Sunday, November 7, 2010

Failing While Succeeding

This week the pace finally caught up with me. I woke up on Saturday morning feeling like the world was falling in around me. My heart pounded. My head teemed with frightened thoughts. I got up, took some breaths and took my usual therapy - a ten mile run. I was staying at my parents s it was fell-running on the West Pennine Moors, a National Trust site of bleak, rain-drenched beauty. Today it was drenched in sun, blue, bright, vivid. An hour and a half later I would like to say I arrived back glad again with my head straight- but I still felt pretty grim.

I had, of course, overdone it. A fourth 70 hour week on the trot had sent me into a pretty dark place from which I knew I would emerge but in the meantime would have to sit out. This failure to remember my own frailties, even in a period when business is, so to speak, booming, is a recurrent theme for me. Even in my 40's I seem as likely to run myself into the buffers as I did as a hungry 25 year old.

The day was softened by a trip to the Reebok Stadium to see my beloved Bolton thrash Spurs 4-2. My companion was the lovely Hannah Eyres of Keyfund who has close connection with the club and gets me into the posh seats. Hannah was, as always, as sunny as the day and I came away feeling a lot better than when I arrived.

Today has also been decompression-time. Out in the park there is a large pond. Just looking at it calms me down. It is full of massive carp that prowl just under the water like hostile U boats. We took our net and failed to capture anything, despite repeated baitings of bread.

At lunchtime today, for the first time in days, calm descended, I hope for a while. There is an art to life which I am slow to learn. It's about pacing, creating manageable demands and actually enjoying the ride. For 80% of the time, I feel in a good place. The other twenty can be pretty dire. At times, utterly so.

When deciding to set up a new business I knew the biggest risk I was taking was with my mental health, as much as my money. While I will always back myself in business-terms, I am not always sure my mental and emotional self will last the course. The scale of success to which I aspire is not matched by my constitution, which seems to throw me into the abyss if I am working more than 60 hours a week for any length of time.

I am discussing this because I don't think the demands and stresses of work are really discussed on blogs. We tend to focus on issues, our views and those we have met. The inner world we inhabit as entrerpreneurs, CEOs or whatever is never discussed. My own belief is that a lot of people skate on extremely thin ice. And that despite how 'sound' we all are now about mental health at work, those of us in leading roles tend to keep quiet about it, perchance we are seen by others as 'flaky' or weak.


Joe Roberson said...

Hey Craig - I admire your upfrontness about this issue. practicing 'good' mental health habits at workj is something that is massively undervalued in my opinion. perhaps ironically it sometimes seems to be m,ore valued in the commercial world where money is sometimes spent on preventative solutions (eg work gym, pleasanter surroundings, visitng masseurs etc etc). But in that world it is easier to count the financial cost of mental health 'failiure'.

Of course I'd rather work for a nurturing, well run vol sector org that supports its staff to take responsibility for their own health.

And I'd rather my team hadn't lost to yours on Saturday....

Andy McNicoll said...

Hey Craig - great blog on something which is all too rarely written about. I'm a postgrad journalism student and about a week and a half ago I reached a bit of a meltdown.

A combination of workload (both course and extra stuff I'd taken on) and my own pressures led to me not doing the things that help me keep away from falling back into a bit of a black hole - mainly exercise, eating well, taking time out etc (the basics that went a long way to getting me out of a fairly lengthy bout of depression when I was about 21).

Eventually things snapped a bit and I just told some of my coursemates about how I was feeling. To my surprise, they were incredibly understanding. It taught me a lot about the value in discussing these things openly - so thanks for doing so on your blog!

Twitter: @beyondthesilo