To be completely honest, I find it really confronting to even commit this story – and this feeling – to print. But, in the interests of stressing the importance of stopping, I had to get over myself on this. So, here it is.

At the end of last year I was unsuccessful at winning one of my Group Executive pitches. I was rather p***ed and disappointed with myself. Regardless of being assured by the client that my proposal and approach were excellent, and that they went with another agent because they had a history with the Board, not winning the pitch still stung.

When that happened at calendar year end, I piled it atop the mountain of personal and professional debris that accumulates whilst running life’s marathon. The truer failure is that I didn’t celebrate the fact that it was a commendable achievement to even be asked to present to a new client at this level. Instead, it ended up in that pile of stuff we always intend to sort out later… stuff that is all too easily ignored, but ignored at our own peril. Because before you know it an avalanche is looming before you have the chance to get centered back on your skis. (Yes, the life/skiing analogy can be wholly blamed on my recent holiday – but if the ski boot fits…).This is why I had to stop. This is why we all have to stop.

I don’t mean take a day or three off; that’s a pause. I don’t mean having a drink or three with mates and; that’s a distraction, and not necessarily the healthy sort (not that I can judge;).

I mean a complete, everyone out, tools down, lights off, stop!

This entails coordinating with your leadership team about when you’re all taking holidays. It’s ensuring someone is covering all your responsibilities during that absence so that you’re not expected to be on email or answering calls. Ensuring that you can, indeed, stop. 

Stopping breeds gratitude

In the day to day, week to week thrum of activity, we are continually striving to fill the gap of what we haven’t achieved. We’re always pushing toward the next goal, the next level, the next achievement.

Stopping gives you a chance to reflect on what you actually have achieved.

Instead of beating yourself up over things that didn’t go your way, stopping lets you put to bed what you think your failures were (they’re usually not as horrific as you imagined) and gives you time to realise the lessons therein (which is the entirety of brilliance in failing forward).

Stopping made me realise that being given the opportunity to pitch to a Non Exec Board, and a Chairman, and have them even consider my proposal, meant it wasn’t anything remotely resembling failure. I got to a height I had never been to before. I’m in a better position now to convert the next opportunity. Without doubt the rejection has made me more experienced, more resilient, more empathetic… possibly smarter. Definitely keener. 

Gratitude makes you kinder to yourself too. Which in turn makes you more empathetic to others, which makes you a better person and if you are so inclined, a better leader.

By completely stopping for two weeks over Christmas I realised that not winning that pitch was a win for me, both professionally and personally.

Stopping gives perspective

The track we walk every day can quickly become a trench whose deep walls blind us to what’s going on all around. Stopping lifts you out of those trenches. It is the only thing that will give you a fresh (and sorely needed) perspective on unresolved issues as it allows you to come at them from a different angle with an uncluttered mind.

Stopping reopens your mind to the fact that life is an adventure.

It’s also a means of reaffirming your why. It serves as a reminder as to the reasons you’re running this marathon. Whether it’s for your loved ones and for all your futures, or for whatever it is that drives you, stopping allows you a front-seat panoramic perspective on your life and purpose.

I am looking forward to optimising all the hard work we’ve done in the last 18 months since starting this company. We’ve built a team of amazing people and amazing clients and we’ve won some amazing awards. I want to continue living my why. Meaning that to the best of my ability I will continue to lead & support these amazing people to perform better than they ever thought possible. And to have LOTS of fun along the way.

Stopping makes you better.

There’s no one size fits all rule – I can’t prescribe a ‘how-to’ on stopping that suit everybody. But I can advise that it takes more than a few hours a day or a few days a week. You need at least a couple of weeks to truly enjoy the benefits of an all-out disconnect.

Whether you actively pursue reflection during your stoppage or you just switch off your work light and turn your attention to your family and friends or to an activity or pursuit – or both, stopping gives you space, rest and reprieve. It energises, refocuses and redoubles your abilities to go forth and create the life you want to live on your terms.

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