“Ain’t no mountain high enough,
Ain’t no valley low enough,
Ain’t no river wide enough”
By Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967
More than fifty years on we recently discovered that’s not true and there are mountains absolutely high enough…
This is a story about happiness and it’s role in busy-ness for owners at work. But it starts in the beautiful, tranquil foothills of the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia.
Six humans, three mules and twenty-four legs in total had spent four days trekking through (and mainly up) these remote mountains. Wild camping at night; walking and wildlife all day. The sky was full of soaring eagles almost within finger reach at times, their shrieks tracking our progress over the boulder-strewn ground. Every step we took sent mice and giant mole rats diving for cover, only to pop up again three metres further away. Curious little whiskered faces emerged to stare hopefully at us every time we stopped for a break or opened something to eat – eager for the crumbs we spilt.
After 4 days we were right at the top of the plateau, approaching 4,500m in altitude. And you could tell. Our hearts and lungs were working hard on the thin air, and sudden movements left us breathless. Our guides of course felt none of this and could yomp all day at the pace of the mules and still be full of energy and spirit as the sun fell and we pitched camp.
We were there to see the rarest and most threatened wolf in the world – the Ethiopian Wolf. The only wolf in the whole of Africa and about the size of a coyote. A beautiful creature that’s teetering on the edge of extinction.
And we did; and we loved it.
Porridge for breakfast at 6am, sat outside our tent watching the frosts melt as the morning sun raced across the land with a wolf out hunting just metres away is surely the best commute to work ever.
Much less loved on the very last evening was a sudden and very frightening bout of severe altitude sickness that made for an extremely long night followed by a rapid descent as soon as the sun rose. One of us on a mule on a saddle fashioned from skinny sleeping mattresses and string stirrups and the rest of us jogging and gasping the 20km to get to a track where we could be picked up by truck.
The really colourful and icky bits are left out, but eventually we found ourselves fed and rested and sat in front of the roaring fire of the Bale Mountain Lodge clutching mugs of tea. A beautiful low-impact eco-lodge run by the indomitable, ex-Army Colonel Guy Levene OBE and his wife Yvonne.
Guy shared his theory about fun borne of his time peacekeeping in Somalia and other parts of an unstable and volatile world.
“There are two types of fun” he explained “There’s the fun that you know you’re having at the moment it shows up – the highs, the joy and the laughter. That’s Type 1 Fun.” And then he grinned and went on “Then there’s Type 2 Fun – that’s when you’ve had a truly awful moment and it only becomes fun in the re-telling afterwards. That’s what you’ve just had.” he said smiling. We did reflect that at least in our moment of Type 2 Fun at the end of four days of Type 1 we were with guides who cared about us and weren’t pointing sniper rifles at us!
For business owners this is also true.
Some Type 1 Fun with the team around them; a moment of banter or laughter that lightens a busy day. Something silly to momentarily grin about and remind you why you do this.
But lots of Type 2 Fun as well.
If you’re consumed by the Habit of Doing then the risk is that life for you (and those around you) is far too heavily weighted towards Type 2 Fun. And if you never stop the dashing and the busy-ness so that you don’t get time to tell your tales over a drink with your friends – then maybe it’s not even Type 2 you’re having…
Which begs the question…”What are you doing and Why?”
Paul Dolan in his book “Happiness by Design” argues that happiness is a function of us all having both Pleasure and Purpose in our lives over time. He suggests that a mix (of whatever balance works for each individual) is important to our overall long-term happiness and therefore wellbeing. And it’s based in what we do not what we think. Ultimately he argues that we should all be seeking to use our time in ways that bring us the greatest overall pleasure and purpose for as long as possible.
Purpose also shows up in the writing and talks given by Dan Pink where the captivating body-less hand beautifully illustrates the impact of purpose, mastery and autonomy on motivation.
But if you’re so caught up in the Habit of Doing that fun (or pleasure) are truly infrequent visitors to your world and your purpose and fulfilment get buried under the daily slog of doing; it’s easy to understand how bad habits appear which in turn perpetuate the absence of pleasure.
And of course even if your family aren’t involved in the business you run and aren’t on the pay roll, they will still be the ‘benefactors’ of your busy-ness and frustration at home.
A high price to pay. On them, on you and on your team.
Helping an owner re-discover their sense of purpose offers a base for exploring the good habits that support this, and from this, new behaviours begin to emerge; which change businesses, cultures, revenues and opportunities. We know it’s not a linear process or as simple as this single sentence suggests – but they all form part of transformation and change.