We All Need Days Like These


Saturday was a big momentous day for me – one of those massive milestones in your life, like when you got married or became a parent. It’s a time for celebration and reflection and there was loads of the former and, so far, a little of the latter.

On Saturday I turned 50. I’m going to tell you what happened and share a couple of the thoughts that have come from it.

It’s a weird feeling being 50…not the actual physical feeling – apart from still being somewhat jaded from the celebrations – I don’t physically feel any different. In fact, I’m probably fitter than I’ve been for many years.

It’s that number that I’ve been struggling to get my head around…where did the years go. Of course, when you look back to when you were 40 and 30 and you remember what your life was like then and what you were doing, you appreciate that a fair few years must have past. It’s just that they pass by so quickly at the time.

The birthday experience really started the day before. For the last 8 weeks I’ve been seeing a personal trainer once or twice a week. When we started he knew my aim was to lose weight and build my core strength and general fitness level.

He weighed me and took measurements of my chest, arms, waist, and legs and calculated things like my body fat percentage, bone density and the like. He also put me through a fitness test at the start and we agreed that he would do the same the day before my 50th.

I knew I was fitter – he had worked me hard but I was more interested in the weight. I had surgery on a compressed shoulder earlier in the year and my surgeon described me as a heavy-set but muscular man – a polite way of saying that I could lose a few pounds.

I was disappointed when my trainer told me that in all I’d only lost 2kg. (4.4Ibs). But he said it with a wry smile on his face and then gave me the true picture. Even though in total I’d only lost 2kg I had actually lost 6kg of fat and gained 4kg of muscle. My fat percentage had dropped 5% and everything else, including my fitness level, had changed for the better. I left with a big smile on my face.

I got home and my wife asked me to go get something she needed from my office. I walked in to find my daughter sitting at my desk. “What?” (That was me.) Followed by lots of hugs. Huge surprise! There was no hint when we spoke on the phone that she would get home from university and I didn’t want to bring it up in case she couldn’t and would feel guilty. So I had resigned myself to her not being here.

Julie said that tonight we were just going to grab some food at the pub in the village and as we entered I got a little excited inside hoping that some friends would be waiting there. There weren’t and I put it aside, got drinks and we perused the menu. Then they started traipsing in – including friends I hadn’t seen for months.

The rest of the evening was lovely and in the morning I took the dogs for a walk. When I got back I heard someone playing my new birthday present – a set of drums – in the other room. I assumed it was Steve who had turned up last night and who played the drums. Julie suggested I go in and see him but I said, seeing as he sounded a lot worse than I thought he would, I’d better not in case he’s hoping I’m still out with the dogs.

Jules came up with another reason why I should and I walked in to find not Steve, but Phil – one of my oldest friends who was best man at my wedding and whom I hadn’t seen for almost a year – grinning at me. “Whooaa!!” (That was me.) Followed by big hugs. I’d only spoken to him the day before when he apologised for not being able to come up and wished me a great day.

It turned out that Jules had arranged something for us boys to do and so 5 of us headed off with an address to put in the car sat nav. (Of course they knew what we were doing but I didn’t have a scoobie.)

We arrived at an outdoor adventure centre to find that we were to have a go at riding Segways and hovercrafts. Now I love doing this kind of stuff but the chance of me being injured increases exponentially should a certain friend (also Chris) be around.

I was explaining this to one guy who didn’t know Chris or the jinx he has on me and so I described all the injuries I’ve had in his presence over the years. And I finished by saying luckily he lives in Munich so today I was going to be ok.

I then noticed a couple of guys looking over my shoulder. I turned and there casually drinking a coffee was Chris. “Aaaahhhhh!!!” (That was me.) Followed by big hugs and a sudden nervous feeling in my belly. It turned out that Chris and his wife had flown over the day before. We had a brilliant time and I was relieved to leave with no injury.

Apparently Jules had arranged for us to go out that evening and I heard Chris talking about needing to “pick up his tux”. After the adventure and a stop off at a pub, Chris went off to pick up his wife and tux and the rest of us headed back home with me wondering where we were off to and how heavy I was when I last wore my tuxedo.

