Self compassion matters more than anything in business

old man

Kindness is your Key Performance Indicator

The surprising truth about being a great small business owner

grumpy old man

I read a wonderful article by Andrew Griffiths the other day in

The title of Andrew’s article was: If you want to have a better business, start by being a better person.

I suggest you read it. As always, Andrew makes a great point, he says it well and it’s an idea we should all go and do something with.

But I think we can take the idea even further. You see, I believe that if you want to have a better business, not only should you practice being a better person to others, but you must start by being a better person to yourself. The key to feeling great about yourself, your business and your life is learning to be a good person to yourself, to be kind to yourself. Kindness, to yourself, is actually the ultimate success factor for your business.

It starts here:

If you want to HAVE something you’ve never had before…

You have to BE someone you’ve never been before.

Or paraphrasing Andrew in the subtitle of his article: “Every business is a reflection of who you are”. In other words, if you want your business (and your life) to be different, you have to change first. Changing your business means changing yourself.

Ready to listen

The idea came home to me again a couple of weeks ago when I had lunch with Brad, an ex-client of mine. We were reminiscing over the work we’d done together last year and how his business and his life looked radically different now than it did before we started working together. At some point I said to Brad: “You know, sometimes I wish I’d met someone like me in 1990, in the early days of building my first business, things would have looked quite different if I had”. Unfortunately for me, Brad is an insightful chap and he put me straight in my place: “Hmmmmmm”, he said, “Maybe, but do you think you would have listened in 1990?”

And of course Brad was right. I wouldn’t have listened in 1990, or in 2000 either. In fact, I probably didn’t start listening to anyone until about 10 years ago. In 1990 I was so wrapped up in myself; I had all the answers, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask for help.

Especially, as asking for help means shaking hands with “The Little Voice on My Shoulder”.


I met my Little Voice a few years ago. I was seeing a psychotherapist at the time, and she had me pay close attention to the Little Voice. The thing I noticed, when I started paying attention, was that the Little Voice on My Shoulder is actually this old guy, 75-80 years old. He lives in a retirement home and there’s no one left, no friends, no family. He just sits in the parlor of the nursing home all day in one of those yucky plastic, washable, institution lounge chairs.

And I realised he was just lonely, and bitter and his only source of fun in life was to give me a hard time and to see me squirm.

And this old guy is real, as real as you’re sitting there, and he’s an ugly bitter old bastard; But when he’s there, in a way, I become him.

Not a clue

Stop and listen to Your Own Little Voice on Your Own Shoulder sometimes… Really step back and listen, to him (or her)…

It’s horrible, right? You would never speak to anyone like that, would you?

  • “You’re too fat”
  • “You really haven’t got a clue do you!”
  • “Nobody cares about what you have to say”

Recognise that voice?

But that’s how we talk to ourselves… all day

Murderous bastard

Sorry what’s that? You say you don’t have one of those Voices?

I’m sorry, my mistake, it’s true, some people aren’t troubled by a Little Voice on Their Shoulder. We call those people psychopaths.

So if you haven’t got a Little Voice whispering in your ear regularly, you’re a cold evil murderous bastard. You probably won’t need to read any further. But the rest of you? Maybe you aren’t aware of it so much, but you’ve got a Little Voice, trust me.

And this is the critical point: Because that Voice is what gets in your way of feeling great about yourself, because the harder you try to ignore him the louder he gets, and the harder you’ll find it to feel great.

Here’s two things you have to understand about Your Demon:

  • Your Little Voice is just as clever as you are, just as resourceful, creative and intelligent as you are… Because Your Demon is You…
  • He – or she of course – originates in what’s arguably our most primal fear… The fear of being alone…

Slaying the demon

st george and the dragon

But the good news is that you don’t have to let him have all that power.  You can slay the demon, but in quiet a different way than St George slayed is his Dragon (although it looks to me like George could have stayed at home, the princess looks to have the situation well in hand, typical male…. But I digress)

You know I told you how my Grumpy Old Man has nothing better to do than to make me feel shit about myself… So a few years ago I decided to break the pattern and I have been doing this ever since. Whenever I notice him getting all Big and Loud and Nasty again…

I go down and see him and I bring him a cup of tea… And I sit with him for a while.

Power wanes

It may seem odd… But the moment I do that, the moment I give him my undivided attention, he stops feeling so scared and alone, and his power over me starts to wane!

He’s still a Grumpy Old Man of course… He’s me, after all …

But he’s nowhere near as Bitter and Ugly as he used to be anymore…

And most importantly… Nor am I..

And by the way, the adventures with my grumpy old man continued a little further: One day I thought I’d get really clever, and deal with him once and for all. I went and bought him a TV, thinking he could “Netflix and chill” for a while. Sadly, that didn’t work; you’ve got to give Your Little Voice the personal attention it needs from you, there is no shortcut.

It’s taken me many years … and several psychotherapists in Sydney have sent their kids to private school from what I’ve paid them, but what I’d like you to consider is that:

Yes you’re right

Sitting with Your Own Grumpy Old Man (or Woman), is saying:

  • Yes, you’re right, I made a mess of that.
  • Yes, you’re right I might have resisted that second piece of cake.
  • Yes, you’re right I actually haven’t got a clue what to do here

But you know what? It’s alright, I’ll do better next time… I can ask for help… But I’m OK

I’m OK.

Owning your mistakes, naming them, asking for help and above all accepting yourself with kindness … is the only thing Your Little Voice has no answer for.

And what that means is that kindness to yourself, self-compassion in other words is actually the most important Key Performance Indicator in your business.

The most important KPI

Weird thought, right?

But it’s true nevertheless….

I promise you.

Further reading

More about Personal Development and Leadership here

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