We had our Company meeting a couple of nights ago and on the agenda were our results for the year ending August 2022 ... not brilliant it has to be said, and amongst a few others things, I finished the meeting telling everyone a story of my childhood and my relationship with education and specifically the three schools I went to.
It went like this...
Up until the age of four and a half I lead a charmed life. At that stage I was an only child, so had the undivided attention of both my parents. We lived in Cobham, a green and pleasant land, we had a large garden half of it wooded, the sort of wood that a 4 year old could happily get lost in, and I used to flood quite large areas of it with, use the hose pipe and dams, which when broken produced very interesting results. And I could ride my trike in and around the garden and on the road outside...very little traffic. It was heaven for me.
Imagine my surprise and horror, when at this age my parents decided that I had to go a place called school. It was full of small people like me, except they didn’t seem to like the things I liked, and didn’t seem to like me either, and I think the feelings were mutual. Certainly, I treated them with caution and a healthy degree of mistrust, and generally kept myself to myself.
I spent the following 11 years in three of these institutions. As time went on, I ended up in my last school, Emanuel up in Battersea, to get there I needed to take the train (at least that was one saving grace to this misery) but I will never forget the sinking feeling in my stomach every morning as we approached Clapham Junction, where I needed to get off. It was a knot in my stomach that just got tighter and tighter.
There was a bullying culture in the school, which in those days was not really taken seriously, and at break times the quad was a dangerous place to be if you weren’t in with the right clique. I did manage, however, to join the railway society, which met in one of the cellars of the school and here I spent my lunch times safely absorbed in my hobby and safe from the gangs on the playground.
I left Emanuel at 16, having failed all my 0 levels, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I can’t tell you how good it was to not have to get on the train back there. It had been a very uncomfortable and unsafe experience and in reality, if I did learn anything, I've long since forgotten it and certainly it taught me nothing about the real world outside. Intellectually, my schooling was a complete waste of 11 years.
So, as I wrote down this story, I became even more convinced as to why I have some of the deep-seated beliefs that I have. And when about ten years ago, I came across a chap called Simon Sinek, reading his stuff, and listening to him, I began to put two and two together and despite my education got four (I didn’t learn that at school either!). I'll return to him in a moment.
So, unlike my experience at school, I want everyone who works here (at Art of Living) to feel safe, I want you to feel stimulated, I want you to feel appreciated, I want you to feel that you are contributing something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. I want you to feel you’re contributing to a worthy cause…
Is the word "cause" bordering on pretentious? Well actually I don’t think so. We are not selling cookware to get rich, are we? We’d make a lot more selling clothes, or even more selling sex, so no I don’t think we are in this business just for money…there’s a higher cause to it.
We're selling cookware, because we are all cooks and chefs that love making food for ourselves and for others. We love helping people choose the right pots and pans for their needs and their budget. And I think that’s a pretty good cause to have, a cause to get us out of bed in the morning, in fact.
So, why am I telling this story?
Well two thoughts come to mind:
1. The environment we work in has to be a really good and safe one This is vitally important for you to be able to do your job well, feeling relaxed and appreciated. i.e., nothing like my school experience!
2. And this evening, the other thing I want to talk about are how we approach mistakes.
But first I want to show you a short film. It’s a TED talk given by a chap called Ken Robinson, who was an educationalist. And who has recently become one of my heroes. At 5 mins 47 seconds into the talk, where I'm going to stop it, he makes a very interesting point….! (This relates to my second point about mistakes)
The talk is below, and I would love it if you’d watch at least the first 5 or 6 minutes and if you feel so moved, please do post any thoughts you may have for, against or allied, on the blog version of this email here.
After this we had a discussion on it and then watched the second video, a talk by Simon Sinek which covered my first point, about the environment in which people can flourish.
This Video is here and is just a short clip of a much longer interview he gave with Tom Bilyeu:
This was also discussed, albeit briefly, as we were all getting hungry by that stage. It was a good meeting and a thought provoking one. It concluded with homemade (by Jeanne, assisted by Josie and added to by Em) quiches and salads and two of Jeanne’s specialities, Brownies and Pear and Fragipan Tart….yup we know how live.
Please do let me know if any of this resonates with you and your experiences of home, school or work.
My chums at Le Creuset have been busy again and they’ve come up with a great offer, of three glass lidded, Cast Iron Casseroles, but unfortunately I’ve run out of time to talk about them, so I’m going to appeal to the mercenary in you, and point out that they are only £109 and for this weekend you may have another £10 off bringing down to £99. Use code RISOTTO10 online, or tell us who you are in the shops.
Available in three standard Le Creuset colours of Volcanic, Cerise and Meringue. I think they are a bit of a bargain.
I hope you have a pleasant and peaceful weekend.