Remember when you were young, and you played with your favorite toy? You get lost in time because you were lost in all the fun, then you become energized and ready for anything. We all need to find that thing that doesn’t make us imprisoned by time. Join Penny Zenker and her guest, Andrew Wallas, as they discuss how to unplug from life. Andrew is a highly successful businessman and intuitive corporate shaman. He has guided business leaders to fulfill more of their latent potential. Learn how Andrew spends his time to maximize his productivity. Time is only a construct, do not be tyrannized by it.
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A Macro Look At Time And How To Avoid Being Imprisoned By It With Andrew Wallas
In this episode, in an effort to help you to work smarter, we’re going to talk about time at a macro-level. I’m excited to have Andrew Wallas with us to have this discussion. He is not just a bloke from the UK. He has many years of experience guiding business leaders and companies. He has worked in a variety of different backgrounds, which we’re going to know a little bit more about, but particularly interesting as a Psychotherapist. He brings the psychology and the business side of things both together. That’s something that I enjoy doing as well. Without further ado, Andrew, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Penny. It’s a great pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
I’m excited to have this macro-discussion on time. Before we do that, help the audience get to learn a little bit more about you. What’s something significant that happened in your life that you feel will help the leaders to better understand who you are and why this topic is important?
I am a bloke from the UK. The most significant thing that comes up for me that is relevant to time is I went into business at a young age. I was successful in financial terms. I was flying around the world first-class. I was making more money than I could spend. At the age of 28, which was fairly young, I hit a wall, as they say. You could call it a breakdown or breakthrough, but I had a powerful spiritual awakening which was an experience of being outside time.
From that moment, my life shifted on its axis. I went to a theological college. I studied Theology, Philosophy and Psychology. I became a Psychotherapist. I developed a completely different life path. I turned back into the business world, started another business and applied principles that I learned to the business community. These are the two threads throughout my life. I now bring them together. I work with individuals and businesses, trying to support them to transform in the way they want to transform.
Let’s understand. You went outside of time. Let’s get into that macro-discussion then about what is time and what is being outside time. What does that mean for you?
This is a fantastic conversation because, in our day-to-day lives, we tend to forget that time is a construct. Time is not real. Time is a construct that we create and then we’re tyrannized by time.
For us Americans that might be reading or non-UK speakers, what does it mean it tyrannizes us?
Tortured might be too strong of a word, but it’s to have our lives run. It’s like a despot that is cracking the whip and running our life. Many people would be hard-pressed not to admit this. Many men and women that I meet, their lives are run by time. Time is like this despot that’s cracking the whip and telling them what to do, where to be and what you know. It has become uncomfortable and yet we forget that time is a construct.
For me, this is a very easy entry point for people. I talked to a lot of different groups and all of us have had the experience. I’ve had the experience in my life many times where one minute seems like a lifetime or years. I remember once waiting for a medical test, sitting there and every minute seemed like years of my life. It was horrendous. Equally, I’ve had the experience many times and continue to do so, where three hours seems like three minutes. I’m engaged in something where time passes. These are everyday experiences that every human being has.
If you move on from that, they’re more structured experiences. For example, if you take the dynamic of play, children know how to play better than adults. All of us, as adults, need to learn to play more. When you observe a child playing outside time, they’re not in this prison of time. They lose themselves in play. That is what I mean by being outside of time. Another conventional way for this is if you take something like meditation. Meditation has been around for 6,000 years and lots of people have different forms of meditation, yoga or whatever it is that allows us to step out of time.
I remember I was having this discussion with my cousin who plays a lot of tennis. She says, “I don’t meditate. Tennis is my meditation.” What’s true is that everybody has a different form of where they lose time. Some people call it flow, where they feel like they’re engaging in something that they’re passionate about and that they’re enjoying, even if it’s not for the sake of anything else other than enjoying.
