Life, Business and Coffee #15: My Theory of Nothing

I’ve been absent from your inbox for the last two weeks because I’ve been busy preparing for the London Book fair, and while I was engaged in these preparations, I was persuaded to bring the launch of my third novel  forward. So I’ve been busy editing and proofing that one too.  Apart from that, I’ve been working on a non-fiction about something I’m very passionate about – starting and managing your small business.

My book launch has been postponed to 12th May, and will be a combined launch of not one but two of my books:

  • Porte’s Rule: Slave to the City (which you heard about in the previous newsletter), and
  • Garage Band – Nothing to do with Music, Everything to do with Getting Even. Garage Band is a comedy / suspense novel releasing on Amazon on 1st  There’s still place on my launch team for Garage Band for a few more pre-release reviewers, so if you love to read, reply to this email with the words “Count me in!” You’ll receive a free copy of Garage Band (ebook format), and you’ll need to commit to read the book by 1st April, and post a review on both Amazon and Goodreads on the day the book launches.  Garage Band is already receiving great reviews – see my facebook page for the latest reviews of Garage Band and Porter’s rule.

So, about my Theory of Nothing

In writing the latest chapter in my non-fiction How-To book for Entrepreneurs, small business owners and managers, I tackled the issue of motivating staff, and I was reminded of my Theory of Nothing.

My Theory of Nothing

I’ve conducted this exercise in my classrooms many times, and the result is usually the same between groups.

  1. Work out the number of hours you spend working each week. That includes work in the office, and work you take home.
  2. Work out your hourly salary. To do this, take your monthly salary after tax, and divide by the average number of hours you spend working a week and then divide this by 4.3.  Don’t blame me for the answer you get, I never made you take that job!
  3. Rank the enjoyment you get from your job on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = none at all, 10 = you can’t keep me away)
  4. Work out the number of hours you spend on your favourite leisure activity a week.
  5. Work out how much money you spend on this leisure activity, and divide that by the number of hours you devote to this hobby or activity a week to give you the hourly cost of this activity.
  6. Rank the enjoyment you get from this leisure activity on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = none at all, 10 = you can’t keep me away). If you have a leisure activity that ranks 1 in this section, there’s seriously something wrong with your choices of hobby!

The result is quite sobering.  For most of the people in my classes, enjoyment from work ranks lower than enjoyment from leisure. In other words people would rather be doing their leisure activity than be at work.

However, most people earn more money from their jobs, and spend more hours a week working on their jobs than they earn from their hobbies. In fact, people pay to do their hobbies, but spend less time doing these more enjoyable activities than working.

Most people spend most of their time doing an activity for which they get paid but don’t enjoy as much their leisure activities which they would be prepared to pay to do but don’t get to do as much as their work.

Yet, we try to create excitement at work by offering incentives, bonuses and monetary rewards.

My Theory of Nothing suggests that people will do an activity they really enjoy for nothing. In fact, they’ll even pay you to be able to do that activity.

To motivate people at work, tap into that passion they have for whatever it is they are prepared to do for nothing, and allow them to bring that energy into the workplace.  Semco managed to do this exceptionally well – take a look at the Semco case studies, and click through to Ricardo Semler’s short video on TED. His attitude to people and the way he turned conventional motivation thinking upside down is profound.

So next time you’re dealing with motivation (your own or a staff member), see what they’ll do for nothing outside the office, and find a way to bring that energy into the office. You’ll be surprised what people get up to in their spare time, and how creatively combining some of these with work affects people’s attitude to being there.



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