Many of us grew up looking forward. School makes you learn things not for there and then, but for when you grow up. Rather than checking how curious you are or how much you love learning in of itself, it confuses us by making us focus on a proxy: results. In primary school we’re asked to choose ‘where next?’. In secondary school again. Then there’s which University? What career? What job? Which promotion? Which pay rise? What next? Today this is actually embedded in our day to day. Who’s my next WhatsApp message coming from? How many likes did my photo get?
This isn’t all bad, there’s a place for it. But there’s certainly a danger. I was advising a boardroom once, and I asked "What are you trying to achieve? Why are we having this conversation?" They were a bit bewildered. One man answered: “Sorry I don’t know what you mean. Do you mean: what are our targets?”. I just repeated my question. They answered, still very confused: “Well we want to grow of course”.
"We want to grow of course.”
Of course?! Why of course?! Is that the only option. What next? After you’ve grown, what next? We grow. Then? We grow. It never ends. You’re stuck in the cycle.
I offered some other examples. I said you could: Earn the same in less time. Earn more with the same number of people and pay them more. You could get super efficient and give them Fridays off. You could… wait for it… decide that this is enough.
So it made me wonder, what’s my 'enough'? But to answer that you first need to decide what’s the point in the first place? I want: To live a good life with my family. To live a creative life. To get energy from my work (at least most of the time). For my financial life to not be too volatile. To be able to have a lot of time to go on adventures alone, with friends, and with my family. And the good news is I already have all that.
So what next? Well nothing really. I mean, not nothing, but not more. I already have everything I need. Perhaps my only goal now is ‘grow strong, not grow fat’. Financially, I would love my future to be increasingly certain. Not more money, just a longer runway. I could do with a few bob to buy that camper van I dream of, but if that happens in a year rather than in a month, I’ll be ok. I’ll go camping more with my new bivvy bag instead.
Now, I’m lucky. Not everybody does have enough. So I’m not necessarily preaching to live with little here. I’m asking us to wonder ‘what’s enough?’. I'm asking us to ask the question. I’m asking us to get out of the cycle of always wanting more. To looking for what’s next, instead of looking for what’s now. I’m asking us to do this for us, and I’m asking organisations to do it. The wisest business strategy might well say:
Enough = [x profit] with [y people] in [z time]
And the ’next level’ might well be to say, well that’s enough. Now how do we help this to continue. Not higher, but longer.
So if you’re running a business, perhaps try asking yourself: ‘what’s enough?’
And if you’re not, ask yourself: ‘what’s your enough?’. You might even put some numbers to it.
Anyway, enough of this. I’m going to go to a free lunch time jazz concert at the local church with my wise and beautiful son and wife.