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Tea, best drink of the day

July 9, 2011

No matter where I go, you can count on one thing – I’ll have a cup of tea. What magic words….a cup of tea. Tea is the beginning and ending for everything for me, from the start to the end of the day.  Sometimes I get up very early in the morning and enjoy a quiet house and cup of tea chatting with the dog before the craziness begins. Other times, I’ll take a quick walk onto the hills with the dog and a cup of tea. You can find peace in a few minutes. I can drink tea until the cows come home.

When I’m not making tea, I am probably thinking about making tea. The world is a teapot, frankly, and I’m just living in it. In fact, in either God’s agenda or Charles Darwin’s views of  in the beginning….there was tea, hurrah for the Camellia Sinensis plant. Tea is the punctuation in my life.  Having tea means stopping, slowing down, it’s the pause button, but it makes everything better, because when I have tea it makes me think, I sort stuff out, move on and things seem to have more clarity and focus.

Tea has been useful in meetings with a couple of frustrated clients this past week, both down-in-the-dumps about themselves and their businesses, but a chat over a cup of tea and momentum to their thinking returned. I always like to use a chat over a cup of tea and  ‘movement’ words when trying to help clients see through the short-term pain barrier or blind spots about their business – momentum, velocity, acceleration, impetus – that sense of energy, forward looking, focus on crashing through the blockages to get to where they need to be. It’s a funny old thing, the more you think about the challenges you face and visualise what needs to be done with these words resonating in your head, the more you get out of the doldrums and kick-start – and don’t underestimate the aphrodisiac qualities of a cup of tea, a relaxed conversation over a brew in a tea shop creates more head space than any formal meeting in a board room.

Momentum is incredibly useful to someone who has to overcome fear, dig in deep, reframe and move forward. Momentum helps to overcome your fears and self-doubts, and stimulates you to keep you looking and moving forward. Without momentum, you’d probably slow down, think too much, stumble and fall. And yet many people I meet fear too much momentum.  They look at a new opportunity as something that might get out of control. It’s one thing to be a local band playing to a hundred people a night in a local wine bar, but what if the momentum builds and you become the next Radiohead with a record deal and appearances from New York to Madrid to Burnley (hey, you’ve really made it big then) and higher than high expectations for your next work?  Deep down, this potential for an overwhelming response alerts what I call the orangutan brain in some folk, and they hold back. Don’t get me wrong, I love orangutans, so much so that the last fancy dress party I went as one – I am blessed with a natural gait, hair style and facial expressions to be an authentic orangutan – but they don’t exactly have fire in their bellies to get out of that tree do they?

And that’s where I was this week with two of my clients, they didn’t have the impetus in themselves or their businesses to move forward. We have to change everything, they said, as we sat down over our first cup of tea. But no, in reality it’s not ‘everything’. I reckon it’s 15%. 15% changes everything. When a television company loses 15% of its audience or 15% of its advertisers, it goes out of business. There are still people who want to watch it, still people who want to advertise, but it’s gone. When a software company increases its sales by 15%, profits will double. The sales line doesn’t have to increase that much for profits to leap. It’s so tempting to think ‘change everything’ but in fact, 15% right here and right now – with velocity in thinking and action – might be exactly what you need.

Everyone one of us – every organization and every individual is either running away or running toward something. But where does your challenge sit in relation to my ‘15% rule? Can you up your game and add 15% new customers and revenues, or can you work smarter to find 15% more available time? Are you chasing or being chased?  Are you fleeing or climbing? We build up the challenge to be a monster, lurking and hanging over us, omnipresent, but every monster has a shadow, that’s what makes it a monster. In fact, when you look the monster in the eye you discover that he’s not so bad after all. It’s just the shadow that’s scary. When in doubt, ignore the shadow, and you cut the sense and scale of the challenge down from 100% to 15%. The shadow is always bigger than the monster itself.

Both my clients finished chatting over a cup of tea energised to put momentum back into their thinking and velocity into their actions. It’s all about the future. There are many methods for predicting the future, you can read horoscopes, tarot cards, or crystal balls. Collectively, these methods are known as ‘nutty methods’. Or you can put well-researched facts into sophisticated spreadsheet models, more commonly referred to as ‘a complete waste of time’ – for me, English tea is a greatly under utilised business tool, it simply makes you think.

Tea is the ultimate symbol of what is great about England, that no matter how challenging life is at a particular point in time, it’s really not that bad if you’ve got a decent cup of tea. And on a lighter note, never trust a man, who when left alone with a tea cosey… doesn’t try it on.

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