Back in late January, in those heady days when you could meet people in person and even hug them with their permission, I delivered my last ever talk at Jennings in Chalgrove to a crowded room, full of friends, colleagues, clients and people who had just turned up for some old-fashioned networking.
My talk was built around some memorable people I had the pleasure of working with during my career, and the lessons I wanted to share from their stories. Each lesson was summarised by a word beginning with P. I could have achieved immortality as a sage if I had only added a further P and warned of a Pandemic…
Unsurprisingly for me, I talked a bit about having a Plan – I was on the brink of fulfilling my plan to retire and travel to France. At the talk, and in a few conversations afterwards, some people argued against the need for a Plan – they wanted the freedom to react to events and anyway, you couldn’t predict the future. For some I could see that was appropriate but, I wisely asked, what chances were there of a major event disrupting a reasonable plan?…
Now, a month or more into that major event it’s obvious that any plan has been rendered irrelevant by the pandemic. My own plans have changed enormously, and for most of us the current plan is “wait and see”.
Yet, based on LinkedIn posts and other communications I see some of my friends and contacts flourishing. They may not be flourishing financially, but they are building their reputation, strengthening ties with their network and serving those around them in many, many ways. Clearly their behaviour isn’t driven by a Plan, everything is too emergent at the moment.
And they’re not “Pivoting”, which seems to be both the buzz word and the snake oil of the moment.
They are following a different P. Purpose. Those I see currently flourishing are those I might have identified two months ago as being driven by purpose. Their business was about making a difference, serving others, meeting a need. The finances were secondary (though important). Now I see those same people putting out podcasts, webinars, energy-giving optimistic posts, and other services their market needs (sometimes free, sometimes paid for). I won’t name those people here, because of the risk of omission which would be unfair, but I am sure you see them too in your newsfeeds and Inboxes.
So, whilst a Plan is still important, because it can still drive your daily routine in lockdown, in a Pandemic your Plan must necessarily be short-term, or deliberately flexible. Now, what will drive the Plan, more than ever, is your purpose.
Personally, I have come to realise that my ambition to travel was a skin around a core passion for financial independence and a chance to have a flexible life. My plan has delivered that – so I am doing a lot of what is important to me, I am just doing it in one place in Devon, not in many places in France. And France will still be there when this is over, and I will still be able to go. My Purpose hasn’t changed, even if my Plan has.
Lockdown might be your chance to spend some time reflecting on your Purpose (more productive than tidying the loft…). A purpose doesn’t have be some lofty altruistic goal to save the world – it can focus instead on how you will be in the world, or how you want to enjoy your time here.
What is your purpose, at work and in life more broadly?
Are you living it?
How can you adapt your current offering to fulfil your purpose, even during lockdown?
Of course, I can’t let a discussion of Purpose pass without reference to Maff Potts and his stirring talk at the Meaning Conference in November last year. His humble style delivered a powerful message in a memorable way and I shall forever remember that all we need in life is “S and Purpo”. (Watch the talk to understand that!)
It has to be said that Covid-19 has also taught us that you can be hugely successful without any real purpose. A tiny virus that we believe is non sentient and has no plan or purpose, just a Darwinian impetus to propagate its gene pool, has hit the goldmine of finding a host species that travels the globe and relies on close personal contact for its existence. You have to admire its success, however much we mourn the impact on human lives.
For those of you reading the blog to hear of the personal journey Bev and I are making in retirement, thanks for reading past those previous thoughts! We, like many, have fallen into our routine of daily exercise, regular calls with loved ones and the weekly excitement of a foray to the supermarket. In the (almost) four weeks we have now lived in Devon we have walked far more than we have driven, learnt the highways and byways of our village by heart, and managed to do one mercy mission as volunteers helping the vulnerable in the village.
Bev has clocked up 100 hours as an NHS Volunteer without being called upon, and I managed to fail the security checks and so was rejected!
By far the most exciting development this week has been the decision by Bev that she need a haircut. Most women and some men will know how the quality of hairdresser is a major issue for many, if not for me. To be asked by someone I love to trim their hair in that situation is by far the scariest moment of my life (and I have been shot at by Paras). Luckily, we came out of it with dignity intact and she still has both ears. Rumours that I have taken down all mirrors in the house are unfounded.
Stay home, stay safe and stay in touch.