I thought a little segue here would be appropriate. On many of the workshops I have attended or facilitated I have often heard people saying that they feel they should leave their jobs because they felt that they were not ‘spiritual’. It wasn’t ‘spiritual’ working in insurance or marketing or retail. This implies that a job has a spiritual element in it rather than what you bring to it. It is great if you feel you have a calling to be a shaman or a healer or a therapist or a carer or a teacher but please don’t think that these roles are spiritual. It is the attitude and the behaviours that you bring to any role that makes them part of your spiritual journey.
I always felt that it was my responsibility to enjoy my job, just as it is my responsibility to learn from the workshops I attend. People don’t make us happy or unhappy. That is something we do to ourselves. Why would we want to give our power away to someone else? I like people. I don’t like bad attitude or bad behaviour. I find both unrewarding and frustrating. This doesn’t mean that I don’t vent my frustration at peoples’ behaviour or communication (poor Susan) but it was me being frustrated, not them making me. I found that work is full of people who give their power away, who blame ‘them’ for their poor experiences.
I discovered early in life that I could get better results by being nice to people. At a six-year-old the rewards were sweets and pats on the head.
I learned that treating people with respect is best while working on the children’s ward at my dad’s mental hospital and in the hospital Cub Pack and Scout Troop. These people didn’t want to be talked down to or made fun of. Just treat them as anybody else, same as I wanted to be treated. The ten-year boy that I was walking hand in hand with, when I was 10, didn’t want me to complain or shout out when he stuck his nails in my hand. He wanted me to stick my nails in his hand. It hurt but we became good friends, and Peter was one of the funniest people I have known. Deaf and dumb but a brilliant mimic!
I learned to flex my behaviour and my communication to get the best out of situations, when I worked in Yeats Wine Lodge in Liverpool. The customers were a mix of young people coming to get cheap drinks to start the night, wide boys selling from the inside of raincoats, prostitutes getting a shot of courage before a long night, dockers, factory workers and alcoholics. I had already learned to be respectful and friendly to customers in the bar of my uncle’s hotel. Yeats taught me to flex to what I felt was needed to connect better with the person I was serving.
On my first day on a Post Office counter I was told off for being too nice to people. The problem they said was that everyone would come to me. I couldn’t resist saying that if we were all nice, they would spread out again. A harassed mum was not thrusting her jam coated family allowance book at us because she thought we were menial public servants. She was just harassed!
When I first worked in telephone sales, there was an engineer responsible for scheduling when work would be done for my BT customers. He was called ‘Donk’ and he liked his bit of power. My colleagues used to shout at him on the phone and moan about him but with no effect. I would walk across to his office and as I walked towards his desk, he would start the insults. “Oh. Here he is again. One minute they are working on the bacon counter at Sainsburys and the next minute they are selling telephones. What do you want?” I would say “Sorry to disturb you, Donk, but can you tell me how a Plan 107 works again?” He would mutter and then take me through the workings of that particular phone and say, “Have you got it now?” I would say “Oh yes, thanks Donk” pause, and then say, “Can you fit one next Tuesday?”. He would say “You cheeky bastard” pause, and then say “Alright”. The lead time for fitting this type of phone was normally 6 weeks. I did the same thing dozens of times. It was a game and I was flexing.
Work is all about people, whether colleagues, clients or suppliers. I like people so I found my job interesting and entertaining. It might take a little time for someone to get over their mistrust but once people see that you are interested in them, and in helping them solve their problems, they open up and you both gain.
I took on the role as National Account Manager for BT on one of the biggest UK retailers. Two days later my Deputy MD received a three-page letter from their Deputy MD complaining about our managers, our engineers and our account manager. Two days later I was at a meeting with both of them promising to sort it out.
It was a people thing. The manager who had written the letter for his DMD didn’t like BT, so my predecessor had only visited him twice in the last year. Their engineers and our engineers didn’t like each other, so problems just bounced around. When I was taken in to meet the telecom manager’s manager, he said he only saw BT when there was a problem, so he never wanted to see me!
It was obvious that the people didn’t really know each other so I asked the local BT top woman to lend me the social club under her headquarters. I invited all the engineers from both sides and the managers and their managers. I provided the drinks and food. By the time they had played pool, darts, carpet bowls and cribbage against each other, and had a few drinks, the ice began to melt. I started a quality circle for the managers. We agreed that one of the BT engineers should work in the retailer’s service centre for a month, and one of their engineers should work in the BT service centre at the same time, and we continued that until every engineer had done their month. Within six months the engineers were working really well together. I was talking to, and visiting the managers weekly. Twelve months later the company signed one of the biggest contracts ever with BT. All down to helping the people get to know each other!
I enjoy having money to spend but I have never been really motivated by it. I am motivated by the people, by doing different things, by solving problems, by telling stories and by working with some brilliant colleagues. However, because of those things that I was motivated by, I was regularly promoted and rewarded with everything I needed to support my family and more.
These examples are to show, rather than show off, that if you listen to people, are nice to them and are willing to flex your behaviour and your communication you get much more enjoyment out of your job and everyone else gains. Most of us have to do something to support ourselves and our families. My advice is to choose to do something you enjoy, and are good at, and use the journey to learn how to work in proper relationship with the people involved.
