The Parable of the Two New Toys.

I’ve got two new toys parked outside.  Yes, I suspect that if you know me you’ll assume that they have two wheels, and … OK, you’re right. I bet they’re not quite what you expect though.

“One upon a time a man had two new toys.  One was huge and brand spanking new. It had lots of posh gadgets, was sprayed a smart silver, went very fast and cost £20,000. The other had no gadgets at all, was a bit ‘used’, went very slow and cost £320. Oh, and it was yellow.

But the big, expensive toy didn’t belong to the man.  It was loaned to him for the night by a local motorcycle dealer, and the man would only be able to play with it for a few hours, then back it would go.

The other toy, the little gadget-less one, the one that cost so little and went slow? It wasn’t on loan.  It belonged.  The man had paid his own money for it. He had already had it for a week and used it lots of times.  It knew that it would serve an important purpose and had nothing to fear from the big posh expensive toy. Had not the man already lavished time and love on Saturday morning cleaning the grime and old oil of it’s chain?  Had he not already made his bottom sore riding it up hill and down dale?  Had he not taken his car to Wiltshire to find it, rescue it from the dark and crowded garage of his nephew, fold it up neatly, bring it home, and give it new life? And had he not spent hours on the internet to find the very best saddle? Had the man not already, even today, ridden it down to Waitrose and back to collect a slice of salmon for lunch? 

Tonight it sat folded up contentedly in the shed, listening to the rain outside, knowing that already it was treasured – and would be able to reward the man for many years to come. Today it had rewarded the man with aching limbs, and the important knowledge that he wasn’t as fit as he pretended. Perhaps in a few months time the man would look back with deep affection and gratitude, with the knowledge that he was now fit and healthy, and that his bum no longer noticed every bump in the road.

Brompton enjoying its first trip to Chichester.

The big posh brand-new 1600 BMW motorcycle listened to the rain too – and felt it bouncing on its bodywork.  It was too big for the shed and would never ever fold up and go in the boot of the car. And it had a drink problem the other little Brompton would never suffer from. It liked petrol. Lots of it. And tomorrow it would be stuck once more in the showroom with a “For Sale” sign attached, waiting to belong.

As the man prepared for bed that evening, he remenisced, thinking about the two bikes. It was ironic that the bike he desired most was not the posh big one. It’s size and complicated electronics were no longer his desire, however fast it went with its fly-by-wire throttle, and clever engine management system. He loved the little Brompton with its rusty pedal and worn pannier bag. He knew it had already snuggled into a place in his heart – regardless of its ‘bracing’ demands on his energies, its unpretentious presence on the road, its honest revealing of his lack of fitness, and his tender…,  er… yes, that too. But the new saddle will soon wear in, and his fitness improve.

The truth was, and is, that the Brompton was his. It was adaptable, convenient, and demanded nothing but his energy and a little care. It could accompany him all over the world if he so wished. Folded neatly it would fit in a car boot, on a train rack, and on a plane without complaint or protest – even from the check-in staff.

And it would teach him that time can be used in different ways, that beauty can be expressed in simplicity, that there are different ways to travel in life.”

(And that riding a push-bike is fun.)

Shrapnel. Unexploded bombs. What’s your story?

Working with a company this week or so I have spent seven days coaching just twenty two people. They came from ten different nationalities. Thankfully the company has a very enlightened approach to performance coaching, accepting that lives are not compartmentalised and that what happens on the inside profoundly affect the outside. We’re working on both of course because performance matters in these straitened times, but inside comes first.

Time revealed truth, as it eventually seems to do. Just three of them, maybe four, had a reasonably secure happy past. Most were doing their very best to live well despite the past, yet had jumped to unhelpful conclusions about life in general and their lives in particular – conclusions that were affecting and reflected in their day to day perceptions of the world, their company, their performance and their relationships. All of them were sincere thoughtful genuine people.

Most were experiencing significant emotional pain with bits (sometimes seriously debilitating chunks) of life’s shrapnel still lodged in hard-to-get-at places in their thoughts. Some were tiptoeing round ‘unexploded bombs’ in their lives. With each, and with the tenderest of touches, together we collaborated in that ‘access and removal’ process. With the shrapnel now dealt with and the bombs defused – and the associated emotional infection being treated – those amazing, hard-working and committed people will be able to achieve a better version of ‘best’ for themselves and the company, and build their entire futures differently, on a much safer and more trustworthy foundation.

The glad-or-sad thing about this is that for most (some will definitely need more time) it took just a two hour or so session to achieve this.  Glad we could do it so efficiently, with little pain and only a few tears. Sad that we weren’t together to do it ten years ago. At least their futures now look less trapped by the past and will require less determination and inner fight. From this week they will be able to live more kind to themselves and each other.

There is already a different atmosphere emerging, with more open (and lighter) faces. What a difference that will make to the fortunes of this passionate and award-winning company full of such treasure-able and highly intelligent people!

And then there’s your story. I’m waiting to find out what the next chapter holds.

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