Our garden is at the side of the converted barn we live in and it’s pretty big and visible when you pull up to the front. You know how sometimes you see something but it just doesn’t make sense so you simply stare blankly? Well, that was me…

Why are there people – familiar faces – in our garden staring at me and grinning? Why can I hear loud music? Why are there tables and bales of hay on the lawn and where did all those balloons that say “50” come from? Why is my beautiful wife, wearing a lovely dress standing at the gate holding a glass of champagne? And why do I have a car full of blokes grinning at me inanely?

Being a fairly intelligent man, the fog quickly dissipated and my first reaction was to turn the car around. You see I’m fine with lots of people if I’m prepared for it like when I’m speaking, running workshops and giving seminars, but not this. I’ve never actually walked into a room and been surprised by loads of people who have been waiting for me to arrive. And so, I guess I had a little panic attack.

There were old friends, family and neighbours, people walking around in uniforms with trays of food and drink, tables laden with food and beer on tap and a strange man in our kitchen cooking.

My wife gave me a glass of champagne and kissed me and I just stared at people I wasn’t expecting to see with cards and presents for me to open. I needed to change (and not into a tux) and so retreated to our bedroom and sat down for a while to get my head around everything Jules had done to make today fantastic and to pull myself together. I changed, joined the party and had a fantastic evening.

Yesterday, after everyone had left and we cleared the place up, I did start to reflect. I’m still reflecting but two things I did want to share.

First – Don’t Be Surprised

I was hit by a lot of surprises over the two days and by the end became quite overwhelmed. And that’s fine when the causes are good and you are surrounded by those you love.

In business, the good things that happen shouldn’t be a surprise but the result of purposeful action. You don’t want surprises because that means something has happened that you weren’t prepared for. These kinds of surprises are rarely good and can easily overwhelm.

Do not become surprised and overwhelmed in your business. Be prepared for the things that can go wrong so that you’ve either dramatically reduced their chance of happening in the first place or you know exactly what to do should they happen.

If you do feel overwhelmed and stressed, then stop and think through why. Don’t procrastinate and do nothing hoping the problem will go away because it won’t – it’ll just get worse. Plan a course of action and make it happen.

I’m not saying that all problems can be resolved in your favour. Sometimes the most difficult decisions have to be made, like when I closed my first business. But it’s better that you make them rather than wait until it’s too late and the decision is made for you.

Second – We All Need Days Like These

I’m very productive. It’s a skill that is rarely natural but one that has to be worked on. I’ve worked on improving my productivity over the last few years and it really is one of those vital skills to continuously strive to improve.

My weakness is that I sometimes have a faulty off-switch. When, like now, I’m working on launching a new product or initiative, I can become too focused on it and somewhat consumed by it. I can be writing notes in my journal in the evening and at weekends or lying awake thinking through a new idea and reaching for my ipad to write.

I appreciate the importance of being able to switch off and step away and have talked about this in a number of posts and in my book. But we’re all human and we can still get wrapped up in what we’re doing.

From Friday morning until last night I didn’t think about my business once. Thanks to my amazing wife, I’ve had a wonderful couple of days and have memories that will last. I’ve also been reminded of what’s really important like the people in your life and the love you have for each other and the support that’s there if you need it.

Whatever’s going on in your business have days like these. They don’t have to be surprises like I’ve just had – plan something with your family and friends and make it happen.

Step back, switch off, live in the present and enjoy what you have.

About the image for the post – that’s my present from my cash-poor but artistic daughter. It was a lovely surprise and I think she’s summed me up very well. I like to listen to and play music (apparently the drums were a last minute addition), we have 2 beautiful Labradors and I love to read. (I noticed that she drew the cover from my book for the top book in the pile, which made me smile.) Oh, yes and I used to ride motorbikes and my favourite sport to follow is the MotoGP.

Ok….about me being 50….hmmmm…. 

What did you last do to completely switch off?

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