We can all get bogged down in the here-and-now, run from crisis to crisis and miss the bigger picture, the longer term vision and the legacy we are leaving behind us. I have found getting downtime, to zoom out and gain perspective is invaluable to helping me to focus on what really matters. I found the meditation (at the bottom of this post) really helpful in broadening my perspective to look out at 2019, the new year, a new beginning, and reflect on my schedule, priorities and areas of focus.
We cannot live forever, but we can create something that does.
My father-in-law passed away a couple of months ago. In the preceding weeks and months we had taken a number of long walks in the park where we talked about life, death, service, devotion and purpose (these memories will live with me forever). He lived his life in service of others – this will be his legacy. He touched so many lives in his 70 years – this will be his legacy. 2019 for my wife and I will be dedicated to him, his life and continuing his legacy. There are various initiatives and projects he started that Chai and I would like to see through and complete on his behalf. That’s our top priority for 2019.
Looking back, 2018 has been the busiest, most stressful and hardest year of my career. It has pushed me further and made me dig deeper than ever before. Personally and professionally.
Professionally: I am really proud that over the past couple of years we have grown Redington from a small co-founder-led startup into a mid-sized diversified multi-location business, with an enduring purpose beyond money. There have been a lot of difficult decisions to make and this has been a really tough year for all of us. I am pleased that we have not been sucked into blindly pursuing market share and growth. We’re committed to being a small-giant rather than a big-foot. We want to be great at what we do, creating a great place to work, providing great service to clients, having great relationships with our suppliers and making great contributions to the communities we live and work in. We want to work with our peers to rebuild trust in the pensions and savings industry to serve not just those that are retiring today, but future generations as well.
Personally: I ended the year in hospital and sick at home, and couldn’t believe the diagnosis was “stress”. I’m not alert enough to it in my life but know it has been building up over the past couple of years. When major life shocks happen, I’ve been finding that I’m too close to my maximum stress threshold and it tips me over. In 2019 I want to learn to be more alert to stress and become more resilient. After all one of my guiding principles is “You cannot serve / care for others if you don’t serve / care for yourself”. I need to do this for myself and for those I care about.
My goal this year is to reduce my stress threshold in a systematic and disciplined way (thanks to Dr Rangan Chatterjee). Some of these are fairly generic: Live with intention; Get enough sleep each night; Eat diverse foods, in a shorter window and fast regularly; Embed yoga and meditation into my daily life; Do something I love/enjoy regularly; Meet up with friends more often (schedule it). Some are very specific to me: Articulate my intentions, expectations and needs (not hold them within me); Share my feelings and frustrations (not bottle them up); Ensure I have regular “me time”.
I am so grateful to my parents, children, family, friends and colleagues that have helped and supported with me during this difficult year. In particular, my wife who is always there by my side, inspiring me, helping me stay sane and this year really pushing me to take care of myself. Also I want to thank Ivan Schofield my coach since February, who has been a real blessing, sounding board and guide through some difficult times.
Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.
Sometimes I lack the motivation to write this blog, not feeling sure of who it is for and to what end. I have written this for me, for me to look back on and remind myself what I set out to do this year. In fact, the most valuable thing has been to go back and reflect on my goals and resolutions over the past 5 years, since I started writing this blog in 2013. I know I haven’t achieved my resolutions each year but I know the process of writing them down, reviewing them and sharing them has kept them front-of-mind. Whilst I am taking on new resolutions this year, I am continuing to work on previous ones to, building on them as I go along:
- 2013: “Self-discovery” – This continues to be a big driver in my life, it is now embedded in my principles. Specifically this year, as I mentioned earlier, I want to get better at looking after myself so that I can look after others.
- 2014: “Focus/prioritisation” – I’ve learnt the importance of saying no and prioritising over the past few years, in order to say yes to the things that really matter. There’s more I’d like to do to schedule the important things in my day, my weekends, etc. (especially things like yoga and meditation). I find if it’s not scheduled it doesn’t get done. I also need to schedule time with friends and family in advance, as I just can’t do it spontaneously.
- 2015: “Sacrifice/devotion/service” – Service is really important to me. I feel it is the very purpose of life. I am looking forward to working with my wife in service of my father-in-laws legacy, to finish and complete his projects, efforts and dreams.
