The right answer to the wrong questions

Up at 05:00 this morning and back into my weekday routine for the first time since Friday 23rd December (which feels like 3 months ago and not 2.5 weeks).

In spite of the fact that my body is still in recovery mode, I managed a 5k jog around Regents Park with only the company of the occasional cyclist and one fox casually making it’s way home from a doubtless busy night.

I promise to stop talking about India soon but the contrast between London and Mumbai at 05:15 is striking and makes the former seem much roomier than I had thought beforehand.

Which, if nothing else, proves the point that everything we experience is set against relative conditions with which we draw comparisons.

We talked about this at last week’s workshops when delegates asked me questions such as:

  • “how many clinical hours per week should I work?”
  • “how much should I grow my practice sales by each year?”
  • “how much time off should I take in a year?”
  • “what should I expect my income to be?”

I had to keep reminding them of the Strategic Coach lesson that targets are artificial constructs that we create in order to make sense of things (try swimming to the horizon).

There are undoubtedly natural rhythms to which we have become adapted over millions of years; night and day, seasons and lunar/menstrual cycles (until the agricultural revolution c.10,000 years ago, deity was female).

The industrial revolution brought its own new artificial constructs, largely to keep the machines running efficiently.

The 6-day working week (with one day set aside for the worship of the new male deity).

The 8-hour working day.

The summer holiday.

The career pathway.

The routine of growing up, getting married, raising a family, completing a career and retiring.

It seemed to come as a surprise to many in my Indian audience that the way I measure my own progress in a given year is disruptive:

  • 162 Free Days
  • 42 Bunker Days (working ON my business)
  • 161 Focus Days (working IN my business)
  • 12 marathons a year
  • occasional expeditions off the grid (next one planned in 2019)
  • 30 good books a year
  • the relentless pursuit of my unique abilities 80% of the time
  • effective leadership of my support team 20% of the time
  • living within my means and eliminating debt
  • making a positive difference to those with whom I connect

It’s all about happiness.

The answers to all of my delegates questions were “what would make you happy?”

Most of them didn’t seem to know and there, my friends, is the problem.

Too much time and money spent on things that we are told (by advertisers) will make us happy when, in fact, we haven’t invested the time in figuring out what actually does.

If I’ve achieved anything in the last 64 years, it has been to discover the answer to the question “what makes me happy?”

I suggest you take some time out (and get some help if necessary) in finding out your answer.

London seemed very quiet this morning. Its all relative.


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.

2 thoughts on “The right answer to the wrong questions”

  1. Am relative touched by the interactions we had.. one of my questions made a way in your blog. I am currently in look out of the answer to what makes me happy. Also am relative sure where the answer would lead me to, probably running a successful practice and work life balance and more importantly debt free is primary goal. Looking forward for lots of guidance and pathways to travel my Route.. With Lots of Love and Respects for being an Eye opener.
    Dr. Ravi Goyal

  2. Chris. I LOVE this!

    How much, how many, how much often… It’s all related.

    For me, freedom to choose is what makes me happy.

    Freedom to choose the hours I work.

    Freedom to choose the amount of holiday.

    Freedom to do what I want, when I want.

    Freedom to choose income, and yes I do believe it’s a choice.

    It’s not about defining exact amounts for each, it’s about having the freedom to choose what FEELS right at any given time.

    Some of these are work in progress, some are achieved.

    It’s not easy mind you! Freedom to choose means having passive revenue streams, investments, support structures and serious planning (oddly).

    But the more I identify what makes me happy, the easier business and life become. I’m not chasing the competition nor measuring myself against my peers, I’m doing it for ME, and that is immensely satisfying.

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