The Second-last Corporate Retreat

I want to welcome all of you to the weekend that will change your life. Today is the last day you will ever have to put up with the Old …

Clayton Hanmer

I want to welcome all of you to the weekend that will change your life. Today is the last day you will ever have to put up with the Old You. You will leave the Old You in this room. (gestures theatrically) What comes out of this room depends on you. The New You.

I know this is the third retreat you’ve been on since September. I know you’re tired of “thinking outside the box,” of “raising the bar.” Do you know why you’re tired ? Because it didn’t work. Most of you haven’t been back at work long enough to try it, but those of you who have know what I’m talking about. It didn’t work. If it had worked, you wouldn’t have called me.

When you were outside the box, you might have noticed something. It’s pretty damned crowded out there. And do you know why? Because everyone is thinking outside the box. Couriers are thinking outside the box. (pause) Cleaners are thinking outside the box.

The box. Is empty.

So where does that leave you? (long pause) You have to think so far outside the box that you’re back inside it. You have to reclaim the box. You have to become the box. Once you’re the box…then the box is you.

Everyone else is wandering around looking for a paradigm shift. They are lost in the desert, looking for signs. They are managing up. Managing down. Managing anger, time, people, prison. They are leading like Buddha, Merlin, Stalin, or God, or Pooh or Popeye. They are lost in the vortex, people. But you. (pause) You are calm. You are the box. You are so far into the box that you’re outside it, looking in. At yourself looking out. Of the box. Which is what you are.

Now I want you to try something I do at all my seminars: I want you all to turn and punch the person to your right. A solid shot. Closed fist. Don’t be afraid of a little blood. Good, good. You are punching. But you are also being punched. You have become the punch.

Some of you are tempted to punch the person who just punched you. Some of you did. Some of you have been fired. That’s not important. What is important is why you want to punch that person who punched you in the back of the head. While you were punching Todd from marketing in the back of his head.

The answer? (pause during Shakespearean pacing of the stage) The answer is: human nature. Sure, you can fight human nature. But in your business, which is either small-arms manufacturing or book publishing or auto parts, it doesn’t pay to fight human nature. Except your own nature. Do you know why? Because there’s a fight you can win. Even you could take you. You’re a wuss. And you’re the only one in the box.

Why go looking for a fight when you can have one in the comfort of your own box? You can kick the box’s ass. You are the box. Sure, you’ll get a little bloodied. Don’t like blood? Then maybe book publishing or auto parts isn’t the place for you. If you take the challenge, if you choose to fight, then out of that fight a new box will emerge, a stronger box. (dramatic pause) And that box will be you.

Eventually, of course, you’ll have to get out of the box. You can’t stay in there forever, like one of those Japanese soldiers who think the war’s still on. You’ve got to come out and mix it up with other people. You are in business. You need people. You don’t have to like them. You don’t even have to treat them like people. But you need them.

What you have to do is come out of the box just when everyone else is going back in. When they are becoming the box. Then you’re free! You’re outside the box, breathing clean air, living large. You own the world. You know why? Because everyone else is inside the box. They think they are boxes! You can do any damn thing you want to. But that’s another seminar. That’s another $6,300 a head. I’ll see you all in Arizona in January.

Don Gillmor
Don Gillmor’s book To the River  won the Governor General’s Award for nonfiction.