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a blog by Chris Barrow

Saturday morning riff

Think Different

I knew I’d had a good night when I woke up at 05:00 this morning, flat on my back in bed, all the bedroom lights on and still wearing my glasses – at least I had undressed before I got into bed (I know – too much information).

The refreshingly strange thing is that I didn’t pass out on the bed last night because I was intoxicated by alcohol but rather by the sheer pleasure of conversation with my dinner companions at the end of a busy working week.

The Edgbaston Boutique Hotel and Cocktail Lounge is, by the way, a hell of a place to wake up in – the style is a fascinating cross between 20’s Boardwalk Empire art deco and 19th Century French bordello – my room (photos already posted on Facebook) is the size of a squash court with a very elegant bath plonked in front of the bed as well as a superb walk-in monsoon shower off to the side (in which I regained some semblance of consciousness this morning).

One of those hotel rooms that you enter and think “bugger, I’m here alone”.

Back to my dinner conversation.

I don’t do lads nights out – never have.

As someone who prefers solitude in most departments of my life (running my own businesses and marathons), I’ve never been a team sport player and I guess that those who have been in business with me would probably add that I’m not much of a team player at company ownership, even though I get good feedback from support teams on my leadership skills.

The people who work for me love it, the people I work for seem to appreciate it but the people who work with me frequently get themselves exasperated at my performance and behaviour.

Pretty much every attempt I’ve ever made at co-creating capitalist, profitable enterprises has ended in mutual indifference (that being the opposite of love).

I think the reason I’m having such a good time with Sandy and Tino in building 7explorers is that we see our remote expeditionary company as a labour of love and legacy and not as a way to generate piles of filthy lucre. That was demonstrated on Monday last when we stood at the strategic cliff edge and looked at the distant view of a bigger business, then joined hands, turned around and walked away, preferring a smaller company in which everyone can have a better experience.

It would be delusional to point back at all of my unsuccessful partnerships and allocate blame to the other parties – the only common denominator was ME. Perhaps ME isn’t so good at picking THEM.

There is now a standing instruction to my family, friends and colleagues to poke me in the eye with sharp object if I’m tempted to get involved in any more JV’s, partnerships and big ideas. I’ve worked hard this last few years to regain my independence and solitude and I need to stay focused on that.

(except when I break the rule – perfect imperfectionist remember?)

Back to the lad’s nights out.

I’ve always preferred female company.

I always have more girl-friends than boy-friends (if you get my drift). I’ve always been more comfortable with the pace, tone and content of conversations with female company. It’s liberating that, in the absence of a sexual agenda, there is nothing to prove, no win:lose or win:win.

At the risk of saying the right thing the wrong way, I equally enjoy the same aspects of my conversations with my gay friends. This time in the absence of either a sexual or warrior agenda.

Last night was a pleasant surprise. My initial reluctance to attend at all was less important than the friendship with my host and, after a few minutes of quiet observation, it quickly became apparent that we weren’t going to invest the evening in the usual male cycle of, in no particular order:

  1. fast cars

  2. recreational or broadcast sport (football or rugby frequently being a tribal identification that can divide a group for the evening)

  3. participatory endurance sport

  4. alcohol preferences and tolerance

  5. breast sizes and sexual conquests (mind you, nobody male in dentistry is talking about sexual attraction at the moment – dangerous territory)

  6. business success

  7. outraged ex-wives

Now I have to admit that, looking back over the evening, all of these subjects did feature, if fleetingly, in the conversation but what made the dinner at the Michelin-star Simpsons so enjoyable was that the 80/20 rule was reversed and we only spent 20% of our time on that male-bonding/positioning crap.

The 80% was quite wonderful, especially made so by 69-year old Stephen, our retired former barrister, QC and judge (with a speciality in medical negligence cases) who entertained us royally with excerpts from his remarkable life story, including summiting Annapurna in his 30’s, collecting antiquarian books and ownership of a vineyard.

When he and I shared a love of the works of Haruki Murakami and Orhan Pamuk, my evening was made.

Notwithstanding Stephen’s tour de force, the rest of the ensemble chipped in their respective two-penny worth’s and a cracking time was had by all, with much laughter, the most amazing fine dining and a wine selection generously chosen and contributed by my friend Ajay Mahan (wealth manager and sports agency owner) after a 10-year gap since we last spoke.

Enjoyable though this was, when the gentlemen retired to the garden at 01:00 to enjoy cigars and a selection of spirits, I knew it was 3 hours past my bedtime and that I was in danger of crossing that line where I detach my central nervous system and start drinking for the sake of staying up and staying up for the sake of drinking.

That has ended up in hospital before now and I think I’m finally learning.

So I left them to it and retired to my solitary and spectacular penthouse suite – which, of course, brings us nicely back to where I started, waking up with my specs on.

I don’t do lad’s nights out – but I’m glad I did that one.

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