This menu, found in a notebook recently, was written by my son aged 11. It was preceded by a guest list and followed by a list of presents he hoped for. The present list included computer games, an England shirt, cocktail cherries and “some real good trainers”. Apart from showing that he really loved hotdogs, this book, blank apart from 3 pages, gives me an insight into his thoughts at that age and takes me back to my own situation at that time. It was 1989, the year I started Alpha.
I hope that party, and all the others, lived up to my son’s expectations – I know I enjoyed each one hugely even though they were exhausting.
The point of this is that sometimes we need memory joggers to take us back in time and rekindle the feelings we once had. I’ve just finished reading a book by John O’Farrell about a man who suffered from a psychogenic fugue – total amnesia caused either by extreme stress or a head injury. As he recovers, the man’s early passions, for his teaching career, for his estranged wife, are restored and he has glimpses of himself as a much younger man before cynicism and mental fatigue set in.
This is a fascinating concept. Wouldn’t we all like to revisit early times – just to remind ourselves of why we made certain decisions, how much we cared about things we may now take for granted and how life back then compares to now?
If we try hard enough, it is possible to relive and revive old enthusiasms. When working with business owners I often ask them, “What inspired you to start your business? Tell me about the beginning.” They could have been telling me moments before about challenges and problems they are facing but their expressions and body language change as they recall for me the early days; the excitement they felt, the first sale they made…..
If these feelings can be kept alive as we move forward, how much more effective we can be. And how much we can help others too. I read this week that the fastest growing age group of self-employed is the over 50s. It may be daunting to enter self-employment at a relatively late stage in life but there are pros and cons. Whilst I had youth on my side when I started, I lacked experience and often said I was “making it up as I went along.” If I can help my clients to avoid some of the mistakes I made, then my work will be worthwhile. If I can encourage them to keep going through tough times it might be enough to keep them in the small percentage of businesses that survive.
I work with business owners of all ages and at all stages but the issues are pretty much the same for us all – the difference lies in the way we deal with challenges, our levels of resilience and mental stamina. I’ve had lots of input myself over the years and it has helped enormously.
Looking again at my son’s guest list of a quarter century ago, I think about the men and women those children have become. Time moves on. Seize the day.
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The book, by the way, is called The Man Who Forgot His Wife. You might enjoy it.