“What is the 30-second version?”
That is their question most of the time. The questions begin, innocently, with “So what do you do?” When I mention that part of what I do is speak to groups about stress reduction, that is when their eyes widen and they say, “Wow. I certainly need that.”
And I know what is coming next – “What is the 30-second version of how to reduce my stress?”
So here is the 30-second version: Excellence and consistency over targets and ambition.
Need more? It is how I kept my heart from exploding from stress while managing a financial business during the Great Recession while being a dad to eight kids who needed college and weddings. Oh, and just to make it fun, we had just made a move my family did not want to make to a place where we knew no one. As an added bonus, the individual who recruited me there (and made up a sizable percentage of the revenue of the new business) lied to me and left the firm. Did I mention we were levered up in real estate that all went under water? Or that we had two houses to also pay for? The question I most often heard during that time was, “My God – how are you doing this with eight kids?!”
What I learned in that season is what helped me find peace in the middle of the turmoil. The surprise result was that my performance results actually increased after becoming peaceful, after letting it all go. I came to understand that the former led to the latter.
Here is the key: we had focused on consistently working toward excellence and had forgotten the targets and left ambition behind. It had worked. My stress was in the basement and performance had never been higher. Excellence and consistency had triumphed over targets and ambition. I have now seen it hundreds of times in the work and lives of others. Quietly, unassumingly, there are countless individuals who outperform by simply focusing on consistently doing the activities each day that produce something of excellence.
And then they go home and sleep well at night.