The Happiest Four Hours of My Life – And I Was Fully Dressed
Work had been hectic. Then to the Cannes Creativity Festival. Packed days.Then holiday. Paris. Museums. Galleries. Sites. To Rome. Ditto. Rush. Rush. Then dashed across town to catch the train to Florence. And that is when it happened… the screw up that thrilled my very being. And a genuine lesson for a happier life. Here it is.
John Studdert is one of the world’s great guys. I worked with him for 12 years, during his time leading the company he founded- with David Sawicki- Impact Employee Communications, and then when he succeeded me as the Chief Executive of Ogilvy PR Australia.
In fact, John just retired from his Ogilvy career, and is taking time out before his next chapter. I tell you about him not because of his fine career and values, but because of a saying he told me, told to him by his grandmother. It summed up what happened to me in Rome. She told him this:
The music is in the silence between the notes.
How does that relate to the rush rush rush of Rome. Well- we’d crammed into a cab, five of us and about 20 bags. Pushed our way through hectic traffic to the chaotic train station. Ten minutes before the EuroRail express super fast turbo jet fueled train zoomed to Florence in 55 minutes. We got our tickets, sprinted across various platforms till we reached the train to Florence, and threw ourselves in as it started to depart.
Problem: wrong train. Going to Florence, yes. But all stops along the way… about 50 of them. And a four and a half hour trip.
I checked my iPhone… no signal. I looked out of the window. Rolling hills. Villas. Tuscany. No-one could ask me for anything. I had no-where to go. Could not even think of going anywhere. Just absolute peace. No responsibility. Stunning views. Family. The International Herald Tribune.
Tension literally flowed from my body. The next four hours were one of the happiest times of my life.
Nigel Marsh tells a similar story which I read last night in his book, “Fit, Fifty and Fired Up”: spending 9 hours with wife and four kids stuck in a snow storm on an English motorway.
Do You Ever Catch The Slow Train To Florence?
What do you do to slow down… to celebrate the silence between the notes of life? Not so called ‘work life balance.’ Commonwealth Bank CMO Andy Lark put it to me this way: “Don’t try to stand in front of the swings and use your Blackberry. You’re going to get hit in the head.”
True silence. True time to calm yourself, and to be absolutely present. Technology off. Pressure off. I’ve tried meditation, and struggle with it. Alcohol is a temporary fix for me. A poor one. Sometimes jogging helps. Sitting in a beautiful garden can do it for me. Airplanes are good for this too.
They talk a lot about ‘living in the moment.’ As Mother Teresa said: ”Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
HAVE A GREAT DAY! And if you have your ‘slow train to Florence’, tell me about it, please. I need one here, in Sydney, readily available. Now.
Postcript: Mike Howorth gave me a gift once, of a tortoise singing ‘You gotta slow down….” That tortoise keeps my office door open and is a bit tattered, but the song remains! Have a listen…”