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If you could change one thing about the world what would it be? It’s a great question especially when it’s limited to just one thing. Did you ever watch that movie ” city slickers” with Billy Crystal? Jack Palance holds up one finger and says this is the most important thing in life. So what would you change? If you got rid of terrorism that would be one major shift but there is cancer and slavery and air pollution and whale hunting and rape and murder and mayhem. If you got rid of terrorism would some form of terrorism just take its place? Maybe a new superbug.
in 1968 I was struggling 16-year-old boy. I was failing at school and struggling with my family situation. I met a girl in a park who change my life. Her name was Ann, with no e. we kissed, I met her parents but that was it because she was studying to graduate from high school and get into art law at University with honours and distinctions and everything else that I didn’t understand. A year or so later I got my drivers license and Ann and I went on a date. After that we started seeing each other regularly. I would arrive in my beaten up car, an old panel van and she would arrive fresh from university. I had failed high school and had taken a job as an engineer’s assistant working in the electricity commission of Victoria which was in essence a dead-end job. At least I was employed.
During the short three-month period that Ann and I dated, Ann was continually harassing me about my low expectations of my life. From me it was a trajectory that was better than unemployment. I had a job, I had failed high school, I needed income and wanted to leave home. I really saw my future buying and selling cars in my dad’s car business although my father and I had a falling out and that option didn’t look good. Ann persisted and one day she turned up with application forms for me to in role in universities across Australia on the basis of the fact that I was a work experienced individual and could go back to university now, not as a high school graduate, but as some other level of student. She filled out the forms all I had to do was sign them. Nearing the end of the three-month period that Ann and I dated she got drunk on cheap rosé and threw up in the back of my car. Her parents forbade her to ever see me again and I have never seen her since. Two weeks later one of the forms that she had sent to the universities across Australia came back with an acceptance.
I had missed every application except this one that had offered me my third choice of study. It was from there that my career as a professional emerged. But Ann’s work didn’t finish there. during our short dating time she introduced me to a guy who was her ex boyfriend who had a job in an engineering firm that made a pollution control equipment. I got a job there working on the factory floor sweeping up metal filings. Then, when I went to uni, I got a job there as a draughtsman. When I graduated I worked for them for a short while. The general manager of that company eventually left.
Four years after I graduated, which is eight years after I’d met Ann, I was well and truly married and had one child, another on the way. We lived in a country town and I had a job with a multinational firm travelling the world. There was a conflict within this firm and I had an argument with my boss and got fired. As I said, I had one child, another on the way, a mortgage, and now, no job. That was on the Friday. On Saturday, still smiling and happy in my country town, walking down the street with my pregnant wife and son I bumped into the general manager of that company I had left just after graduation. He had bought into a manufacturing company that manufactured a pollution-control equipment in competition to that firm I’d worked for during my university studies. 10 minutes later I had a job.
That job, did not require that I travelled round the world and so we had a great opportunity to start investing more time in our family. Six months later the business that employed me, that the general manager had introduced me to, declared that it was in financial difficulty and so, with gritted teeth I bought my first business and save them from bankruptcy. I paid $20,000 and took over a $500,000 debt. In my whole career, including my university degree in engineering I had never been to school to learn about managing a business. All I knew was we needed to make a profit, which required that we make sales, and that this $500,000 debt would have to wait. So I flew to Germany and negotiated with the parent licensee to give me three years to pay them back. 12 months later they had their money and I owned the business outright and for the next three years the money rolling faster than we could spend it.
There is a principle in business, it’s called the Peter principle Human beings rise to the level of incompetence. I rose to mine. The business got bigger, the clients got bigger, our factory got bigger, our sales got bigger, our costs got bigger, the number of staff got bigger, the offices we had around the world got bigger, and, the stress got bigger, the demand on my time got bigger, and the probability of my relationship and business failing also got bigger.
It was an accident waiting to happen which in retrospect was conspicuous but when I was living it, it was like living the dream. Maybe other people could see it. I know that my wife’s parents could see it because they hated my guts since the day I convinced their daughter to elope out the bedroom window when she was 17 years old. I know that my doctor could see it since he was the one I was going to see for hypnotherapy to come down my nerves. I know the local restaurant could see it because I was the one they welcomed in to lunch every day to eat and drink too much. But I couldn’t see it.
And then I met Anne number two. She was a staff hiring personnel consultant and we were using her firm to recruit new staff. One lunch led to another lunch and then to more than that. My incompetence had not only taken its toll on my health but it had now invaded my family. Anne was my pressure valve. She was completely different to my wife that I’d been married to now for 12 years and who was also busy, completely stressed with the kids, moving house and trying to do the work of two people in my absence. The Peter principle had spread like a virus through my life and I was trying to deal with each individual component of my life independently, separately focusing on the problems at hand trying to find solutions. I didn’t understand the interconnectedness of it all.
In my book “Innerwealth” – a copy is available below (complimentary). I detail the gory journey from this moment to the magnificent realisation that all the suffering taught me. But the most important thing about all this is that when I reached out for help I received what I asked for: an accountant to help me with the money, a therapist to help me with my head, a doctor to help me with my health, a woman to help me with my heart, and a hypnotherapist to help me with my spiritual component. They didn’t know each other so they couldn’t interact. Little did one understand that what they were teaching me to do was having a negative effect on what the other was teaching me to do. Around and around in circles I went and the net result was that everything got worse in-spite of the best intentions of everybody. It was in that time that I promised myself that when I got through this I would become the help that I need for other people, men and women, who reached the Peter principle in their life.
Innerwealth was born out of this journey. I have travelled the world speaking to business audiences and helping individuals take this work of holistic human development into business and peoples communities. I’ve even been blessed to work in indigenous communities in Canada and Nepal. I’ve lived in India, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, Singapore, New York, Canada, New Zealand and Australia and travelled to most of the continents sharing, or at least trying to share, the idea of total human awareness. It’s a battle because just like me when I was at the point of the Peter principle the realisation that I was in some sort of Plateau or conflict with nature did not become apparent until I needed help desperately. The book was written as a prescription to prevent the Peter principle ever happening.
Another word for the Peter principle is simply evolution. We evolve at the border of chaos and order. When we don’t evolve the chaos becomes larger because we are hanging on to the order. Just like a tsunami that comes in the ocean because the ocean hasn’t adapted or adjusted in micro steps it does it in one giant movement. This is what happened in my life, so I can’t be critical or have a false expectation that it won’t happen in other people’s lives too. we do rise to a level of incompetence and sometimes we are holding so tight to the status quo and to desperately trying to make things right that we forget to evolve.
The key to a revolution is to see things differently. The key to evolution is to do things differently. That’s why it is critical to be aware of red flags that may be signalling to us that it’s time to take a fresh look at how we do what we do in the first step in this is not what we think but how we think. Innerwealth-Chris Walker – Ecopy copy