That’s important that we understand about tennis, gardening or playing cards. I have a friend of mine who is in his 60s. He makes model airplanes and boats and he adores them. He can spend five hours and he is lost in that. The key thing is when we’re wedded to time, we’re normally attached to ourselves. We’re involved in our identity and what we’re doing. When we’re outside time, we’re lost in the experience. It’s like being in love again. It’s another wonderful experience of being outside time. When I was courting, my wife and I were madly in love. Six hours was not enough. It went in a minute.Time is not real. It is a construct that we create. Do not be tyrannized by it. Click To Tweet
Was? What do you mean?
I still love and adore my wife.
What keeps us from engaging more and getting in that space? Why did we know how to do it as children and lose our way as adults?
There are multiple answers and I don’t pretend I have the only answers. We each come up with a slightly different answer. If you go back to indigenous populations, like the Native Americans, Aboriginals, Yogis, they didn’t have this problem at all. It didn’t exist. We’ve evolved our cultures and societies through an Agricultural Age and Industrial Age and we’ve become more like machines. We’re out of balance and narrowly focused on output and performance. It’s a narrow way of being.
One of the things I work with businesses, as you might imagine, it’s not an easy conversation. If you allow all your workforce to play for an hour a day, whatever that means, they’ll perform better. You start with Goldman Sachs and investment bankers. Most of these organizations drive people through time.
I started my first job as a consultant and they charge you out by the hour. They’ve already got a ceiling that you’ve got to work so many hours and it’s all about the hour. It’s not even about the output in that hour. I know that I was indoctrinated in that way. It took me a long time to shift away from that. I call it our tug of war. We have this tug of war with time, just like we have a tug of war with our health and relationships. Part of our human existence is to figure this out. It’s to come back to a place where we can find that balance and find ourselves where we got lost.
I love that expression, tug of war. That’s exactly what the experience is. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have it made, but what I do know is every year, I get better at this. Over the last three decades, I get a little bit better. One of the things, just to go to the extreme of this, are the big organizations, investment banks, law firms and accountants. I remember years ago when they introduced Starbucks and Costa on every floor and they presented this as a gift to the employees. What they were really saying is, “We lose too much time. You’re going down to the ground floor and walking at it a bit.”
I used to work for JP Morgan. They gave us free lunch and everybody thought that was great. It was so that you stayed longer. You could have dinner there so you could stay longer.
Now, they all have bedrooms where you can go to sleep before lunch.
Here’s an interesting thing like you were saying. I went to one organization. They have this playroom where there is a pool table and lots of stuff. We had a business meeting down there because they also had their meeting rooms. Nobody was down there and I asked one of the managers who was responsible for the meeting that we were doing. I said, “It’s interesting nobody is down here.” She said, “I would hope not because that would mean they’re not working.”
She didn’t realize the thing. Here we have it, but there’s a stigmatism that you should be working and not playing, and not appreciating and putting together, “We’ve heard the studies that say we should have these things, but we’re not fully bought in that it’s making a difference.” How do you bridge that gap?
I want to explain this is a little bit radical. What I’ve done over the years is, every six months or twice a year, I unplug from my life. I go to a retreat center in Germany for two weeks with no phone and computer and I don’t talk to my wife. I walk in the mountains and meditate. I step out of time as much as I can. When I come back, I annoy everyone because I have so much energy. I’m turbocharged and then I work hard.
I work with a lot of executives, trying to get them not to look at them over the phone for three hours. Most of them can’t do 3 days, but I do 2 weeks or 14 days twice a year. We’ve got to be disciplined. The problem with any kind of shift or habit change is it requires discipline. I do that on a macro scale every year. I’ve done it for many years.
What I do during the day is something similar. At given moments in the day, I unplug from my life. That could be a walk in nature, sitting quietly or sipping a cup of tea. It’s a decision not to look at a phone or computer and not to engage with time. It might be a little bit of gardening or listening to music. The music is fantastic. I can listen to all sorts of ranges of music and lose myself.
