You need to feel that all the hard work you have put in is worth it and that there has been progress. When you get back home, eat dinner with your wife, and talk about your day, it can be quite demoralising if you fail to see farther than the short term horizon. In a Steve Jobs-esque fashion, you need to be able to look at several chapters in your life journey and connect the dots.
I have made a conscious decision to look at my life in 12-month snapshots and stop being a short-termist, something that hasn’t been easy for me as I’m naturally quite impatient. But I’ve found that this approach has made me realise and appreciate just how amazing the journey has actually been. So – here it is, my quirky version of a “day in the life of piece”, in which I’ve randomly picked highlights from the past year and created a day in the life of Faisal Butt.
5am – As soon as I wake up, I start my planning for the day. I ask myself: what is today about and what am I looking to get out of it?
6am – I leave the house. Off to the gym for an hour-long session with my personal trainer Kevin. I still haven’t had breakfast. With the workout I’m about to do, I need an empty stomach.
6.15am – I begin a very intense, disciplined workout. I am convinced Kevin takes inspiration from Rocky Balboa. I’m doing things that I’ve never done before, working multiple muscle groups at the same time. Today it is squats with shoulder presses in compound movements. And I’m doing supersets, so I’m not allowed to rest in between exercises. It’s excruciating and challenges me physically and mentally as I break down the barriers of what I thought I could achieve.
7.30am – I’m showered and change into my three piece suit – it’s important to stand out from the crowd in my line of work. Socks, tie, and cufflinks all colour coordinated. I set off for the train station feeling good and ready to take on the day ahead.
8.00am – My train arrives. Today’s ‘train time’ is for blue sky thinking. It’s a sunny spring morning and it will help me to think limitlessly. I’ll use tomorrow’s journey to troll through my unread emails, of which there are many. I subscribe to the “strategic” inbox management approach.
8.45am – I pick up my breakfast from a restaurant called Vital Ingredient. I love this place; you can make your own muesli. Today, I go for the granola with fresh fruit. And when I’m done, I pop into Pret to pick up a strong, skinny, extra hot latte. The crew at Pret have my order memorised. My time in Southern California has definitely made me more health conscious. I never used to be this way back in Pakistan – tucking in to my rich ‘homely cooked’ meals.
9.00am – I arrive at the office and eat breakfast at my desk. My day is going to be jam-packed. Like a whirlwind, I’ll be going from meeting to meeting and I won’t have much time for myself.
10am – First meeting of the day. It’s with an entrepreneur called Alec Watt. He looks a bit like Alec Baldwin and has the charisma to match. He wants to launch a furnishing and interior design business for landlords and HNW individuals. He’s been there and done it before as MD of another company in a similar sector. This business will benefit from ‘generation rent’ and the growth of the PRS sector. I also recall Warren Buffett investing in something similar. I’m interested.
Lunch – Heading to the boardroom for a lunch meeting with my fellow founders. This is the first time that they have all got together to talk about their businesses and plans for the future. I’m amazed by the number of synergies and cross-pollination opportunities being discussed. And there seems to be a lot of business chemistry too. I’ll definitely be doing this again.
3pm – I’ve just convinced Taylor Wescoatt, the ex-Head of Business Incubation at eBay, to become the new Chief Operations Officer at my latest venture, online estate agency eMoov.co.uk. What a coup. Technology is what’s going to take this business to the next level and we have a top tech guy to help us to do it. When I point my laser at something, I’m confident that great things can happen. The tough decision is “where do I point it today”? The question I’m always asking myself is “How do I allocate my time, my most precious resource?”
5pm – I’m at my board meeting with project management consultancy L+M. The sector is changing and we need to offer retail clients something different: an integrated commercial and construction approach. I suggest bringing a senior director from Land securities on board, someone I’ve known for some time. He’s never going to leave a giant like Land Sec for a start-up. I suggest offering him a partnership. Carry on in a corporate following a linear path or take a chance as part owner of a forward-thinking business? When he sees how passionate we are and realises the great opportunity to be part of an entrepreneurial platform that is rapidly scaling, he’ll go for it.
7.30pm – I leave office. No train back today. I head straight for the hospital. My wife’s giving birth to our baby boy. I’m so excited. My daughter has a little brother to play with and I feel like my family is now complete. Welcome to the world Noah.
10pm – What a day! I take a shower then I read ‘Barbarians at the Gate’, a book about the private equity leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. This deal in 1986 was considered to be the epitome of corporate and executive greed. I can’t think of a better topic to combine business with pleasure.
10.45pm – It is bedtime and boy I’m tired. No time to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I have another big day tomorrow. If I’m going to succeed, I have to be willing to put in the hours. As Britain’s most colourful centa-millionaire, Felix Dennis, says of good fortune: “the harder you sweat, the luckier you get.”
I always tell people that they need to take baby steps in the right direction and they shouldn’t get bogged down by a day or a week. You need to take a long-term view on what you’re doing and not be shortsighted in your own perspective. Remember – short termism is contagious and you wouldn’t want it plaguing your entire team! I connect the dots in my head and there’s generally a plan. But sometimes there isn’t, and that’s ok.
The art is in connecting seemingly unrelated events, people, and knowledge together at a later stage in your journey to create something of value. Much the same way that Steve Jobs connected the learnings from his calligraphy class at Reed College to the fonts he introduced in his early Apple computers.
So, next time you’re on that train back home, wondering what it’s all been for, try to create in your mind your own quirky version of the “a day in the life of” snapshot. I’m sure you’ll see then that you’re probably heading in the right direction and some of those isolated little dots actually do connect.