I moved into marketing before I was 40, and bought an electric guitar, my two goals. I enjoyed my diiferent roles in marketing. In 1999 I accepted a job in the new EBusiness area as Head of Propositions. At that time I was stretching myself too thin, and despite all the stuff I knew and taught, my work overwhelmed me. I had a wake-up call when I was pushing my first granddaughter along Brighton Pier and I suddenly noticed her singing “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. It was like coming out of a trance! I realised that all the way down in the car and through the streets, all I was thinking about was business.
I took notice of that signpost! I right sized my role at work, cut down my working hours to 8am to 6 pm and kept weekends clear. Over the next two years I relaxed and enjoyed my work again, in spite of continual reorganisation. The trip to Sedona helped.
I loved the Tom Brown Jr books and soon had all of them, full of nature awareness and Lipan Apache philosophy. I found his training site – Tracker School – online and became excited about the courses he offered but had no time to attend them.
Then, early in September 2001 I received a wonderful gift. My manager called me into the office and said “David, would you be interested in voluntary redundancy. They want to lose some senior managers and I know you were looking for a change. If you leave by the end of September, you will get two years pay and you will receive your pension in two years.”
You can guess my answer, but I checked with Susan that she was OK with it. She was, so I was home on September 9th using up some annual leave, when I watched in disbelief as two planes were flown into the World Trade Centre towers. Susan and I ate lunch in the restaurant at the top of one of those towers, as part of a top salesperson award!
It is weird waking up at 6 a.m. to go to work when you don’t have to anymore. It took a couple of months to get into a new routine. I still have dreams where I am back in my old office today, 19 years later, though I cannot work out what I am marketing or how they are going to pay me.
It was a joy to be like a child again, to leave the house with no destination, just turn left or right and see where it takes you. Susan suggested I took a year off to play and relax. I immediately booked into Tracker School Standard Class in New Jersey. I will tell you about that later. From there I discovered Jon Young’s Wilderness Awareness School and undertook its Kamana 1 home study course, which is designed to get you closer to nature.
One day Susan gave me a book called ‘Shaman, Healer, Sage’ by Alberto Villoldo. She had been given it by a friend and read it in a day. I read it in day and was very excited by it. I looked up his Four Winds Society website and found out that they were running their first European training course in shamanic light body healing in Holland in a couple of months. We booked in!
Over the next two years we attended training in Holland every six months. At the same time, I went back to take four courses on Apache philosophy and healing with Tom Brown Jr. in Florida and New Jersey. The two courses were very different.
Alberto’s work is almost academic. He was a professor! The majority of the group were NLP master practitioners and therapists. The training took place in university accommodation, a hotel and a castle! We had fantastic ceremonies and rites of initiation. It cost a lot of money for the course and the accommodation and travel and it was amazing.
Tom’s standard class was held on a farm in New Jersey. It had a great eclectic mix of participants, from backwoodsmen, to teachers, aged 18 – 70. I learned and experienced more every day in Standard Class than I had learned as a Scout and Scout leader. Tom delivers his talks with the passion of his lay preacher father. Don’t be late for a class! The philosophy classes were held in scout camps, the first in Florida and the rest in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where Tom was mentored by an 80-year old Lipan Apache, called Stalking Wolf. Tom’s workshops are fantastic value – at that time $500 for the week including a cabin or a floor to sleep in and all your food and drinks.
So, I was footloose and fancy free, having fun studying with two very different shamanic teachers, having wonderful experiences. In the same period my friend Steve, who was a Director at Alternatives, a charity in London, gave me two more gifts. The first was free training in NLP and the second was for me to fill in as a workshop leader in Skyros, a Greek island, as part of a two-week holistic holiday. The Skyros trip was fantastic. There were 70 holiday makers, a mix of families and individuals, adults and children. The camp director for the week was Tom Robinson, the singer / songwriter, so, of course, the theme became life as a musical. I absolutely loved it. The first week I used metaphysics for content. The second week was full-on shamanic!
I was invited to assist in teaching the light body healing course by Alberto, when it first came to England. I felt a deeper connection to the work and i loved watching people go through the same transformational journey that Susan and I had been on.
After my time of play I started to think about the future. At first, I thought only to teach our workshops with Susan, but they were not enough to keep me busy. After the first two year I felt I was being disrespectful to let go of everything I had learned in business, so I hooked up with an old contact to do some presentations and presentation training. That didn’t go far and one day I spotted an advert in the paper for presenters. As a result, I gave lots of two hour presentations on employment law and health and safety to small business owners across southern England. That ended after 18 months.
Shortly after, I was moaning about the lack of interesting work one Sunday, when Susan said “Do a ritual!”, so I danced around the living room singing a “I want a great job.” song. The next day I got a phone call from an old friend asking if I was interested in doing some shamanic work as part of week-long course that he was running on a Scottish island. On the Tuesday I got a phone call from my friend David. We had worked together in BT. He had left and bought into a leadership training company with two friends. They had just won a contract to deliver the induction weekend for new MBA students and he wondered whether I could do some shamanic stuff as part of the weekend. I am still working with David’s company, training managers in leadership behaviour and communication.
Sometimes you just need to ask for what you want!