I'm indebted to the writings of Michael Gerber ('The E-Myth Manager' and other associated titles) for explaining the common error that many of us who lead growing businesses can fall into: we get seduced into working mostly in the business rather than working on it. I find that this time of year is particularly good to stand back and reflect more broadly on how it ought to develop.
However, I find even this perpsective is becoming a little limited for me. For example, time and again, I hear experienced venture capitalists remark that the pitch is often not the thing that swings it for them in deciding to invest in this company or that; they find that they do not so much invest in a business plan or a business model as in the leaders themselves. They invest in the people; people who strike them as so remarkable and invigorating that they will back them with their own money, all in order to become part of their story.
So I find myself standing back from working in the business, even from working on the business, and working on me. This becomes a different take on the tradition of New Year's resolutions. The question I ask myself is, 'How can I develop in 2012 in four areas of my life?'
For me, this primarily affects matters of diet and exercise. How can I so eat and exercise that the energy I bring to leading my company goes up? I've come to value regular exercise in my struggle to gain energy. Often I will get ideas - such as the one for this post, for example - during or at the end of a workout; presumably because there is more oxygen coursing through my brain. So it becomes stupid for me not to exercise.
How am I stretching myself with my own reading and study? Major influences in my life are the other blogs to which I subscribe, the books I read (more history, agile management, and human psychology these days), and the Scripture my vicar occasionally asks me to preach on. Keeping a regular journal and writing this blog also help me keep sharp.
As someone with a tendency to the melancholic, I find I must work consciously on this one. One of my favourite quotes from C.S. Lewis is, 'Joy is the serious business of heaven.' I aim to be more thankful, to smile rather more, to sing more, to play more. I find being around my grandchildren helps enormously.
As a Christian I practice the traditional disciplines, but privately as directed by my Rabbi (see Matthew 6:1) so I'm cautious about going into more detail here. I find these habits have helped keep me grounded as a businessman as to what 'success' really means, and they bring me back regularly to focus on what really matters.
Of course, all these areas affect each other, so I must attend to them all.
If you, dear reader, think I have missed anything, I'd value hearing from you.
As we all enter 2012, may I wish you and your loved ones well, a year in which we all grow. Remember the most important thing any of us can work on is ourselves.