I want to go back to the macro in a moment. We’re here with some great strategies, but I had something I wanted to discuss with you since we’re talking about that. I want to reinforce what you said. You don’t have to go to the mountains for two weeks a year in order to experience it because everybody is freaking out now. Hold on, everybody. Calm down.
If we could get you not to put your phone next to your bed and not check it in the morning and evening before you go to bed and when you wake up, and if you take these unplugged moments throughout the day, these are short transitions that could have a time frame to it, but there’s no time in that space.
You take a half-an-hour mid-morning. You can take that lunch break and go somewhere. Take back your lunch. Don’t do it at your desk. Do something that helps you to unplug truly. All those studies show that it makes a huge difference. That’s a practical tip that somebody can implement in their schedule now. Go on and block yourself those moments that no other appointments are going to run over.
It’s an important distinction because you and I know we can take an hour off at lunchtime. We can go and sit in a park. We can look at our watch and we’re still in the prison of time. The key to this is not necessarily leaving our desks, computers, phones or whatever. It’s learning how to step out of the prison of time. One of the expressions that we use for this is being aimless. It’s being in that space where we forget what’s going on around us.
It’s almost a little bit between waking life and sleep life. I know this sounds a little bit hackneyed, but if you sit for two minutes and look at a flower, you create spaciousness in yourself. Flowers might not turn you on, but whatever it is you want to look at, you have a different kind of experience. That’s the key. Two minutes is enough. You don’t have to go there for two weeks.
It’s capturing those little moments. For everybody who is reading, practice that for one week, finding every day a few little moments to lose yourself in the moment. Give yourself some space to do that and see what difference it makes. I know that I had a client I was working with and we had him on the train. He didn’t feel like he had a lot of time.
On the train, in the morning, for him to take that space instead of reading the paper for work or anything, just to listen to some music and do some meditation that he found was good for him, he said it made all the difference in setting his day up in shifting so that he wasn’t focused on time. It’s also the first thing when you do is if you wake up and check your phone and email, you’re reactive right away. You’re already at odds with time. That’s what everybody is going to do when they leave this show. They’re going to make some differences.
Here’s another aspect of it that a lot of people, including me, when I first came across this. Most companies have a starting point that they think, “If I try this, I’m going to lose something. If I try this, I’m going to lose efficiency. If I try this, I’m going to get less done.” In fact, the opposite is the case, but until you try it, the fear is, “I’m going to get less done.” One of the things that are true of my life and I don’t say this in any boastful way. I take much more playtime and downtime, but I achieve a huge amount in my life.
I’m busy and also punctual. I go to a lot of meetings and I always turn up on time. I’m not one of these people that drifts in an episode. I take time seriously. We’ve mentioned music. I’ve coached a lot of people. If they’re in an office environment or trading floor, it’s very intense. Go to the lavatory 2 or 3 times a day with your headphones and take three minutes. It makes a big difference. I can promise you.
You said you get better every year. I’m going to speak for most people because I have the same challenges. I go like this. I get better and then something happens or shifts and things that work don’t work anymore. I always say, “Things work until they don’t.” I have to notice faster what’s working and when it’s working and do more of that. When it’s not working anymore, look for new ways.
Sometimes, we don’t look at it the same. I’ve been writing in a gratitude journal first thing in the morning for many years. Even though I still do it, I’m not as connected to it as I was, so it doesn’t work the same. I have to mix it up. That’s something for people to think about too. Recognize quicker what’s not working so that you can shift into something that is.
My experience is exactly the same as yours. I go like this too. I try things and they become less effective, so I switch. As I’ve grown older, as I look back into my life, tomorrow, I might be two steps back from where I am today. Over any measurement of time, I become much better at managing this, but there will be 2 or 3 days next month when it all goes out the window. That’s fine. We don’t have to be perfect.The problem with any kind of shift or change of habit is that it requires discipline. Click To Tweet
A great perspective is also not to look at it on a day-to-day or week-to-week. It’s to look back, “Where was I a year ago? I’ll look at more than I’m able to handle and all these great practices that I have put into place.” I want to come back to another macro-thought. I’ve been talking about that when we’re focused on time because I call myself a Focusologist.
