office. He was clearly terrified.
"I hear the rumour mill is grinding out some stuff about you Mike?"
"I hear that you have a criminal record. Is that true?
Mike was close to tears. "Yes. It is."
"Ok," said my friend. "Here's what we're going to do. Nothing. I'm glad you told me as now I know, and that means that anyone threatening to grass you up can come straight to me, as I know about it anyway. You're one of my best workers. I don't want to lose you." Mike, predictably, continued to be one of her best and most loyal factory workers.

"You don't make a difference to peoples' lives?" I asked. "What about Mike?"
"Well.............. yes."

You don't have to be in a caring profession to care about people. You can run a burger van and do it. You can work on the checkout at Tesco and do it. In fact, you can illuminate (I think that is the right word) any job by merely seeing it as a context for loving. So that your real job becomes loving people, giving them a loving level of care, and your paid job is just the context - the setting.

Butcher, baker, candlestick maker.
Consultant, coach, facilitator.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


What the hell is the matter with you, Berry?
You've let an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of dollars slip through your grubby fingers.
Worse, you've refused to pursue it.
You idiot.

This would not, in truth, be the first time that such a thing has occurred. I've regularly turned away contracts, for all sorts of reasons.

My friend, Chopper, was working for a major airline as their Head of Strategy when he rang me to ask for some help in a workshop he was facilitating. After a short phone call I determined I couldn't add any value, and told him so. It was, he said, the first time in twenty years he had ever encountered a consultant turning away work. It led to many years happy and profitable acquaintance.

Then there was the time we were being treated as slaves by a client. It was offensive to me. But the contract was a big one. Half a million or so. My associates begged for a tolerance I do not have. Driving to catch a train to one of the tiresome meetings with the client, during which, they would be no doubt (as they had been) misreading my name badge for one which said cunt, I suddenly turned right instead of left. Right again brought me 180 degrees, heading home again, rather than to the railway station. I didn't even apologize for missing their meeting. No more money from them. But it felt good. Literally. My body felt at ease, knowing that I had decided against the abuse and slavery so far endured. And, more complicated, but equally relevant - a slavery which meant that change agency was being at all points dumbed down and rejected. Five hundred grand was the manumission. Clear.

There have been other incidents of refusal. Each has been accompanied by the same clarity. It's a clarity not understandable to many. But, to me, it has always been something other than money which has been the motivator behind my own business. And it has been that clarity, born of a desire for free thought, for independence and for a commitment to originality and adding real value in the matter of creating distinctive businesses, and expressed individuals, which has won many a contract too.

This week, through twists and turns, comes another example. Tempted out to the Middle East by an old client, I'm asked to run a visioning workshop, for his Arabic clients (he is acting as a consultant with a large consultancy but doesn't have the visioning skills in house). So far so good. But going to the Gulf isn't my idea of fun, so I quote top dollar rates. He agrees. But then he hits me with an unsignable contract, with such blanket indemnities in it that it could only be signed for twenty or thirty times the fee - hundreds of thousands of dollars. The deal falls apart. But behind the deal is the larger opportunity - to go direct to his clients (whose contact details I have) and persuade them they should do the job properly with my Company, for the much more significant fee implied by the onerous contract. The Missus frowns in moral opprobrium when I mention this as a possibility, citing the principle of not shafting a mate. To me, morally, it would be little more than a swingeing, unexpected chess move, and its audacity is appealing. But I don't take it. Why?

It has taken some time for clarity to come. The bodily check reveals it to be tension free, and therefore the right decision, but why?

The answer is that the venture is loveless. The people are loveless in their venture. It is people who are used to so much money that you and I can't even begin to imagine it. But not money earned by creating anything. Money earned by shaking a money tree with infinite supplies of money to be had from it. Magic money. Silly money. Money with no point to it, there's so much of it. Money with no meaning. Money not earned by creating anything anyone else finds intriguing or appealing, but money that just flows unstoppably out of the ground.

I realise that it's love, not money, that interests me, and that explains this aberrance. I like putting love into things, and these people aren't interested, because they are so soaked in money, they can't undrestand the creative process normally needed to get it. Their venture will be loveless, no matter how much money it makes. What's the point of hiring a chef, if what you want is semolina? What's the point of hiring a fresco artist, if what you want is a magnolia painted wall? I don't want to make semolina. I don't want to spend my life painting magnolia, no matter how much money there is in it. This will surprise the odd Sheikh or two, perhaps. But it will surprise no one who knows me. And it is good to be reacquainted with that and have it reaffirmed. Through actions, of course. Not words.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Contentment makes poor news.