Sorry, No time to breathe.

I can just imagine somebody telling me this, all red in the face, dying but very convinced about it.
This is such a funny scene that, were it not real, I would laugh my heart out.
As it is, I am almost crying.

This is so absurd that it would not even make it in a real scenario. Even for a cheap comedy of the type that is so abundant these days.
Oh, I just got it : it would be perfect for a B type horror and gore movie.
You know, those movies adored by teenagers where ridiculous stories are shakily supported by amazing special effects and a cast of actors who almost seem happy to die and forget about their bad decision to be in this… weird… and appallingly bad story.

Sorry, no time to breathe. I must continue doing this very important work and

Good. This makes a lot of sense. Keep on working and die.
This must indeed be very important for you to STOP doing it…

I have been teaching about priority management for almost twenty years.
I still teach this utmost important topic because I
yes I need to be reminded that, as S.R. Covey so rightly said,

“the main thing
is to keep the main thing
the main thing”.

Maslow described it well : physical needs first, psychological needs second and self-actualization last.
Organizations have similar needs. Financial, capital and human needs. Somewhere in there are also regulatory requirements, environmental pressure, etc.
Once the basic needs are covered an organism will seek to fulfill the next level.

Breathing is a pretty basic need.
At a cellular level, respiration is the process by which oxygen is used to produce energy by oxidizing glucose.
At a physiological level, our lungs transfer oxygen from the air to the blood in alveoli.
No breathing : no life.

At the organizational level, breathing in has a new meaning…
The Webster dictionary comes in handy here.

Inspiration : 
1a: divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
1b: the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
c: the act of influencing or suggesting opinions
2: the act of drawing in; specifically:  the drawing of air into the lungs

3a: the quality or state of being inspired
3b:  something that is inspired <a scheme that was pure inspiration>

4:  an inspiring agent or influence

Inspiration is taking in new air, new ideas…
It has to come from OUTSIDE.

The opposite, physiologically is to expire. To let the air out.
To expire… as in expiration date… or more simply…

Oh yes, I am pretty literal today.

The interesting part is that once the lungs are empty, they fill in once again. Spontaneously. Living is not a choice.
Any cell strive to survive.
Any animal has the same strong urge.

Why then do some of your colleagues act as though they are willingly committing a slow motion suicide ?

  • By not taking a short break once in a while
  • By not stopping to have lunch with their colleagues
  • By accepting late meetings with overseas partners
  • By working from home every night and every weekend
  • By refusing to attend offsite seminars
  • By not taking part in professional networking events
  • By not reading professional magazine anymore
  • By not reading anything but monthly business reports
  • By shutting themselves off the rest of the world.

I frequently use a car analogy to describe this situation. After all, the car industry has been the main inspiration for our management practices since Henry Ford used F.Taylor’s “principles of scientific management” in the early days of the XXth century.

A car needs gas. This is a very basic need.
And oil needs to be changed for new oil, unsoiled by combustion residues. Not doing so will void the car warranty.
A careless driver might postpone the oil change for a while but NO driver can postpone going to the gas station for long.

Individuals and organizations need gas too.
Both can postpone their “oil” change for a while but not indefinitely unless the warranty, their commitment to their clients, also becomes void.

I like analogies and metaphors. One can get so much out of them.
Oh, they are never perfect. Some people just do not see the links between the story and the real situation.
Some people never connect the dots anyway.
They keep collecting the dots. Only collecting and not connecting.

Next time you hear an excuse for participating in something important, listen carefully and hear:

“Sorry, No time to breathe.”

I am convinced you will not let this go as easily.


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