Gavin Moffat: Giving your battery a break

Gavin Moffat

This article is an extract from entrepreneur and communications expert Gavin Moffat’s book: ‘Swimming with Sharks – Simple business guidelines for a complex world’ (published by Tracey McDonald Publishers). The book is currently available in bookstores and as a Kindle edition on

As business owners we are justified in feeling that we’ve outwitted the masses. We are not the ones stuck in the corporate rut. We are the ones living the dream … the dream of being our own boss, doing our own thing, calling our own shots.

Except it doesn’t always feel like this, does it? In fact, it’s a rare day when you feel like the master of the universe. I believe the long con is to blame for this. ’Cause although you’re not in the corporate rat race, you’re still firmly in life’s rat race. Who’s conning us? Big business. Universities. Consumer product companies. Time share schemes. Gyms. They do it by making us believe that who we are and what we have are not enough, that the present moment is imperfect and that we cannot afford to be content.

I call it the long con – if it was a short play, we’d have figured it out by now.

Here’s how it works:

  • As a child you go to a sausage factory school that treats you like a clone and holds up a single vision of success.
  • You work really hard and focus precious energy on the subjects that you are not doing well in so that you can get an excellent matric (as opposed to learning to excel at what you’re good at).
  • Before you are legally allowed to drink or drive a car, you have to decide what you’re going to do with the rest of your life, because god forbid you should not step out of school and into an institution of higher learning.
  • You study and persevere, even if by the end of year two you’re starting to see that a life working the content of this degree will probably result in early hair loss or repeated trips to a psychiatrist.
  • You get a job, start at the bottom, pay your dues, work your way up while learning and sucking up to everyone.
  • You change jobs to get better titles, earn more money, grow your pension and afford better holidays and a bigger house.
  • At some point you may have children and wake up to a world of Spur/Wimpy, school events, PTAs, prize-givings, galas, soccer, rugby, tennis, hockey and netball matches, school plays, irritating parents, annoying parent-teacher meetings, acne, cool clothes, the need for new mobile phones, under-18 parties, Matric Rage (and rage), subject choices, exams and a level of context-related teenage stress that could fell a wild bull.
  • Your kids head to varsity and finally you can start having out-of-home experiences.
  • But you’re in your best earning years and work 12-hour days to fit in all that you have to.
  • Finally, you retire, and the good life is supposed to start.
  • You slide through your 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s with, hopefully, a few more holidays, family time and then, finally, death.

Sounds like a pretty normal, if idealised, life, right? But who said we were destined to be stuck in the rat race, grinding away each day to bring food to the table and sacrificing fun on the altar of responsibilities?

The con involves all manner of tie-ins: where we live, what we buy, how we spend our leisure time, what we invest in, why we let social media tell us that everyone is living a better life than we are, that the quick fix is just around the corner, hard work is the only way to get ahead, life is fair and just, a gym membership is worth it, ‘you don’t have a tattoo?’ and so on.

The trick is to see the con for what it is, and then decide what you want to do.

My take on this is to stop kicking the can down the road in all areas of your life. Stop deferring family time until you have enough time. Stop deferring doing things that give you joy until you have enough money. Stop deferring a proper break to recharge your battery until your business is successful enough.

Our society glorifies hard work and being busy. There is shame in switching off your mobile phone or admitting that you need eight hours of sleep. This might be the biggest, and most damaging, con of all.

We accept that inanimate objects need to rest and recharge. You grumble when your phone goes flat, but you understand it’s a reality. Why not extend the same courtesy to your own body and mind?

If you are constantly in a high stress environment, you are likely to require a recharge sooner rather than later. It is a factor of being human. Each of us deals with our stresses in our individual (but map-able) way. If you spend all day using the bits of your phone, tablet or laptop that require high amounts of energy like the radio transmitters, wifi or the screen on high resolution and bright, you are going to kill the battery sooner. Same with yourself. The more you demand of the parts of your body and mind that consume the most energy, the sooner you will run out.

Abusing the battery in an electronic device causes it to give up the ghost way before it should. It will lose charge faster and become unreliable. The same happens to humans. If you relentlessly deplete your energy levels rapidly without providing an appropriate recharge mechanism, your poor abused ‘battery’ will eventually fail. It will let you down when you most need it to be at its strongest.

So how do we provide our ‘battery’ with the greatest opportunity to have a lively life? We watch our burn rate. Figure out which activities burn the most energy and limit them. Does being around your mother-in-law drain you? Find ways to minimise the time you spend with her. Does working 13 hours a day make your weekend nothing more than a sport and sleep fest? Give serious consideration to changing how or where you work and the teams that you support.

In short, run your energy levels at a point of comfort. The problem with our human ‘battery life’ is not realised today or even tomorrow. It only emerges after years of energy-sapping activities, when you discover you cannot take a simple walk along the beach or climb the set of stairs that would take you to a wonderful lookout point.

Don’t fall for the con. You know better.

This article is an extract from entrepreneur and communications expert Gavin Moffat’s book: ‘Swimming with Sharks – Simple business guidelines for a complex world’ (published by Tracey McDonald Publishers). The book is currently available in bookstores and as a Kindle edition on