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« The power of simply connecting | Main | Go ahead, disrupt yourself »
Wednesday
May182016

The best thing about equilibrium? We're never there.

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You're better off being here 

Equilibrium is embedded in the human psyche. Lurking behind science, culture and our daily lives is the idea that there can be a place where everything is in balance. 

In economics, it’s where demand equals supply. In physics, it’s where opposite forces cancel each other out. It is everywhere. Click here to watch Russell Crowe apply the Nash Equilibrium to speed dating. 

In life, concepts like retirement are like that: everything will be in place and we can rest. Business strategies can be similar. Ever see a five-year plan that doesn’t suggest how great it will be when we get ‘there’?

Why is this misleading?

Equilibrium exists for maybe a nanosecond, if at all. We are always either moving toward it or moving away from it but never hanging out there for any prolonged period. To the extent that change is a constant, we are never actually ‘there’ at all. Just when you think things are settled, you get disrupted.

Our Gregorian calendar presents the New Year as a clean sheet of paper, as if on the 1st of January we are in the starting blocks, balanced and ready to roll. We’re not. It’s just another day. It’s one reason so many resolutions are redundant within a month. 

You could argue the earth is more in balance at equinox, when the length of the night is exactly equal to the length of the day and the temperature is neither excessively hot nor excessively cold. 

Either way, the earth doesn’t stop moving for a few days to celebrate the equinox or New Year. It just keeps moving. So does your business. So do you.

Why is this good?

Uninterrupted equilibrium can also mean stagnation, torpor and decay. A nicely balanced bicycle falls over when it’s not moving.

A bit of calm can be useful. I meditate each morning, and sometimes, for a very few moments in that 20-minute exercise, I experience a sense of calm. By the end, I am always more relaxed. That’s good, because when I finish I have to get on and do stuff. Life is about being in present time, and in present time, stuff is happening. The more calmly I enter that place, the easier it is to roll with it.

Rather than focussing on some balanced endpoint, best results come from staying fluid. Embracing change means constantly examining it, not fighting for it or against it. Resilient people stay open to different ideas.

A colleague of mine, a CEO of a major private hospital, developed a vastly improved business model by borrowing ideas from the hospitality industry rather than medicine. She began treating customers more like guests than patients. The best ideas often come from diverse places. You need to be open to see them.

You can get inspiration from meditation, but also get it from reading, writing, running a business, examining industries other than your own, working in the community or just being with your family. If nothing was happening, you wouldn’t be either.

Reader Comments (2)

Good reminder. Like the saying, 'wherever you go, there you are'.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel E

Indigenous Australians worked just be seasons. None of them was the start or the finish. They just rolled on with planting, fishing or hunting. Whatever was the most appropriate activity for the season they were in. Reckon they lived in the present.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSonny Bilttern-Watts

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