Last week, I had a reality check. It wasn’t pleasant. It made me feel like a real fool and hopefully made one of my friends feel like a fool. It made me feel selfish and arrogant. I would like to share it with you all in the hope that it resonates with you all as well.
Over the past week, I attended a social event with my family. As tends to happen at these events, the kids took off and played, the ladies congregated in one area and the men in another. I was standing with three guys and the conversation quickly turned to the economy and how we were all dealing with tough times.
I was the first person to speak. My responses were full of clichés and here is a brief summary of my quotes:
- “it has certainly been tough but we are hoping that things will improve post-election”
- “there have been times when it would have been more profitable to shut the doors for a year and go on holidays”
- “people just don’t have the confidence to spend”
- “the reduction in coal and iron ore prices have really hurt us”
- “I am more optimistic for the next financial year”
It was all pretty generic and certainly not that positive but I thought it was a fair summary. I was really feeling sorry for myself.
The next guy to speak was an Account Manager for an IT company. He has been working for his company for the past seven years and it was fair to say that he was really negative. He spoke for over 15 minutes and his complaints included:
- His company didn’t invite and pay for partners at the Christmas party last year
- He was having to do weekly reports nowadays and his boss was focused on revenue
- His best mate at work was terminated for non-performance last week
- He was docked commission for making errors on a sales deal. The deal should have generated circa $20,000 in revenue over the year but, thanks to his administrative error, was going to cost $3,000.
- His clients weren’t spending money like they used to and he had to work harder
- He was working most weekends
The next guy to talk was the eldest of the four of us and is a physically intimidating type of guy. He is an accountant by trade and has a deep voice that can be heard over a great distance. He is a gentle giant though and is generally one of the happiest guys I know. He was the first to give me a reality check when he said: “Would you two blokes just listen to yourselves and think for a second! I have been looking for work now for 14 months and it is pretty hard to sit and listen to how tough you guys are doing right now. Your problems are nothing; you both have jobs and are getting paid. You haven’t had to sell your houses. You haven’t experienced one ounce of pain. Look around and show some respect.” It stopped me in my tracks. I apologised for my lack of sensitivity as I realised how petty my issues were.
The fourth guy amongst us just smiled. He started to giggle and looked up at the three of us. Three months ago he was hit by a car and will now be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. All he said was: “where do you want me to start?”
These seven words broke the ice. All four of us had a chuckle and another beer. Sometimes you think you are doing it really tough. However, it pays to take the blinkers off and look around – there are always people really struggling. Like my businesses, we may not be experiencing the halcyon days of 2006-7, however we are still paying our way and charging forward. We may be working harder for less but it was very sobering for me to have it pointed out that there are so many people doing it tougher than me. Next time I start to whinge, I promise myself to think of my two mates!
Brad McMahon – Managing Director