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Insight #1: Start with the End
Humans are the only mammal on the planet capable of imagining a future that doesn’t already exist and making decisions in the present to create that future. Meerkats, apparently, don’t do that.

It is because of this future-brain that mankind has evolved to create everything from tools to technology, from the printing press to penicillin.

On a daily basis, we don’t pack a suitcase without first knowing the destination. We don’t go to the supermarket without a shopping list. In both cases, we have started by thinking about the end before making a decision. This is common sense, but not always common practice.

Take the average meeting. It usually launches before there is clarity on the purpose or outcome and, when it does, invariably ends with low commitment. Consequently, I’ve met very few people who can’t wait to get to their next meeting.

People regularly agonise over the detail of their powerpoint slides without considering what message they want their audience to leave with. We get suctioned into solving the present dilemma at the expense of the overall point.

The art of asking ‘what do I want?’ or ‘why do I want this?’ is more often substituted by ‘what should I do?’ The quality of the decisions you make is only as good as the context you create. Many people are solving the wrong problem.

Like all teenagers, at the time I thought about my future life and career. Many of my peers were following the permanent pensionable route into the bank, the insurance company, the guards.

For me, this seemed like creating a solution for today, but a problem for tomorrow. Many of the executives I meet today are experiencing mid-life crises born out of hasty decisions made without consideration of the why or the desired end.

So whether considering a career, life-partner, running a meeting or booking your summer holiday…start at the end.

Plus you can listen back to Ian introducing his Winning at Life interview with Taragh here…

More below…

everything loses its flavour after a time
Everything loses its flavour after a time
Insight #2: Nothing Lasts

All through my youth, I was fascinated by horse-racing and gambling, inspired by the fact that my grandfather (a bookmaker) encouraged it whilst my father (the school headmaster) forbade it.

It may not quite make the Insight Top #50 but there is nothing quite like forbidden fruit to stoke the driven desires of an adolescent.

I left college unexpectedly after a year and found myself in southern Germany during the height of the Cold War selling American cars to US troops.

I earned enough money during the late eighties to bankroll myself into doing what I’d always dreamed of. I moved to Oxford and set myself up to bet on horses for a living for the entire jumps season 1990/91 – beginning at Bangor-on-Dee in August and finishing at Aintree the following April.

In the days long before the internet, I drove to the races every day covering tracks from Ayr to Exeter, bet in cash and kept a P&L for the first time in my life. After the greatest adventure of my life, I showed a profit. I also discovered this life wasn’t fulfilling enough for me.

All my life to that point, if I’d been told that I could bet for a living and make it pay I would have believed I’d found Utopia. Instead, I discovered something more important – there is no Utopia.

The reality didn’t match up to the dream. Or, at least, it did – but only for a time. Nothing lasts. Whether it’s a job, career, relationship or, most especially, material possessions – everything loses its flavour after a time.

Listen back: Here’s the original interview where Ian McClean introduced Winning at Life: Our brand new wellness series – Part 1

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