I am in pain. Massive pain.
I have a pinched nerve in my neck and it radiates pain across my collarbone, to the top of my arm and all the way down in a special electric current to my wrist and finally a ball of fire to my hand. It started two weeks ago for no apparent reason, except for the fact that I slept wrong in a funny position one night and then it got progressively worse.
Each day it hurt more, and I started to take steps to solve it; at first on my own, and then later with medical professionals. And as I was going through this experience, I realized that there are many parallels between running or working for a successful business and dealing with the aches, pains and general battering we put our bodies through every day.
Here are what I think are the mistakes I made, and the business mistakes I see many others making every day:
Mistake #1: Redeye flight from L.A.
Redeye flight, L.A to Philly non-stop, crammed into a window seat, crowded, hot. I didn’t sleep much, pressed against the window. At 6 am on a weekend morning, I landed stiff and sore. Why do I think I am Teflon? That I can abuse my body and not have consequences? That I can do it all? (By the way, I work for myself, so the pressure is self-imposed.)
Business Lesson: Why do we push our team so hard they start to break down physically? I have conducted many training classes where an employee arrived for class sick and likely infectious. Is that expected of them? Can you learn anything when you are sniffing and sneezing? I know many companies where people are expected to call into conference calls when they are on vacation and answer emails the whole time they are gone. Why? Don’t we know people do need to take breaks?
When people are driven to burnout, productivity doesn’t go up, it goes down.
Mistake #2: Treat it with heat.
I started laying on the heating pads for my pain, using both heating pads and those patches you attach to the spot like a personal remora to cure the pain. My pain shark wasn’t having it. Nope, it made it worse. Once I talked to my chiropractor and my family doctor both of them said I did the opposite of what I needed to do (I should have been icing it). Whoops. I now wish I would have done the research first before jumping in trying to solve it.
Business Lesson: How many times do we address the wrong area, applying massive effort (“Sales are down; it must be our salespeople”) only to find the actual solution is completely different? One client wanted to address the “moral problem” of the team but not the lack of their team leaders’ lack of communication skills. Take the time to talk to everyone involved and do the research before jumping in too fast.
Mistake #3: Massage from heck.
On Sunday I was in agony. Pain. Full.
I decide to get a massage to “work out” the muscles that were causing me so much pain.
They worked me over like I was a ‘57 Chevy on the TV Show Overhaulin’. As they say in the South, they tore me up. It was the most painful 20 minutes of my life. I should have stopped after five minutes and left. I later found out they were pushing and grinding on the nerve in my neck and making it worse.
Business Lesson: Sometimes our instinct is to say, “This doesn’t feel right.” Yet if the numbers, the money, the resumes of the parties involved and their backgrounds and pedigrees all look great, then we choose to ignore our own voice. We do this at our own peril. Years after you dissolve a business partnership people still say, “I never knew what you saw in your partner.” Oops. After you drop vendor hundreds of customers tell you how shabbily they were treated. Ouch. We need to listen to the voice in the back of our head; that’s why it’s there.
Mistake #4: Not resting.
Right now, I guess I should be resting. Instead of working. Maybe. Yes. No. I don’t know. The point is when you own your own business it’s just you, and the reason you are successful is the drive that is there. If you work for an organization, you are successful because you have a work ethic and an innate sense of responsibility. As the old saying goes, you are only as good as your last month.
Business Lesson: I think we need to figure out when to rest and when not to. In today’s shaky economic world maybe, we feel like we can’t. So, when do we rest?
We need to take some time to think through what we are doing and how we are doing it. Not at a shallow level, but at a more in-depth level. We need to really look at the nervous systems of our organizations, and well as the flowcharts for maintaining and operating a successful body.