A new perspective
by Donna Sealy
Over the years, the insurance executive has found the right mix to put everything into perspective.
Perspective. That one word could be the difference between getting all flustered and dealing with situations that might pop up at any given time on any given day. It is also the key to managing stress, which he said is a mental thing.
It was during the afternoon interview in his Lower Broad Street office in the United Insurance Building that he shared how most of his days go.
A typical day could see 55-year-old David driving his son Tristan to school, then “struggling through the traffic” to get to his office in the City, thinking, meetings, thinking, talking with staff, writing reports, thinking.
Yes he does a lot thinking.
“[I think] about strategy, how to create a competitive environment. You think constantly, you think every day… The environment is very competitive, what are you going to say to your team, how you’re going to guide them at a theoretical strategic level, there is reporting to regulators issues, reporting to AM Best, thinking is a large part of your job.
“Generally, most of the thinking is not done in the office, it is done all the time. In the car, or on airplanes, in your bed, early on mornings, in the shower, you never stop thinking,” he said.
With the noise from the street below filtering into the office with the view that goes as far as big screen on Republic Bank, he settled comfortably into his executive chair and proceeded to explain how he puts everything into its proper place.
“Stress doesn’t come from working long hours, stress doesn’t come from me being here till 10 o’clock at night, it doesn’t. Thinking and working doesn’t create stress for me, that’s just what it is. I hear people talk about stress, about every single thing that could happen. Everything is stressful. There is nothing called stress that is physical, stress is mental, it is your thoughts.
“There is the phrase don’t sweat the small stuff, everybody uses it so it’s become almost meaningless because it’s said all of the time, but it is real. You see people doing it all of the time.
“A friend of mine talks about perspective, everything must be put in perspective. I see people get into accidents and jump out (of their vehicles) and behave like world war three has started, for what? It is what it is. The accident happened, the car can be fixed, what is there is in that to bother about?
“But for a lot of people, the things that happen create stress for themselves. They lost money, that is stress. They work late, that is stress. They have to create a report, that is stress. Those things are not stress. I’m not trying to belittle things because if you have an illness or you don’t have money to do things for your children, that can create pressure on you. It’s how you accept it,” David reasoned.
He suggested that people plan and prepare, which can help mitigate any issues.
“What’s the use of beating yourself up over something you can’t change. That’s easy to say and harder to do but if you rationalise it, put it in perspective as it is what it is, it happened move to the next thing, what are you going to do next. If you keep beating up yourself over something that has happened you don’t ever move to the next thing,” he contends.
David said he does take vacations, although not enough during his 30 years in the industry, but he does get that break where he can relax and laugh.
“If I’m with the family having sushi and talking with my son or laughing with my son or we’re going to a lunch somewhere or we’re home, or I’m with friends, I spend a lot of time laughing. … when I’m with my friends, drinking wine, and laughing. I like to enjoy myself when I’m with people. I would be telling jokes and laughing, that’s what I do when I’m with friends and my family.
“You have to have two different parts to you. I know a lot of people who don’t — they’re either serious or they’re not serious. I have both and I’m thankful that I have both. I think it is also what I say to myself.
“If I’m having fun with my friends and my family, that’s my friends and family time so I laugh and forget about the thinking part but it would return once I’m not talking to my wife Sonya, or my son. You have things that you have to think about constantly,” he said.
He has also started reading fictional novels again, as opposed to the magazines, journals, books and material on the internet for knowledge and to be able to discuss issues.
So while he might be too old to play sports now, as sports are for young people, he said with a smile, he played first division cricket, squash, and tennis, among others. These days he might get on his stationary bicycle at home and ride a few miles or walk around his Christ Church neighbourhood or the nearby Garfield Sobers Sports Complex. He also takes to the golf course where he is working to better himself and improve his game.
His advice for executives is simple. Take a break!
“One of the things that executives should do is find a mechanism by which they can take a holiday. The reason why holiday is more for executives than for line staff is because your work does bring pressure. Deadlines pressure, accountability, responsibility, that does create stress. I’m not in any of this trying to say I treat my responsibilities casually, I try to mitigate the effects of the pressure and stress by rationalising things.
“Given that stress effects everybody differently, the same scenario effects people differently, you have to work out for yourself the things that make you subject to a stress attack and what things don’t,” David said.
By the way, he also gave the team a quick lesson on golf — minus the course, of course. Now we know what is a birdie, a bogey, a fairway and a handicap. firstname.lastname@example.org