I believe that where we tune our focus is not just our attention but also our intention and objective and aligning those three. If we’re focused on time and caught up in that time trap like you were saying, I believe that’s scarcity mode. When we are stuck thinking about time, it creates scarcity. We typically see time as a constraint versus when we shift our focus to say, “It’s about the result and what I am creating.”
I don’t mean output in terms of like you were saying. It’s not just about the machine output, but if we can achieve the result that we want in our health and relationships, then it doesn’t matter how much time. We’re looking for the result. We’re not looking for the amount of time that it takes. That might also be play. We can use time as a catalyst versus a constraint. I wanted to get your feedback and opinion on that.
That’s beautifully put. What was coming up for me is I will loop back in to answer your question directly. There was a Russian philosopher called Gurdjieff, who nobody had ever heard of. He once said, “Human existence is like living in prison, never checking to see whether the door is open or not.” To me, this is a great analogy for time because we live in this prison called time. Everyone says, “We wake up at 6:00. We go to bed and time is divided,” but it’s just a construct. For me, the real key to this is to have a different experience.
One of the entry points for what you said, time is essentially a mental construct. It’s a mind construct and we live in mind-dominated cultures. One of the things that might sound a little bit trite is, now in my life, the most important thing for me is love. I go into businesses and talk about, “What would it look like if we were a heart-centered organization?” Everyone gets frightened and thinks, “We’ll be less successful.” I say, “No, you’ll be more successful.”
The heart does not have a concept of time in the same way as love. If you take the energy and dynamic of love, love is outside time essentially. If we take moments in the day to drop down into love to think of our loved ones immediately, that’s another practice whereby we’re not driven by that terrible taskmaster again.
Even in a business concept and I don’t care how big your business is, there is no problem that love cannot solve. I believe that not in a wishy-washy, esoteric way but in a practical way. This is another entry point. Even if I’m working with an individual and you get them to breathe and drop down into their heart, they immediately start having a different experience. Their blood pressure reduces. Their adrenals stop being overactive. There’s a whole lot of physiological things that occur.
I’ll come back to the gratitude that I talked about. I found that during the most difficult times of my life, that is what I turned to because it was on the focus element. We can focus on all the bad things that are going on and things that are difficult. We do have to sometimes focus on those, but there are moments where we can turn our attention and say, “What do I have to be grateful for? What is working? Who in my life can I turn to?”
I found that gratitude for me set all those things that you were saying. It helped me to calm down. It gave me clarity and strength. There were difficult times, but if I dropped down into that, I had a different experience going through it than if I chose to focus and get more aggression or survival. When we’re in other modes in our heads, then we have a different experience.
I agree with you wholeheartedly. Gratitude is the most gorgeous energy. It’s fantastic. Someone said to me years ago, “I was not in a good place,” but they said, “Andrew, try feeling grateful and miserable at the same time.” Being pigheaded, I tried it and spent months. You can’t do it. There’s also another little distinction here, which is exactly the same as having the lunch hour on the park bench and looking at your watch. Sometimes, we find ourselves being fake grateful or faux gratitude in the mind level. Someone does something that upsets us and we think, “I’m just going to bless that person.”
This doesn’t work. If someone upsets or betrays me, it’s okay to have a little rant, but then I turn my focus to, “What do I feel grateful for right now?” For me, that’s a wonderful practice because over the years, pretty much every day, at some point, I’ve said to myself, “I feel deeply grateful for the house I live in. I have a lovely home. It’s in the country. I don’t live in a big city. I feel deeply grateful for my wife. I’m married to an amazing woman.” You go on. The moment you start experiencing that, everything shifts. You live in a different world.
That’s the key to what you said is that you’re experiencing it. You connected to it because sometimes we can say things, but we’re not connected to it. That’s what I meant by I was going through the motions of writing down what I was grateful for. I was grateful for those things, but I wasn’t truly making the connection, so I needed to add music. Music helped me to get back into that connection.
