A tip from Stanless Steel

by Business growth

Anyone who knows me knows I like strange films, but the one I saw recently was exceptional. Strongman is an engrossing documentary about ageing Stanley Pleskun, who bills himself as “Stanless Steel, the Strongest Man Alive”. His specialty is bending coins in his hands, but the fascination centres around the mystery of his life and relationships.

Stanless is a vegetarian who doesn’t smoke or drink, at least he believes he doesn’t smoke or drink, although we do see him smoking and having a beer. He advises his girlfriend Barbara to stop smoking and bums cigs from her. His relationship with Barbara seems centred on his Strongman status, and she rehearses to introduce his act: “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Presenting Staaaaaanless Steeeel! The Strongest Man in the Woooorld!”

But he’s never happy with how she does it and always corrects her. Then at a kid’s birthday party, in a moment that resonated with me, he clams up when attempting to do it himself. There’s something so human about this, which brought to mind a similar thing I keep seeing on our TCO (treatment coordinator) training courses. People struggle at the role-playing exercise most when they are playing their own role (TCO) but give them an elaborate and surreal character to play one minute in advance (creatively dreamt up by JJF) and they perform surprisingly well.

I suspect there’s something in this. When we’re familiar with our job we can become trapped by it. Most of us have had a radical experience of this over the past few months when our day to day jobs just closed down. The individuals who are now capitalising are the ones who have enjoyed the breakdown in explored territory. They like having the permission — or rather the imperative — to be creative and figure out what is possible, and they like just going with it. They have discovered things they could have been doing before and have started doing them.

This is an exciting time for those who like making order out of chaos. For those who like order and probably should be managers rather than leaders it’s been horrible. Some people are better with the known, others with the unknown. We’re working with a client who wants to find a way to double the profitability of dentistry. He could have done it before but didn’t need to.

Spectator chairman Andrew Neil has announced that even though the magazine has taken a hit during lockdown, he is returning to the taxpayer funds received via the furlough scheme. He says the money is not needed to survive, especially because he has tasked the editorial and management teams to grow sales to 100,000 (they were 83,000 last year): “For those of us in a position to do so, growing our business out of the crisis seems preferable to depending on government subvention.” A bold and unexpected move, but one that rings true with the values of the organisation.

Hopefully this unmapped territory is helping us all discover new things we can do, and new ways to stand up for what we believe in. If we didn’t do them before perhaps it was because we were trapped by safety, familiarity and habit. Those of us who like being trapped, which I suspect is quite a few, are the ones who are in trouble. Many of us have just been given permission to do what we might have done anyway, only faster and with more confidence. This is going to be a great time in your life. If you want to talk through your plan I will be delighted to listen and, if you like, contribute.


“When we’re familiar with our job we can become trapped by it.”

Dan Fine

Author: fineco