Monday, 1 December 2014


“She didn’t put in one single ounce of effort. Never bothered herself about anything. Fair play to her now. She completely deserves her success!”

That’s not the way it goes, but maybe it should be. We prefer to hear tales of those who have toiled and sweated, overcoming obstacles and all manner of hardship to achieve their goals. We see them as worthy winners. Somehow they have earned their right to kiss the sleeping princess.

For a while now I’ve been wondering if we haven’t got it all wrong. If life, as people say, is a jungle, then the easiest way to get out is to follow a path. Why would you hack and scramble your way through the thorns and unknown predators lurking in the dense growth, when you can follow the path of least resistance, out onto the relative safety of the savannah?

All over the world we’ve created monolithic institutions that require us to hack through the jungle, to suffer for joy, but as time goes by, I’m increasingly becoming a fan of the easy way.

My good friend’s little girl was born into an English family, living in Barcelona. Every day of her life she heard English, Spanish and Catalan spoken all around her, and we noticed that as she learned to talk, she invariably chose whichever word required the least effort, regardless of the language. Instead of saying ‘water', she’d choose ‘agua’ because it was easier.

This was not an intellectual decision. She was way too young to consider the correct language for all social situations. No, it was simple. When she wanted water, her brain just directed her speech towards the easiest way.

The easiest way must be our natural state. To thrive and reproduce as a species, any animal aspires to the easy way. Yet humans have contrived to spoil it for themselves by injecting kudos into torment.

The young woman that was that little girl is now perfectly trilingual, thankfully intellectually able to choose the right language for the right person, yet other childhood speech patterns can last a lifetime.

Last week I was listening to the England football manager, Roy Hodgson, droning on in his particularly sanguine style and then I heard him say “Wayne Wooney.”

Wayne Wooney? I had heard Wayne Wooney before, but where?

Aha, yes, it was on the Jonathan Ross show. He’d made some joke about how little he knew about football and blah blah blah Wayne Wooney.

My mind had wandered and missed the chat show host’s slick blather, but my attention switched back to the screen when I heard ‘Wayne Wooney’, because for a second I thought that the England and Manchester United captain, a.k.a.‘Shrek’, might be on the show. He wasn’t, but what was all this Wayne Wooney stuff, with Ross back then and Roy Hodgson?

Then I saw the link.

We all know that Roy Hodgson can’t say his Rs. He’s Woy Hodgson and his captain is Wayne Wooney. Jonathan Ross is also notorious for his lack of prowess with Rs, being affectionately referred to by the British public as ‘Wossy.”

Let’s also throw into the mix one Roy Jenkins, the erstwhile British politician who made massive changes to English punitive systems as Home Secretary, while upsetting a lot of Nationalists and Republicans in Northern Ireland.

Later he went on to form the SDP, but all we need to know right now was that he was another Roy lacking the ability to say his own name without substituting an ‘R’ for a ‘W.’
Roy Jenkins was and always will be remembered as Woy Jenkins.

So what’s the deal with all these Roys and Rosses who can’t say the 18th letter? Well, might I suggest that you think of them all as little boys.

“What’s your name, boy?” booms asks an adult.
“Woy, miss.”

Much cooing and many ‘Oh isn’t that sweet?’ noises from all gathered grown-ups.

“And you little fella?”
“Jonathan Woss miss.”

Oh how adorable. Look at his smile. Much laughter.
Currents jump synapses, burning fresh routes through the tiny child’s mind.

Throw in a W and they love you.

A Home Secretary, a national football coach and the highest paid TV personality: all found an easy way to ingratiate themselves in formative states as children. No effort; just a lucky break. Success disguised as a speech impediment.

So you see, survival doesn’t have to be hard. We strive to make it so, but even the corporate world has learned that making life easier for their employees creates a fatter profit.

Several recent studies have shown that the American Model, where workers were given the minimum vacation and sick time, alongside the longest possible working day, is counter-productive.

The best way to get the most out of their staff is to impose a system of longer holidays, more time at home, naps in the afternoon, daytime workouts and longer sleeping hours.

However counter-intuitive this all might sound, here we have yet more proof that the easy way is the best way.

If employers invest in the mental and physical wellbeing of their workers, they will benefit in productivity, loyalty and performance.

I reckon the workers would feel a lot more motivated too. If you’re suddenly forced to go on lengthy holidays with your family, you might be happy to get back to work!

Studies and reports are never to be trusted implicitly, but the biology behind their findings is sound. Apparently our minds have the ability to work at their optimum in cycles of 90 minutes. Longer than that and we are more likely to fail.

The most successful people tend to be those who work early in the day, taking breaks every hour and a half to have a snack, a nap or do a little exercise.

So don’t overdo it. Take it easy.

If the rewards of triumph over adversity are tempting, think how much you’ll enjoy victory the easy way.

©Charlie Adley

No comments: