A lot of last week – time, energy and brain power – was spent on one of those corporate external trainings where a mixture of exercises, buzz words and diagrams attempting to make you see the world differently – and, in theory, operate differently and better than you have been. Now, some people, myself included, have a tendency to roll eyes, groan (not again, twenty plus years of this for goodness sake!) and already begin to write off the effort as a waste of several work days on something you are going to then shove in a desk draw for the rest of eternity – or rather until the next records purge.
Most of that is true.
Not all of it though. The reason why big companies pay vast amounts of cash for this kind of training is because usually at the heart there are some powerful and good ideas. It may be the perspective that to really understand something you need to hear it about eight times (I think that is pretty true actually), or the ‘S’ bend as people adjust to change of any sort (look it up). I found Benjamin Zander’s talk on possibilities very affecting, even if he is quite abrasive as a speaker (maybe that is the point, unlike a lot of this ilk he does not want you to love him) – the concept of how to capture in young people ‘the light in their eyes’ as they finally grasp a little of the possibility they might be, and the attitude to treat any setback without an Anglo-Saxon expletive but rather with a ‘how fascinating! I wonder why that happened?’ has certainly stuck in my head (but while I cannot play music, music speaks to me).
So anyway, we go back to the latest lot of stuff. And I found some of it pretty useful – none of it is earth shattering, it never is. But sometimes it is the obvious stuff that needs a little reminder every now and then. Every time I go into Wilkinson’s I’m reminded that an awful lot of people need a remedial course in manners (and before I am accused of my Waitrose orientated middle class bias here, let me say I don’t see the same thing in Iceland and the staff, bless them, are the ones that get upset by people’s impatience).
So this time the big old new thing for me was this ‘Best ever’ concept. Put bluntly, the idea is that everything will work better if you treat every interaction as the ‘Best ever’ – considering the circumstances. Or, try and make the best of any interaction you might have. Try and make it good for both of you. Smile and chat with the person on the till. Do not scowl at the Inspector checking your train ticket. Shake the hand of the traffic warden giving you a ticket. OK, I’m pushing it on the last one, and actually it is not always about being nice to people, but making the most of each opportunity.
Sounds terribly fluffy… And I guess it is, but it is also quite fun. I’m writing this on my way to Brussels having consciously tried to apply this to my experiences at security; at passport control and in the lounge. I’m trying to make it feel like a fun adventure rather than just another slog through the Channel tunnel and it is kind of working. Mainly I think because it makes me feel positive, when naturally I am a glass half empty person. And if I can keep it up and this kind of attitude can be perpetuated – well, happiness is overrated anyway. I am not sure it is every achievable. But as someone pointed out to me some years ago, is it better to yearn for happiness that may never be attainable then to be perfectly content with where you are?
And as people deserve references: