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The Standing Still Olympics

Girl strokes a horse in a stable

Our Head of Strategy, Jo Pearce, reflects on how to find better growth in moments of stillness.

I’ve been thinking about growth.

It’s sort of a prerequisite for me as I work for an agency that is obsessed with it. We love working with clients who are committed to better growth. We’re interested in talking to people about our philosophy. We’re just as focused on delivering this internally as individuals and as a collective, as we are externally.

The emergence of the concept of growth – specifically, better growth – as our core philosophy was slow and measured. We tested and played with it for a while. We kept it quiet whilst we all tried it on for shape and size. We found the fit to be good.

But after congratulating ourselves on discovering the killer thought that we could all get behind, we found ourselves tip toeing around the question, why was it right? Defining our purpose came quite quickly after.

Dare to dream

We realised that what got us up in the morning, what sometimes kept us awake at night, was the desire to work with open minded, enthusiastic people. People that are up for exploring just where their ambition and imagination could take them. Then the idea of inviting people, including ourselves, to ‘dare to dream’ felt like putting on a pair of lucky pants, or maybe a superhero cape.

Since then, the measured, tried and tested approach has taken a bit of a back seat. We have gone all in with excitement and energy around both bedding and weaving the vision in to the day to day. At the same time, we’re using it like starting blocks, or a springboard, to launch us into a period of intense action.

Ticking along underneath providing a service for our clients are multiple channels of activity. These are all designed to generate opportunities for, measure, celebrate and create the right mindset to embrace, growth.

This is, of course, what we should be doing. But personally, ‘intense’ had become the most pervasive feeling. I found myself starting to flag a little, asking myself if I could keep up the pace. Could I take a break from searching for the next thing to try, the next thing to learn, the next envelope to push?

Stepping backwards to grow

Always late to the party, I have stepped out of my massive comfort zone of all things Rich Roll Podcast and finally started flirting with The Diary of a CEO podcast. I have just watched Steven Bartlett speak to Nicola Mendelsohn, VP of Meta.

I was coming up through London advertising and comms agencies at the same time as Nicola and I couldn’t help compare our journeys, even at a rudimentary level. Nothing I have done, or experienced, compares to her story. I am not going to drop any spoilers here, safe to say, it is an extremely good, inspiring watch. However, Nicola and Steven both spoke about specific things that helped me reflect. I thought about my increasing need to push back on the sprint to learn, to keep moving in order to generate growth, to constantly add and supplement thoughts and ideas, to just keep doing.

Steven describes trying to promote the Head of Marketing in one of his businesses to Marketing Director. The man turns it down, saying that he doesn’t feel ready. But he also cites ambitions he has in his private life, outside of his career, that he wants to explore.

Nicola describes dropping to a four-day week on the birth of her first child. A mover and a shaker at Bartle Bogle Hegarty at that time, they cut her salary by 20%. She bought the time she felt she needed to be a mum, friend, wife and valued family member.

Both Nicola and the Head of Marketing had a level of self awareness, of self knowledge, that enabled them to sit and wait. They took a moment or, in some peoples’ eyes at that time, a career limiting step backwards, to do what was right for them, in order to grow.

A place of peace

A very good friend of mine, Tania Kindersley, writes about her Thoroughbred mare Phoenix, amongst many other wonderful things. The Red Mare has her own page on Facebook and many devoted followers. I am one, owning a grey mare myself. Since rescuing Phene, Tania has embarked on an immense journey of discovery with her Red Mare.

Tania is an incredibly gifted and experienced horsewoman. She has written at great length about how Phene has changed her, taught her, connected with her and prompted her to constantly evaluate who she is, how she shows up, where she is going.

It’s true that she knows all about training techniques, the benefit of good nutrition, maintaining the basics and providing safety and security. But I know Tania would say that her most fundamental, moving, elemental experiences, those that have prompted the most intense episode of growth in her life, are in the Place of Peace with Phene, practising the Standing Still Olympics.

Tania and her Red Mare will stand for minutes, or hours, in the field, simply breathing. You must be prepared to surrender to the peace, to turn down the monkey mind and simply be. It’s an ask initially, but it becomes easier and eventually, it becomes the best place to be.

Growth in stillness

AB Brand and Marketing Agency, as a collective, continues to develop our offering and strives to provide the best service for our clients. Meanwhile, I have learned that for me personally, real – and certainly better – growth comes when we are in a place where we can recognise it and see it for all the different forms it comes in.

It may be during times where we are tested or defeated. And yes, there is a place for driving forward momentum. But we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it also comes in the quiet time, in the alone time where you start with what you know about yourself. In the sitting and the standing still.

Photo credit: Greg Westfall, Flickr

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