I ask my Dad for his opinion — so I can do the opposite!
Barometers are important in life. They allow us to test the water. To dip our toe before we make the jump (or not as the case may be).
Over the past several years I have formed a group of five people who are my barometers. I share my ideas and plans with them. They in turn, question and challenge me. It’s what I need before I decide whether to jump in the water, or put the speedos back in the drawer.
The first barometer is my Dad.
He has given me some sound advice since my late teens. He cares for what I do. He encourages me in my work. Yet on the whole, his mindset is in absolute contrast to mine.
When I said I wanted to drop to four days a week in my graduate job at Diageo, he said, “People will question your commitment Ben — and you’d be mad to cut your salary by 20%”.
When I was going to travel across Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania as part of starting a humanitarian organisation, he said “it’s too dangerous”.
When I said I was going to leave Diageo to work for a lesser-sized company, Electrocomponents, he said, “you’re throwing away a job for life — the type of job security most people crave, with a company that have high hopes for you”.
When I said I had requested a three day contract at Electrocomponents, he said I was “crazy reducing my salary even further” — even if by this point my pro rata salary would be more than my five day a week salary at Diageo! Not that I care for money, but it’s ironic!
When I said I had decided I was leaving Electrocomponents to join a small business of thirty people, working three days a week, and taking a hefty pay cut, he said it was “way too risky”.
The point is not to slander my Dad! Far from it. How can you bemoan someone that cares? Because that’s all he’s doing, caring. He has given me plenty of great advice, and some of my decisions that have gone against his advice have backfired on me.
But many of the decisions I have made that he said I shouldn’t, have been the best deicisons I’ve ever made.
The two best ‘visionary’ books I have read in the past year or so are Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters, and BOLD by Peter Diamandis and Stephen Kotler. Both lay out provocative questions, ideas, and in part, a ‘how to’ for thinking big.
What I take from both books is that to truly change the world, or at the very least put a positive dent in it, you have to make moves that others feel uncomfortable with. As Peter Diamandis states, “the day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea”.
The moves that made my Dad uncomfortable weren’t crazily bold. Yet even these minor jumps make my Dad whince and advise against it.
When this happens, well, that’s when I know I’m getting somewhere!
Most of those key decsions have worked out really well. That’s not to say “I told ya so” — they could have easily gone the other way! But the point is just because it makes someone else uneasy, doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.
In fact, if we wish to be bold, I argue that unless it makes people uncomfortable, you’re not thinking big enough!
I spent the first thirty years of my life being too cautious. That came in part because I listened too much to the people around me — my barometers. Most of those people are content with how things are. They like security. And good for them, there is nothing wrong with that. Well, unless that’s not what you want.
People who advise with caution or skepticism will sometimes be jealous, other times horribly negative, but mostly, it’s probably just because they care.
I will always appreciate such a response. But for too long I let it influence me in the wrong way — playing into the hands of my overly cautitious self.
I haven’t stopped asking the questions, I have simply switched how I perceive the response. Now, if my Dad thinks I am being risky, I know I am probably onto something.
Who are your barometers? Call them what you want; advisers, mentors, parents, friends, teachers, sounding boards — the semantics are not important. The critical element is how are you listening to them. Ask yourself, “are they holding me back?”
They could be right. But then again, they could be wrong. You want my advice — just be bold :)
Thanks for reading — I’m off for a pint with my Dad!
I am the Co Founder of a humanitarian organistaion and charity called indiGO Volunteers. We help some of the world’s most vulnerable people by getting the right volunteers to the right place. If you’d like to volunteer as an individual, small group or business, please visit us at the webiste below. We are currently looking for a business partner to support our work :)