Quitting the rat race

I just got back from a great trip to my homeland in Africa. Small part business… I got to do some work with National Geographic… and large part pleasure… I got to spend some time with my family and caught up with some dear friends.

Early on in my adventure, I accepted that I shouldn’t take access to the internet or telephone services for granted. They often weren’t available. Initially I was concerned that the world would stop spinning if I wasn’t able to check my e-mail every few minutes and wondered how my colleagues and clients could possibly get by if they couldn’t get ahold of me at the drop of a hat. For a while I wasn’t able to extricate myself from the rat race. “Get over yourself” my sensible-self urged, a useful counter to my inner-cynic’s assurances of “You’re screwed!”

Stepping out of my life for a while… away from the stresses and strains that color, what I call, day-to-day living was a real treat. With a little time and a lot of distance, I saw clearly the gap between how I claimed I wanted to be living my life (one filled with the experience of peace and joy)… and how I was actually living it. I got to see how I was spending too much time doing things I knew (or should have known) that I shouldn’t be doing – working more and more and more… and not enough time doing the things I should be doing – spending time with the people I care about the most. I got to see how my fear of failure and my greed masqueraded as ambition and how the people I claimed to care about the most got the least of me… of my time, attention and energy.

My absolute highlight of the trip was spending time with and being pampered by my parents. I drank far too many cups of tea and enjoyed all my favorite meals (I put on about ten pounds in a week, it was awesome!) We spent hours sharing with each other what was going on in our lives – our dreams our hopes and our fears. I was lovingly invited to “pull my head out of my arse” when appropriate and assured “how much I was loved and how proud they were of me” in equal measure. And I got to experience the peace and joy that life has to offer when I stopped moving long enough for it to catch up with me.

So I’m back in the USA now. I’ve stepped back into my life. I thoroughly enjoyed the break. I’m curious as to what the future holds. Will I fall back into the rat race? Or will I stop acting like a rat and racing away from the peace and joy that life has to offer? Will I go back to working more and more and more… or will I invest the time, attention and energy in the people I care about the most and doing the things I should be doing?


Success simplified; lessons learned down a hippo's throat. Speaker, Author, Coach who will parachute in when traditional solutions won’t get it done.

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  1. Paul,
    I’m glad you had time to connect with some of the people important to you. Time with your parents, especially as an adult, will be something you’ll look back on fondly. That is truly time well spent.
    I have to agree with you that the world won’t cease rotating on its axis if we, Kelly or I, don’t get back to a client immediately. However (you had to see a ‘however’ coming), one way we try to differentiate our business from other motivational speakers is by getting back to people quickly.  We feel that we sometimes get hired simply because we get back to the client quickly. As well, we find it astounding that many speakers take days to get back to the people who provide their livelihood. I guess part of what makes being constantly available bearable is that the speaking business is our family business. Most of the time we are together, and we never feel like we are missing out on seeing each other. Sometimes — maybe just the opposite.

    • Indeed Bill… I certainly hope I didn’t imply that I don’t see or subscribe to the importance and the value of managing commitments. Infact, I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion that the way we make and manage our commitments either builds or destroys trust, colors our identity, defines our relationships and often opens or closes the possibilities and opportunities that ultimately define our lives… as attested to by your comment that you sometimes get hired simply because you get back to clients quickly. (I’ll hazard a guess that it may also have something to do with the fact that you and Kelly run a top notch business and that Kelly is a phenomenal speaker!)

      What happened out in Africa that I think is relevant to this conversation was that whilst I may not have been able to meet 100% of my commitments the way that they were originally configured 100% of the time… for example, before setting off, I’d felt confident saying to a client “I’ll call you on Thursday at 10:00am”… what I could do was manage 100% of my commitments 100% of the time… so once I knew that the communications plan we’d had in place was faulty, I co-oordinated and communicated with the people I’d made commitments to accordingly… in the aforementioned example, contacting the chap ahead of time, letting him know that our communications plan in the jungle wasn’t working out the way we’d intended and co-designing a Plan B.

      So I feel that I managed the fulfillment and non-fulfilment of my commitments pretty well… at least for the most part. Most interesting to me though was when I looked at the volume and context of the commitments that I made, how well they aligned (or didn’t align) with who I hold myself to be and what I claim to care about. To me, therein lay a great learning opportunity!

      Which is in part why I found your comment about one of the things that differentiates your business from  many other motivational speakers is that you get back to people quickly, so interesting is that I think this one little element of your business tells a far greater story… to me, it’s a wonderful demonstration of how aligned you and Kelly both are with what you care about.

  2. So enjoy what both of you have brought to the table. What I’ve come to know as a motivational speaker is that there is always more stuff to do then time left in a day. Since I truly enjoy what I do, I’ve had to teach myself to stop and go be with those I love most. It’s too easy to do “one more thing” that turns into twenty and stops me from connecting beyond short conversation and a few kisses before the girls go out for the evening or before bed. Having stayed home with them full-time when they were young I feel the difference between my presence now and then. And it takes effort daily to stop and connect in a way that we both feel our love. My sweetheart is great at saying, “Hey, get off that computer!” and asking for what he needs…and when I join him I realize I need it too. It’s a delicate dance of growing your business while still growing your family and relationships. Thanks for making me reflect on something that is so very important.

    • Indeed Colette… that delicate dance that we all partake in. It sounds to me that we are both incredibly fortunate that we have wonderful dance partners! (Hmmm… I’m going to talk about this with Carrie tonight… thanks for provoking what I’m confident will be a great conversation!)

  3. I hear you, Paul – loud and clear. This will always be an issue for me.  And Bill, I am with you too on the “get back really quickly” concept. I live in terror that if I don’t get back to a potential client really quickly, they most assuredly will call someone else and offer the job to them.  I think because I am not good with delayed gratification – that no one else it.  I am fortunate though, that I have the amazing Kate Holgate to handle the “getting back quickly” part when I’m working or traveling.  
    In terms of the bigger issue, though, what I love so much is that you seem to be singing my song.  I KNOW that when I experience actually LIVING my values and the joy of being with people I love, doing things that nourish my soul, I am powerfully reminded of how important that is to me.  I also know that when I go back to the real world, the lure and pull back to that rat race – is strong and seductive.  What I saw was that now that you are home, you didn’t make some profound declaration that “I will NEVER allow myself to go back to that way of living again!”  Instead you just posed a few provocative questions to yourself.  
    You remind me Paul, that this is all just a journey and sometimes I’ll get it right, and sometimes I’ll get it wrong and hopefully I’ll always be moving in the right direction, learning stuff as I go along.
    Thank you so much for making me stop and think – again – about what’s important to me. 

    • Thanks Linda… one of the things that nourishes my soul is being a part of a community that includes you, the amazing Kate Holgate, and the other exceptional motivational speakers who contribute to this blog. You all continue to inspire me, educate me, amuse me… and create a space where I can step back out of the rat race and take a moment to stop, breathe, consider what’s really going on in my life and all around me (at least the stories I’m caught up in)… and then on occasion, make different choices. Thanks! 

  4. So I’m late to the conversation, but so glad I jumped in! Ditto to what everybody said. And I think the fact that we are aware of the importance of tending to business as much as tending to life, then we are ahead of the game. After all, awareness is the most important step. Just remembering that life is short should keep us in check. Thanks, Paul, for the reminder. 

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