Through The Looking Glass

Last week, my wife and I took a weekend to do some sailing on Kootenay Lake.

It was a refreshing break from a busy work schedule and an often conflicting diary. Frankly, it was just what the doctor ordered.

I am now resigned to the fact that I need to take my reading specs wherever I go. The old trick of putting the menu on the ground and standing up to read it no longer works. So loaded with bedding, a bottle of wine and my readers, we stepped on the boat.

Moxie, our boat, was a comfortable host for the weekend and what we intended to be a one-night adventure turned in to a few days because we enjoyed ourselves so much.

However, the adverse effects of sailing made themselves known as soon as we arrived home. Aside from having sea legs and having to hold onto the dining room table while eating in the evening, I became distressed at a sudden worsening of vision in my left eye.

What could it be? 

With my glasses on, I looked first through my left eye and then my right and sure enough a harsh reality confronted me… my eyesight in my left eye had deteriorated radically. 

I spoke to my wife and stated that perhaps I had a lazy eye, just a little tired after sailing the boat for a few days. She agreed and said that she gets exactly the same thing occasionally. 

Phew! Comforting words indeed; it happens to someone else too. 

I had experienced something similar once before after returning from a convention and being gifted a cholesterol test kit. We promptly tried the kits, my result said go to Emergency at the hospital immediately. 

My wife was, well, perfect.

I was so angry that I was out of control that I rapidly changed my diet overnight. Just for fun I tested the next day and I was down to normal… my diet had had an immediate effect.

Until I thought about the journey home where I scoffed two burgers — most out of character for me — and not realizing I had spiked in cholesterol.

I slept on the lazy eye theory. 

The next morning I was first up. I went downstairs to make a pot of tea, anxious to prove that my eye had righted itself I slipped on my readers.

Nope, exactly the same.

What could it possibly be I thought?

I had another pair of readers; perhaps the sunlight had damaged a lens. Crazy I know, but a theory worth testing. 

I put on my other specs and wow, it was a miracle. My theory had proved right. I had a degraded lens in my main readers on the left eye. What a crazy thing.

I picked up the defunct reading specs knowing that I could now at least see relatively well through both eyes. It was at that time that something unusual caught my attention. 

The left lens had no reflection the way the right lens did. It was indeed damaged. I went to polish it with a rag to see if I could perhaps restore it. 

That was the point at which both fingers went straight through the lensless frame.

In the middle of the adventure, I had lost my left lens and not even noticed… neither had anyone else around me so I am not entirely blameless.

I felt like a real buffoon and as the household woke up we all joined in some hysterical laughter at my concern of having a seriously damaged left eye after a day in the sun.

Other than that it was a fantastic weekend.

Success, failure 3" apart

The amount of data we process is astounding. 

Apparently, our brains process 400 billion bits of information per second, but we are only consciously aware of about 2,000 of those.

In other words, the brain, to a large extent is on autopilot.

One of my habits, which helps me, is to live a life as a creature of habit. I never randomly put my wallet or cellphone somewhere,

I habitually leave them in the same spot. My rationale is that I can reduce the amount of bits being processed in my brain if I don't have to think about where my wallet or keys are, for example.

So the other day I was perplexed when I arrived at my office without my keys.

My wife had borrowed my car, so I left the house driving hers. My car key ring has a very large bright orange key tag on it that cannot be missed, so it is very easy to identify from quite a distance.

I packed my computer walked out to my hallway and grabbed the keys to her car subconsciously. To give some context, I have a key rack with four hooks on it and they are approximately three inches apart.

I habitually use the one on the right to hang my keys — two cars and motorbike. 

I took my key for her car, left for the office and arrived empty handed in terms of a door key. I was locked out.

I quickly texted her and expressed my own frustration at forgetting to ask her to take her own car key for my car because I was now locked out of my office.

I quickly received a returned text saying she did not take my keys.

Some relief I suppose. It was a quick drive home, but what perplexed me was why, if my keys were there did I not take them.

The answer was revealed as soon as I walked in the door.

Someone had moved keys around and my car key was on the second hook, not the first one. It was three inches out of place.

What fascinates me is that my brain is so wired to do things automatically it had not registered that the keys were on the next hook along. 

So there you have it, in my world, the difference between success and failure is about three inches.

It is a habit that serves me well on expeditions or in races. 

In events where I need to reserve brain power for the tasks at hand I have a very definite set of habits that help me focus on the objective. Otherwise, I would waste energy looking for something because I did not know where it was. 

The process works for me, until someone messes with my system, but as you can see, it sets me up for the occasional frustration too if my autopilot is not working correctly.

Getting the right team

I had a difficult time last week getting some technology to work.

I was sent a shopping list for a very complex flight simulator so we can get people experiencing the joy of flight in our flying car.

Forty-eight hours before I needed to be at an event I was sent the list — without instructions.

Several thousand dollars later, I had some interesting looking boxes and a big problem.

Like most entrepreneurs or ambitious people, I did what I can do well, my best. It wasn’t quite good enough, but it was close.

Also, like most entrepreneurs, I am not willing to give up the reins too easily, so I read, researched, googled and, well, hoped I could find a solution before the event. 

The difficulty an entrepreneur faces is in giving up control. It is the point where we submit our grand plan to someone else to execute. Without learning to give up, you generally won’t get far.

We can only do so much on our own. 

The skill required in building a team is not to be sneezed at. Many times, wrong appointments to key positions in your business lead to cost overruns or sales losses, neither of which is cool.

But in time, a good entrepreneur can learn to become a good CEO.

For me, my salvation came in the form of a tech-savvy visitor to the show.

“Here is my simulator,” I said.

“Cool can I try it,” he asked.

“No, I replied, it does not work yet."

Well, you get the picture. A few sentences later, he was sitting in my seat making a whole pile of changes and badda boom, badda bing, I had a working simulator. 

The answer to the problem: When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

The challenge is maintaining your status as a student when you are the CEO and hiring competent staff to fill the void.

What's on your bucket list?

While driving to Kelowna for some meetings this week, I was listening to music from a band called Level 42.

It is not hard to enjoy the scenery between here and the Kootenays, so I was surprised I was even listening enough to catch the words to a song.

Something jumped in to my head and gave me a shake as I listened to Mark King singing, “It takes me to a place where my dreams become my memories."

It scared the living daylights out of me. 

It reminded me of a mentor who told me many years ago that when you score in business, never read the headlines. You get too focused on the success, which is really the past, so now, what are you going to do about it?

Progress is only made when we are moving toward a goal. A man without a vision shall perish is the way one of the books I read describes the situation.

When my wife and I were in out late teens, we had a lot of friends who were close to retirement. They would meet at a hotel that Jackie’s Mum and Dad owned in England. We would talk about their pending retirement.

Then something strange happened. Two or three of them passed away over Christmas. They had no real goals. They simply wanted to stop working and perhaps do some gardening. 

That was a pivotal point where Jackie and I looked at each other and asked ourselves, “what if we don't make it to retirement? What do we want out of life?”

We decided to emigrate to Canada.

As we get a little closer to retirement, it is easy to become complacent and start living in that place where our dreams become our memories.

So rather than fall back on what you have done, get a pen out (or an iPad) and a piece of paper and start writing out that list of what you still want to get done in life. It always serves to keep me excited.

I hope it will help you stay excited and positive.

More It's All About . . . articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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