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Not Home Now

How to be Vacant and Keep Your Energy for the Good Stuff

We all have our heroes. People we admire, people we respect and people who are universally acknowledged. These are the people whose advice is worth taking, because they’ve talked the talk and walked the walk, they’ve been there and they’ve done it.

In case he’s not well-known all around the world, here then is a chance to highlight the work and words of one of my heroes, the Scottish socialist Sir Alex Ferguson. He took Manchester United football (soccer) club from also-rans to world beaters as their manager. During his first ten years at the club, he led a team occasional cup-winners to three Premiership League titles, three Football Association Cups, a League Cup and a European Cup Winners’ Cup.

A mural of Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford football stadium, Manchester [ pic: @dailingual ]

In his introduction to Ten Glorious Years in 1996, Ferguson writes in a statesmanlike – indeed, Caesar-like – third person that it his passion to keep on improving that is his secret to success:

‘Laurel-resting’ is not listed in the hobbies section of the Alex Ferguson fact-file.

Alex Ferguson, football manager.

By the time he penned his own autobiography in 2000, he’d added a vital string to his self-care bow – ‘not being at home’. This simple mind-trick allowed him to be successful for over 26 years at one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world, when effectively he was in charge of their extremely well-known business brand too.

“Not home” is not just a sporting metaphor (although it may be a while until Manchester United play their next home match with the advent of neutral venues on the cards here in the UK to complete the 2019-20 Premiership season), more a state of mind.

Managerial Vacancy

The Covid pandemic has of course given us plenty of time to navel gaze and the like, so I’ve recently recalled that in his autobiography, Alex Ferguson dispensed probably the best advice for a business-efficient mind I’ve ever read : keep your energy only for what counts to you. So if it’s not your concern, do not concern yourself. Be present, but be vacant until something is said or done that has a definite, direct effect on your chances of success. This keeps your mind fresh for when your concentration is really needed. Revel in not knowing things that do not concern you, and have faith in your own ability to manage your present situation.

In black and white this reads a little cold, a little calculating, but truth be told it was Ferguson’s capacity to care so much about so many that made him so special and gave him the capacity for such attention to detail. His upbringing in Glasgow and its unions in the workplace gave him his values that he always looked after the herd as much as the mighty, and this self-appointed duty of care extended all the way from the security guards to the directors of Manchester United Football Club, and also to his beloved fans of course.

So care infinitely, but only apply your time and energy to those who deserve it…and your Good Stuff, whatever that may be.

N.B. [Nota bene] In my native language Cymraeg ( Welsh ), our Celtic cousin Ferguson’s words are easily translated thus: “hoelio eich sylw” – which literally means to ‘nail your attention’ to what’s important.

You alone know what’s important to you, so this week’s advice is to take a leaf out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s book and do not waste your time on anything else.

Short Street, Manchester City Centre May 2018 pic: @dailingual

Have a great week and stay safe out there, whether you’re home or not.

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