It’s interesting too when you ask other people when you share gratitude, not just do it yourself, but when you share it. I’ve been in gratitude circles. I create and incorporate some of those in my workshops. To hear what other people say is incredible. It makes you drop down into your heart to hear what someone else is grateful for.
I remember hearing someone and I hadn’t even thought of that, “I’m grateful for my eyes. I’m grateful that I can see the beauty of fall as it comes around me.” I thought, “Wow, so am I,” but I wasn’t connected to it until now. Maybe sometimes, when we’re interacting with other people or we see or hear stories, it helps us to connect to our gratitude or our own story. I’m a huge proponent of that aspect of gratitude to shift our experience.
When you were talking, I was reminded of something. There was one whole new area that was not available to everyone. One of the things we know and there have been huge amounts of research on this is that animals interacting with animals often puts us into this state as well. I have two little dogs. Every morning at 6:00 AM, I wake up and go into the kitchen to see them. They’re ecstatic to see me. On some days, I want to say to them, “What is wrong, guys? I saw you eight hours ago.” It’s the same every morning. It’s like they’re seeing me for the first time.
Human beings are part of the animal kingdom. We’re the only species that suffers from this prison of time. If you observe dogs, cats, ducks and all these other animals, they’re busy having an experience and being in the moment. They can be our teachers genuinely. Playing with a kitten, cat or dog is another way that we can step out of time.
The image that came up for me was me coming in the door and my kids running to me like they were dogs, “What is wrong? Am I dying? Are you dying?” I agree that it’s that unconditional love if you can get into that. What animals represent for me is that they’re in that experience, “I promised her to take her to the dog park and we didn’t get there today. She still loves me.” That’s a great tip and example of dropping into our hearts. It sounds like we could talk about this all day long. I’m going to ask you one question that I ask everyone. I’m curious about your answer here. What’s your definition of productivity and why?
It would have to be something about the consequences or effects in the world. It’s important to me to see that my wife and children feel loved by me. It’s important to me to see that my business colleagues feel valued by me, that we’re having fun in the environment. It’s important to me to observe and get feedback on the things that are important to me, like love, kindness, innovation, creativity and all those things. It’s a little bit like putting a stone into a pond and you see all the ripples go out. If there were no ripples, you wouldn’t know that what you’re doing has any impact or significance. When I see a face light up because of something I’ve said, it’s an amazing feeling and that’s productivity for me.
I’ve never had the same answer. I used to say, “Productivity is a feeling.” It’s like happiness. It’s not something that you can nail down and define because you can get a lot done and feel unproductive at the end of the day. It’s just you didn’t get done, maybe what you felt you were going to get done. It might be a question of expectation, reaching your goal or different things. I love you that brought it back to having others feel valued and loved, which is core to your heart center. Is there anything else that you feel like we didn’t touch upon that you think would be interesting to explore now?
One of the underlying themes that we’ve touched on in everything we’ve said is this idea of connection. For however long we’ve been talking, there’s this sense of connection in play or with whatever. If we feel connected, then we have a deeper experience. I’ve been saying for many years that the human race is suffering from a massive pandemic.
The pandemic that’s all around us is the pandemic of disconnection. We’re very disconnected. We need to start by being more connected with our bodies. That’s the starting place and then we need to be more connected with each other. The more connected we are, then the deeper the experience we have, back to our animals.
That’s powerful. I believe that as well. All these tools, like social media and the fact that we have text messaging and all these things that claim to create greater connection, do the opposite. It’s my belief because the conversations are much more shallow. We have these small little moment connections, but they’re not deep connections. They’re not as valuable to connect with. We get connected first to our bodies and then to each other. What’s one thing that you think that we can leave the readers with that they could do to be more connected with each other?
