Friday, 2 September 2011

Truth, Beauty, Happiness, Shareholder Value

Many years ago (in my Strategy Consultant guise) I was sitting in a business meeting debating the strategic priorities for our client’s business.  In an attempt to provide some over-arching clarity to the somewhat rambling debate the lead consultant asserted;

"Well, I think we can all agree that Shareholder Value Creation is the most important thing”.

My good friend Justin’s response was to grin and propose the following;

“Truth, Beauty, Happiness, Shareholder Value: rank in order of importance”


Now … I think that far from being the facetious statement it superficially appears to be, Justin rather eloquently (as befits his status as an All Souls Fellow) highlighted how easily we lose perspective in our day-to-day lives.

Many of you reading this blog will be similar to me, will have a tendency to bury yourself within the latest project and to place a ridiculous level of importance on work/business issues that - with a little perspective - can be seen to be just inconsequential frothy nonsense compared to the really important things in life like … well, like Truth, Beauty and Happiness.

Let me dwell for a moment on 'Happiness' and paraphrase one of our great modern philosophers;

“Whether it is your children, your business or your garden, happiness comes from sowing seeds, nurturing them and watching them grow.”

OK, so this particular modern philosopher was actually Ken Dodd during a radio interview; but his point is well made (and to be fair, he knows a thing or two about ‘Happiness', pointing out as he did that it is "the greatest gift that I possess").

Maybe more obviously appropriate to the (sometimes tenuous) ‘business’ rationale for this blog is Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford Commencement Speech.  I like his challenge to look yourself in the mirror every morning and ask yourself if you will enjoy your day ahead (how often can you answer that positively?) and his assertion that “we are all naked” and really have nothing (professionally) to lose.  [Of course his recent decision to step down from his post at Apple for heath reasons makes this speech all the more poignant.]

So what? Well for me personally it is true that some Happiness is to be found through business success (through ‘Shareholder Value Creation’ if you will) as I suspect it is for most with an entrepreneurial bent ; but Happiness is the goal, not business success.  So I'm consciously taking the time and effort to make sure that I enjoy the journey and not just the hoped for destination, to make sure that in the drive to ‘succeed’ I don’t lose sight of the more important things in life.
To stop trying to live life quickly and start succeeding to live life slowly.

To gain Perspective.