Wednesday, January 24, 2018

We've gone quiet...not enough running, too much thinking?

Last year introduced many to the Danish concept of hygge - which is lovely but doesn’t really get you out of the house. I’d like to offer something less well-known but which I’ve followed for thirty years:  ikigai.   Professionally, it has helped me pursue a path less travelled’ that has worked out fine for me. It has not all been ‘rainbows and unicorns’ to be sure – but I’ve been honoured to do some interesting work, which can resonate personally, be energising rather than exhausting or irritating, and make for a more positive home life as well. (Neither of my kids are studying law or economics in university though so maybe I’m more ‘horrible warning’ than shining example.) At least I seem a lot happier and healthier than my practitioner friends with their houses in France and off-shore accounts.

The long and very winding road: I started out as a barrister in Toronto in the late 80s, worked as a solicitor in Tokyo for a few years, as a competition official in Ottawa, then did a D.Phil. at Oxford, then worked in private practice for a few years in London, then 15 years ago moved to a portfolio approach. This includes teaching LL.M economists and lawyers ‘In Bruges’, advising smaller competition agencies, and a mixture of OFT and CMA roles, including Board, Inquiry chair and now Senior Director for Case Decision Groups. I’m also a decision-maker at the Financial Conduct Authority and Payment Systems Regulator, edit a law and econ journal with Simon Bishop and retain some consultancy abroad.    There is also ALL THE RUNNING, all the rowing, and ALL the coffee and puddings.     Much of this makes for a highly compartmentalised mind, or a rich and full life, with minor split personality issues.   Probably all of that.

In job interviews, of course, I draw a straight line of progression through all this… it’s better than just admitting to being a competition flaneur.   But between you and me, all I’ve really been doing for thirty years is following my passion, doing what I love, and moving away from toxic people or situations, things that get boring, or what aren’t my comparative advantage. To help do that I’ve often reflected on the following image – which I came upon in my work in Japan.     

Just stare at it for a bit. Take a pause and think about your work. Think about what you love and are good at and your contribution, all the bits in the diagram.  And what you don’t like as well. Then act: if you can get most of what you do – work, play, whatever – into the central segment – or as close as possible, you will have a greater sense of well-being and be very lucky as well. But it will be luck you created. So, try it. Even just thinking about ikigai will reveal some insights. Make some time and space this month to do that if you can.  Ideally, during a run.