Don’t make it another chore or task, but 2 or 3 times a day, sit for two minutes and take a series of deep breaths. Breathe into your belly and heart and bring your awareness to your body. See where your body is. You can even ask the question of your heart, “What do you want to say to me right now?” You can dialogue with your heart, gut and eyes. You said being grateful for your eyes is an amazing thing.
I’m grateful for my feet. They walk around all day long. Sitting and breathing deeply will create more connections. Breath is life and we all breathe probably a little bit more shallow than we can do. We can all deepen our breath. A little exercise is lying in bed at night before going to sleep, taking six deep breaths is a wonderful thing to do.
Thank you, Andrew, so much for your insight, wisdom and that amazing English accent.
I’m a very fine fellow from London.
Where can we find more about this fine fellow?
It’s AndrewWallas.org. There’s quite a lot of material there. There are meditations and talks. It’s all free. Come and get what you want.
Thank you so much.
Thank you, Penny.
Thank you all for being here. This was a real treat to get a little macro. Also, we had some good practical tips and things that you can walk away with. We’ll see you in the next episode.
About Andrew Wallas
Over the past 40 years, Andrew Wallas has guided business leaders and companies, both large and small, to fulfill more of their latent potential.
Andrew embodies a rare combination of highly successful businessman and intuitive corporate shaman. He is both recognized in the outer world as a respected businessman with a sharp intellect and acumen, as well as being seen as an inner world guide with a deep insight and mystical intuition.
He began his career in business in 1974 in the Financial Services industry in London and became Chief Executive of Nelson Hurst & Marsh Limited. He grew this business with 60% per annum compound growth over 10 years and it was sold to Citigroup for £52 million in 1986.
By 1982 he realized that the rapid growth in outer financial success was correlated with a sense of inner meaninglessness and loneliness. He left the City at the peak of his financial career.
A subsequent spiritual crisis and awakening led to a 3 year degree at Theological College studying theology and philosophy. He subsequently gained a masters degree in psychology. Following several trainings in psychotherapy, he opened a thriving clinical practice in North London, working with individuals and groups. In 1990 Andrew underwent a 4-year training in Neo-Reichian bodywork within an object-relations framework. He later undertook Level 1 process at the Oneness University in India, becoming a Oneness Facilitator. He has also completed the Level 2 process, the Oneness Training program, and the Advanced Training program.
In 1993, he returned to the city to establish Andrew Wallas & Marsh Limited in the Financial Services sector. He expanded the business from 2 to 235 staff with revenue of £28m and profit of £2.6 m. He subsequently sold the business for £26 million. He became Chairman of Martello Underwriting Limited (incorporating P I Direct) in 2004 and sold the business to the Royal Sun Alliance in 2006 for £37 million.
From 2006 to 2012 Andrew worked with individuals, groups, and organizations creating transformation in personal and business lives. He combined his business experience with years of inner inquiry to establish a unique approach to change which includes bodywork, breath expansion, psycho-drama, intense emotional release, gestalt formulation, constellation work, and soul purpose.
In 2012 he founded Business Alchemy Limited with the intention to create a global business, through transforming organizations, embodying light-heartedness, and achieving recognition as a pioneer. Instead of focusing on the outer machinations of a business, Business Alchemy explores the hidden internal dynamics of an organization. These blocks inhibit the best efforts of the board of directors and staff to move the organization forward. By unearthing and diagnosing these blocks, the energy is released and the strategic direction of the business flows in accordance with desired goals, outcomes, and profitability.
Andrew specializes in mindfulness, viewing a business as a living organism, the concept of flow, the power of intention, the importance of clearing blocks, the need for alignment, the value of synchronicity, and the experience of alchemy.
In June 2017 his book “Business Alchemy” is being published by LID publishing
“Andrew holds the space for you to reconnect with your inner wisdom. His skill is that he is intuitive but practical.” Financial Times
“Andrew Wallas is a businessman and spiritual teacher who works intuitively to release old, destructive energy” Sunday Times
“Fast-tracked healing” Vogue
“Andrew Wallas has a gift for transforming stuck energy and releasing you from negative patterns” Tatler