The coolest thing about being 55 years old is you really start to get perspective on life. Your narrative arc even begins to become a little less murky. The downside of this is it makes you realise how you could have done things easier. Avoided the ‘d’oh!’ moments.
A few years ago, I read some research that showed that peak unhappiness for men occurs at about age 52. Later versions pin-point the nadir at age 48, but what’re a few years here and there?
Frankly, I can’t argue with this. At that age, a lot of things were going right for me, but I was pretty unhappy. Like many others that have had the privilege of living long enough to confirm the accuracy of this research, I decided to do something about it.
The starting point for any change is to assess what has already come before, what worked, what should be altered. Several years ago I was a panel member at a financial services conference when someone in the audience asked a great question:
‘What advice would you give the 30-year-old Patrick?’
Good question! To answer it, I’ve put together the 3 business lessons I wish I could tell 30-year-old me.
3 Business Lessons I wish I could tell 30-year-old Me
In the process of deciding the 3 business lessons I wish I could tell the 30-year-old me, I admit to a few regrets – but no remorse.
The late Christopher Hitchens described the difference: remorse is sorrow for what one did do whereas regret is misery for what one did not do. OK, misery may be too strong a term here, but you see my point.
Happily, there is little remorse in my life, especially in business.
If I am honest though, there are, in my business career, a few regrets. If I had my time again, yes I would do things a little differently.
In business mentoring and financial advising, often my clients are younger than me. The advantage here is that hopefully, they can learn from my mistakes. That way, they are free to make original ones of their own!
Seriously, though, any review needs to be more useful than just a trip down memory road. Rather, I want to approach this and then apply my conclusions in the scenario where an 80- year-old Patrick is advising me as a 55-year-old.
That way, both you and I move away from any lingering on regrets and transform the lessons into hope, enthusiasm and opportunity. The best is yet to come!
Lesson 1: Be Bold
I regret that I wasn’t bolder in business. What do I mean by that? Well, my main gig was in financial planning – which in Australia is a very highly regulated profession.
I think I allowed my thinking to be too restrained within the parameters of this regulation. I am not against regulation. It is a very positive thing as it provides a framework for consumer certainty. After all, financial planners are entrusted with their client’s life savings!
Too often though, I allowed my thinking and business ambition to be anchored and framed by compliance and orthodoxy. I allowed the regulatory environment to stifle my innovative tendencies.
On the other hand, perhaps I am being too hard on myself. Back in the late 90s my business partner and I spent a day with Rodney Adler and his team. This was just after HIH Insurance had bought Adler’s business FAI, and – as would later be shown – right in the middle of some very dodgy business dealing by Adler. Adler was also expanding into financial planning services and we were there to start discussions on a potential sale.
Those discussions didn’t amount to anything, but later on, after the HIH situation became Australia’s largest corporate collapse and Adler and co were sentenced to jail, we reflected on our experience.
We might not have hit the heights, or made as much money – but we had our reputations intact. There is no shame in paying your bills on time, meeting your payroll obligations every fortnight, and obeying the law!
Move away from any lingering on regrets and transform the lessons into hope, enthusiasm and opportunity. The best is yet to come!
Lesson 2: Results don’t always speak for themselves.
At 28, I thought I had the world at my feet. I was the youngest (by at least 10 years!) of 14 Sales Managers in the state, led the second-largest team and had the best KPI results across all of my peers. I was looking forward to qualifying for my first conference at a swanky resort and making good money.
So, I wasn’t too worried when the news came through that the number of divisions was being reduced from 14 down to 2. After all, I was getting the results that the boss was after, right?
Wrong. Sure, I was getting the results, but I hadn’t built the sort of relationship that reminded him of what I was doing. The team’s success ended up just being a column on a page.
That meant I ended up being one of the 12 that was without a job.
I don’t mean it to be cynical, but not only do you need to deliver results, but you also need to make sure the people that need to know, do know. You need to keep telling your story, keep telling your market what your value proposition is.
Truthfully, even with the best of intentions and interest, your customers need to be continually reminded of both your promise and your accomplishments. People forget, or they don’t have the time to research – so tell them (hopefully without the ‘humblebragging’ element, but that’s another blog).
A great way of achieving this is by building networks and being more collaborative. The problem I had at 28 was that I thought I had to do everything myself, as a way of demonstrating my competence.
My advice is to do more networking more collaboration with other like-minded professionals. You can’t be the expert at everything and just expect that your market will realise and recognise this.
Lesson 3: Stretch!
No really – stretch! I’m not talking about stretch goals, I am talking about physically stretching. At 30, I was pretty fit and strong, but completely inflexible. Like a lot of young men, I was all about the muscles and less about the stretching. Too much time sitting at that damn desk!
I should have had more walking meetings. A smart move would have been to invest sooner in upright desks and better chairs. Instead of waiting till I was 44, I should have taken up Bikram Yoga at 30.
What’s stretching and flexibility got to do with business regrets? Everything! Understand this: when you are 30, you are not only exercising for the 30-year-old you – you are also exercising for the sort of body you want to have when you are 55. Now that I am 55, I am also exercising for 80-year-old Patrick as well.
There are obvious business benefits to being physically flexible. And, the healthier you are, the better you can focus and achieve in your business. The less obvious benefits are in your longevity.
As a financial adviser, I was privileged to work with clients over many years. These longitudinal relationships with people older than me also gave me an insight into the long-term impacts of health and diet. Through this, I got an insight into the future. Frankly, the people who ate well and exercised tended to live longer and have more active lives in their retirement.
I decided to adopt an ‘exercise for future self’ attitude to physical activity. This has held me in good stead – but boy do I wish I had stretched more when I was younger!
Alas, I don’t have the time machine that would enable me to implement my 55-year-old advice to my 30-year-old self.
As a business mentor, I aim to apply these lessons for my client’s benefit, within the context of their goals, ambitions and capabilities.
If you would like to see some practical examples, you can read Julie’s case study in buying a business or how I worked with Carl to make his consultancy more sustainable and profitable.
More than that – I’m interested in your story! Contact me today – I can’t wait to hear your story!