- 2016: “Vulnerability/openness” – I thought I had made a lot of progress on being more open and vulnerable since taking on this resolution. However, my coach recently told me there’s a lot more work I need to do on this, I’m just getting started in peeling back the layers of the onion. At home and work I need to be more open, share what I’m thinking, my expectations, what matters to me. I also need to show my excitement, my disappointment and my frustrations, rather than letting things build up.
- 2017: “Balance” – As I said then, this will always be an ongoing struggle/battle. I don’t think you can ever really achieve it, but must always fight to get it right. What’s great is that I have been home when it really matters. However, I still want to spend more time at home on a day-to-day basis, more time with my wife, children and my parents. Even more importantly, I want to be more present when I am at home this year.
In 2018, I made lots of mistakes, learnt many lessons and want to improve on lots of things, including:
- Not looking after myself (we’ve covered this already above)
- Pushing myself and others around me too hard. I encourage my kids to focus on effort rather than results, yet I am regularly giving myself a D for achievement against the goals I set myself, even though my effort is probably an A.
- Not being as open as I’d like to be. You can convince yourself you’re acting in other people’s best interests but it not the same as asking/engaging them. When under pressure, I have tended to close up and isolate myself, rather than remaining open.
- Sloppy and rushed communication. I prioritised getting messages out quickly over getting them right. I haven’t practiced enough, didn’t get enough feedback, often tried to cram too much in and push messages out without reflection.
- Too impatient, determined and stubborn. I have been rushing to get things done and get things out. I need to slow down, listen to others, take the necessary time over things.
- Falling out of touch with our people. I was not close enough to what was really going on at many points this year. This meant that when I was presented with data, to make decisions, I didn’t always have the full picture. I think as CEO you have to keep listening to your clients and your employees.
- I was really proud of closing the gender pay gap, especially after all the efforts we have made of the past couple of years on diversity in hiring, retention and development. However, I am really grateful that my female colleagues kept me honest and grounded, by reminding me of how much more needs to be done.
- Becoming Sunday times best company to work for wasn’t as great as we thought it would be. It’s not our free breakfasts or table tennis, or massages, nice offices, espresso machines that make Redington special. We don’t want to enter a perks arms-race. What really matters is fair reward, equal opportunities, flexible working, freedom to perform, opportunities for learning, open communication and a diverse workplace.
This time last year I wrote about how I wanted to make sure that I make the most of the big milestones that were coming up in 2018. I wrote “… I don’t want (it) to pass me by, in the dizzying blur of work…”. Specifically, I wanted 2018 to be “the year of making my guiding principles explicit”, having been inspired by Ray Dalio’s story and book. I’m really pleased I finally did this when I turned 40 in July. This is a huge achievement for me. These principles are really core to who I am and important to how I operate. Having articulated them, I can now test, iterate and develop on these (my guiding principles).
If you haven’t done so already, I would encourage all of you to write down, record and, if you can, share your resolutions (as well as principles). Do it for yourself. It will keep you accountable. It’s so helpful to be able to look back on it. You might also just find it helps someone else too. It may even form part of your legacy.
Wishing you all a healthy, mindful and impactful 2019.
I’d like to close with a meditation:
“Close your eyes.
Focus on your breath. Take a deep breath in… and out.
Now expand your awareness to your body. Your whole body.
If you can expand your awareness further to the room you are in, or further to the house or building. It’s a lot more spacious here.
Now zoom out to the city you are in and then to the country.
See if you can, expand your awareness to the whole world with billions of people, animals, sea life, plants and other organisms all connected
co-existing in an elegant dance of nature.
If you can zoom out further and in your minds eye see the world as it was in the past, as it is now and how it might be in the future.
Allow yourself to experience various alternative futures and reflect on how our actions and choices today shape those futures.
Recognise that you are connected to those that came before you, those you share this Earth with today and those that will follow tomorrow.
Enjoy this broader perspective for a moment longer.
Now gently zoom back in, bring your consciousness back to your body here and in the present moment.
Contemplate for a moment what you can do this year to benefit those that will inherit your family, industry, community and the world from you.
What would you like to remain when you are gone?
Open your eyes when you’re ready.”