March 12, 2020

The Price of Your History

I turned and noticed that her mouth was open. Her countenance intense and serious.

We hadn’t expected much from the box-set I casually picked up in Sainsburys.
But the script and the acting ( oh my goodness, the acting!) was holding us both by the throat.

“I didn’t expect that!” was all I could muster.
”No.” was my Wendy’s fulsome and descriptive reply.

I will say here: I prefer a captivating book;
rather than while away life’s precious hours in the mental chewing gum of television.

Yet, having declared that intellectually noble stuff…
This was Friday night. Our date night
And we were both too tired to concentrate on anything more taxing and adventurous than lounging and viewing (and Raspberry Intense chocolate from M&S).

Then, with this thing unfolding on our screen?
Well, even nature was held uncomfortably at bay, while I remained glued.

“What was this thing?” you ask.
’The Crown’ was the ‘this thing’.

The captivating story of the young Elizabeth’s unexpected rise to The Throne.
And all the drama that cascaded from that event, surrounded as it was by shock and misery and pain.

I realise that, as you’re reading this, you’ll probably have strong feelings about today’s British monarchy.

On the one hand…
You might find them totally irrelevant in today’s world.
On the other…
You might love all the charisma and characters, the glory and the grandeur, that tumble out of such lofty social positions.

But what’s difficult to ignore…
are the wrenching stories attached to this unusual, even peculiar, family.

This particular, singular story…
is of a 25 year old thrust – decades prematurely – into probably the most influential, demanding, long term role in the country.
A role whose weight was reported to have crushed…destroyed… the father she adored.

A 25 year old with a scholastic education surpassed by most 13 year olds today.
A 25 year old thrown – unarmed – into the brutal cut-and-thrust of post-war politics.
(A vicious and merciless game fought by formidable, power-hungry , middle-aged moustaches, trained in the arenas of Eton, Harrow and Oxbridge.)

And she a woman.

We prize and proclaim the wonder and drama and colour of our history in Great Britain, don’t we?

Until we see a young woman strangled by centuries of tradition and protocol and national culture.
A woman paralysed by practices that forbade her to think for herself; to speak, to utter, to breathe.

A woman – with all of her colossal wealth and privilege and possessions…
being sucked into the entrapment that we know as ‘The Crown’. ‘The Firm’.
While the world screamed with ugly gossip whenever she was caught off guard.

A woman from whom others tried to squeeze the humanity and kindness and mercy.
All in the name of ‘Duty’, ‘Tradition’ and ‘National Pride’.

I looked across the room at Wendy.
I knew that she was thinking exactly what I was feeling.

“There isn’t a price, a bounty, a reward, an honour, a title…that would entice me to enter such a life; such a prison.”

And, for the first time in my life, I felt a genuine sense of sorrow for that young woman.

Yet, this same saga plays itself out in many of the small businesses that I bump into.

Some are weighed down – a millstone around their necks – by the legacy of traditions and values that they’ve inherited.
Some are paralysed by the practices and ideas that they first used to build their own business.
Some act daily on assumptions (about clients, about their team, about their profession).
Assumptions that have not a shred of evidence to support them.

Some have created business models that squeeze the very life out of them;
So that there’s nothing left – but intellectual and emotional dregs – for the family they go home to.

However your history was created.
By you, or others.
You can find yourself trapped.

The beauty is… YOU are free.
Free to change whatever no longer serves you and your clients well.
Free to choose the light you step towards tomorrow.

And that’s part of the joy and excitement that goes with the sleepless nights and breathless risk of leadership in business.

So, I say, rejoice in that.
Revel in it.
Because you might just be envying others who have no such freedom.