I’m new to Tai Chi having only recently joined the Taoist Tai Chi Society of Australia. I’ve done a two day intensive and now devote two hours each Saturday morning where I practice this ancient and graceful martial art form done in slow motion with a group of dedicated and well-practiced Tai Chi-practitioners. Quite possibly the youngest in the group, I do know for certain I’m the only one sweating at the end of each session. What’s good about it is the fact that it requires so much concentration from me. To even try to get near the fluidity and nuance of some of the moves, let alone string together the 108 move set that comprise Tai Chi, I have to devote my entire cognitive capacity. The worries, niggles and ideas from work can’t penetrate that time. Tai Chi I have discovered to my delight is not a semi-permeable membrane. After those two hours my mind is free from the tensions of work. Tai Chi in this respect is like gold!
It’s been a difficult time at work lately, losing our second biggest tenant which comprises over 20% of our income. It’s never easy being a Landlord. At any point when a tenant goes into administration the lease is one of the first things to go. Doesn’t matter that they are on a 10 + 10 lease. The email comes through and the administrator disclaims. Effectively this means from that point on you no longer have any money coming in even though all their stuff is there. Immediately your head starts to spin and inevitably your thoughts go to your bottom line. The question quickly arises as to how you can replace them and survive the loss of such a large portion of your income.
Regrettably this has meant redundancies, which I still feel is a reflection on poor management. Surely we are capable of retaining talent and replacing the sitting tenant? If only it was that easy. I heard recently that redundancy is a relatively new tool in management and that years ago management held onto staff loyal to them. In the endeavour to find new tenants, deal with administrators, handle the auction company, show prospects through, find ways to retain staff, re-organising our own company and farewelling someone in the most mindful manner under the circumstances, the stress levels peak. The brain starts to process these ‘simultaneous equations’ even when you try to switch off.
I know that my most creative moments happen when I have cleared my head of the clutter. My daily meditation routine, in our meditation room, has sadly failed to de- VUCA my world at the moment. That is 20 minutes of me noting my thoughts without judgment and letting them slip away…only to be immediately followed by another. At the moment I find I need ‘industrial strength’ declutterer. Without a clear mind I am less able to get my mindset right to address the problems we are currently facing. That’s where Tai Chi has come to the rescue. After many a Single Whip, Carry Tiger to Mountain or Pick Up Needles from the Sea Bottom I am cleansed. This affords me most of the weekend to refresh, ready to tackle the challenge afresh on Monday morning.
True uncluttered downtime, where we can break free from thinking about work is essential. Despite CEOs regarding themselves as stress resistant and resilient individuals, we all need time to cleanse our palate otherwise everything tastes the same. It is true that in time of difficulty we seem to attract further difficulty. Actually, it often just feels that way because our mindset has shifted. Devotion of so much cognitive load to the problem means that when a small issue comes along we inflate its importance, not because it seems really large, but because we assess our capacity to deal with it psychologically, physically and emotionally as severely limited. Creating quiet space in our heads in a VUCA-world is one of the most important skill sets an executive can possess. Passing on this ‘wisdom’ is one of the most important roles an executive can fulfil. This is especially true for any departing staff who will be experiencing their own cognitive overload as they consider life without the security of a regular income until they get back on their feet.
Philosophies from the East have much to teach us as our world gets more complex and technologically cluttered. As information overload occurs and we find ourselves caught in the middle of work that can follow-us 24/7, no matter where in the world we are located, finding a way to switch off is essential. It may seem strange to some to look back to the days before business technology to find a cure for its ailments, but if we want to address our issues in a meaningful way I would recommend thinking about Tai Chi or similar eastern practice. For me I no longer have a choice – it’s my bottom line.