Sunday Supplement – 29/08/2021

Aug 29, 2021

Happy Sunday and happy final Sunday of the summer……with our final summer supplement which once again isn’t focusing on property or economics but has a broader goal and ideas behind it. Last week’s foray into personal development got some great comments and stories shared – this week I wanted to share a concept that I think one day could form a key part of a book.

I’ve known for some years that I will write at least one book at some point. Not the cynical “anyone can write a book these days” self-publisher on amazon in order to build the sales funnel – I am not keen on those tactics and choose, actively, to do business in a different way. But a book that is there to add value to the literature that is already out there, rather than passing off other people’s ideas as my own as so many property gurus have done in the past. Most importantly though, a book that I actually enjoy writing, and enjoy thinking about and editing – the goal, I’m afraid, will be to enjoy the journey (sorry!).

So the overall concept and working title is “Balance”. Like many concepts it formed some time back in my subconscious and lives in a mysterious fog, and remains somewhat ethereal…..but the point overall is something that is supposed to be a modern-day challenge to Maslow’s 1943 concept that has stood the test of time so far – the hierarchy of needs. The model still reads very well to this day, but ever since I heard about it I was never comfortable with that final level of “self-actualization”. For those unfamiliar with it, the hierarchy talks about levels of things and experiences and being that human beings need in order to function properly, feel happy and ultimately be their best selves, starting with the obvious (food, shelter, love) and working upwards from the basic, to the psychological, to the self-fulfilment.

The problem I have with this I believe also gnawed away at Maslow himself – the want to go “beyond the self”. He addressed this by splitting the top of the tree into “transcendence” needs or spiritual needs. Altruism can be part of this concept – my take is not so much spiritual as the concept of self-actualization by involving others and being a part of something bigger.

Maslow did of course involve others in other parts of the hierarchy, for example love, and social affection/fitting in cannot be achieved without there being other people involved – but the self-actualization part always struck me as a bit, well, self-involved and narrow/blinkered.

So this leads on to my take on that part of the famous pyramid. In terms of me trying to be my best self (and by no means am I there or even close), my own personality type absolutely has to involve others. I’m a very social animal, I love people and working with people; between 15 and 20 years ago for some time I had a (basic/unskilled) job and also a side hustle. At the time, the job was immense fun and led to some great experiences. The side hustle earned 5 times per hour (roughly) what the job did but it was in a dark room staring at a computer screen. How did I approach this longer-term? Turned the side hustle into something more serious, shared the intellectual property with friends and family and turned it into a real passion, which led to creating significant income and therefore the seeds of wealth for a few people who came along for the ride with me.

On balance from a cold business perspective I actually shared far too much of the profits. I didn’t realise that at the time (I did later on, and then STILL went on to share what I knew technically were too much of the profits). Was that stupid? Some business people would definitely say so – if I could have had the same outcomes or near enough, then why give away more of the pie? Ultimately, later in my career, it has become more clear that it is a personal choice and a personal preference – a weakness, maybe, but perhaps also the ultimate act of altruistic selfishness, because it is the sharing of the success that really brings ME the most happiness and satisfaction. The monetary output is really secondary, and only important because a lot of the world will determine a lot of my success, and everyone’s success, by their net worth rather than their net value added or net contribution, measured in a different way.

(As an aside, sharing “too much” of the profits has never served me badly and instead helped to build a great team of people who know that I genuinely do have their interests at heart, alongside my own. The evidence means it is well beyond lip service, but is what has actually been done. Will it keep me working longer than I might like or need to? I doubt it. When the dust settles, the difference is figures on a spreadsheet and effectively arbitrary – there’s far more to life than that).

So, the “self” in self-actualization gets off on the wrong foot, for me. I prefer the more modern concept that instead of seeing the hierarchy of needs as a pyramid where you “complete one level” before moving onto the next, that instead you can be working on multiple levels at multiple times. You are unlikely to have perfect health, emotional security, and financial security all at one time – but it doesn’t stop you working on the “bigger picture” stuff too. You just need to make sure you don’t forget these things as you zoom out and take the helicopter view.

So this moves on towards my broader concept of balance. One of the traditional questions in business (and life) coaching is to ask the participant “What does success look like for you?”. For some, the very question is like nails down a blackboard……but I always wonder whether some of that is also the listener’s insecurities in their subconscious. It is a tough question. It is even tougher to answer it out loud, because so many people care so much about what other people think of them (hence the feature of social belonging in the hierarchy of needs). It isn’t one that can be answered in five minutes, and also (crucially) it will change every so often, perhaps very often for some people.

This isn’t surprising, because one legitimate answer is “I don’t know” of course. You could look at people when they win the national lottery for example…..what do they say they are going to do? Then what do they actually do? Then, that old cliche – does it actually make them happy……remember 70% end up broke and around a third file for bankruptcy, so that isn’t as cheesy a question as it sounds!

What’s missing in those people’s lives when money fills such a big gap and seems to be so very important to so many people (arguably, the only religion that the vast majority of the world actually believe in?)? And what’s missing in many who are suddenly overnight successes, particularly at a young age? Some would say the lack of good people around them, and that’s definitely part of it. For me it was one of the big drivers for starting Partners in Property – to put more good people around me, and to try and be a “good person” in other people’s circles/networks etc. – so I get to help myself and help others at the same time. But I would argue that the real answer is…..Balance.

So it isn’t just standing on one leg for 25 minutes. And it is more than “things in moderation”. It is more of a lifestyle choice or even a philosophy. Addiction obviously forms a part of any conversation like this, and it would be fair to say that chronic addicts are some of the least balanced people out there. Addiction is very interesting because it takes many forms; the obvious ones that society tends to shame rather than help (sadly) – hard drugs, alcohol, for example – the ones that it tends to ignore – sugar, fatty food, for example – and the ones that it tends to outright encourage – caffeine, dopamine, for example……none of these as of right are bad things (drugs themselves, even – the problems are where the money goes and also the additives in the drugs, most of the time – and what the users will do to get more drugs). It is both the usage and the societal take on them that cause more problems.

So, does balance have to take time? Perhaps. But I would suggest there are a few tools to help with this at a younger age. Consideration towards others. Understanding your own biases, triggers and behaviours (never too old to start or keep learning about this stuff). Asking hard questions, and making hard decisions. You really don’t want to be the richest person in the graveyard or the CEO with 4 divorces (I would think).

Balance also helps you consider teamwork. Psychometric tests are full of opportunities to learn more about balance. You are a great big picture thinker but crap at detail – right – get detail focused people on your team! A blunt application but nevertheless a useful one. Make sure you get a handle on their values first, of course, if you want a happy relationship in that team.

So……enough for our final summer supplement. Sorry it got so very heavy, so quickly! But I genuinely feel that, at the moment, for me, this defines the “final level”. I see it, I understand it – can I conquer it? (Because, believe me, at this time I am nowhere near conquering it?) Let’s see. It will be a life’s work, and always will be, to achieve true balance, but that’s the real goal.

As always, comments, likes and shares will be very gratefully received!