When coming home from work I would often meet my neighbor in front our building. He worked long days and looked tired. He would be standing there outside, smoking a cigarette to relax. He told me this was his pause between work and home. His kids were not sleeping well. We could hear them crying for hours during the evening while he would argue with his wife.
I couldn't wait to go home. But for him, home was an exhausting place.
Now imagine you're in a beautiful location and have an amazing view over the ocean. The sun is shining and there is a light breeze. Temperature is ideal. You can hear the relaxing noise of the waves. You can’t help but feel good.
The environment you're in has an enormous impact on your wellbeing and performance. We all know this on some level. Yet very few of us actually realize how powerful this is, let alone consciously manage the following aspects of our environment:
What's physically around you
How's your home? How's your workspace? Does it help you to be creative and productive? Is it inspiring and helps you to focus? Or is it a constant reminder of how unorganized and messy you are?
If there's too much stuff around you, you may feel distracted or stressed. Simple and tidy often works best. You have less visual stimuli and it's more peaceful.
This reminds me of those long and boring presentations after lunch. There's no air or natural light. It's too warm and you're thirsty. You're feeling sleepy and are unable to pay attention. When done, you walk out. Finally, some fresh air. People everywhere. The sun is shining. You feel alive again. It's the same you as before, but in a different context, with a different energy.
The 'smell of the place'
Sumantra Goshal, the late professor of the London Business School, had a great way to describe the atmosphere of a place. When going back to India in the summer he explained how the extreme temperatures made him feel lazy. But during springtime in the Fontainebleau forest in France, he could not help but run, jump and feel energetic. There was something in the air, it was the smell of the place. He argued that many companies have created 'a-hot-summer-in-India' inside themselves, with people feeling lazy and disengaged.
What if the main reason for people not performing is the context of the place, and not the people themselves?
How is work being done these days? How's the atmosphere? Is it fear, control, gossip? Or is it trust, stretch and open communication? Is there enough support and appreciation? All these unwritten and unspoken things, difficult to grasp individually, together create a general feeling that can have a direct impact on your daily performance and wellbeing.
Of course people can and should grow. Of course there's the right mindset to have. But what if we would create the smell of a French forest inside of our organizations (and homes) first?
People around you matter
We are all influenced by the people we spend the most time with, and ultimately we become like them. Some say, we even become our conversations.
To some degree we all know this. The problem is that most of us underestimate its importance. All too often we're not consciously managing who we spend time with.
What about you? Are you taking this into account when looking for a new job, searching for business partners or investors for a new project, planning holidays with friends, signing up in a new sports club?
Surround yourself with people who support you, inspire you and challenge you. With people who push you to be a better person. And avoid as much as possible spending time with toxic and negative people. They will eat up your energy, even when they're not around.
If you have big dreams but the people around you think you're crazy, before you know it, you think you’re crazy too. And all of a sudden you’re back to doing what everyone else is doing. I don’t care what business you’re in or what problem you’re trying to solve. It can only happen by surrounding yourself with the right people.
Everything starts with passionate people
It's one thing to avoid the people you shouldn't be around. It's another to actively seek for passionate people who will make you grow.
Prioritize your life around spending time with passionate people. People you know, and people you don't know who have a story to tell. Go to places where you can find them: conferences, speeches, dinners, parties, bars. Make it authentic and fun.
The more you hang around those kind of people, the more you would want to build things, create new projects, eat healthier, run faster and go after your dreams.
So, when do we meet?