It’s Time for Your Leadership Team to Wake Up!

Wake Up! by leadership and creativity guru Chris Baréz-Brown is a how-to book that helps people escape autopilot and feel more conscious, engaged and alive. We recently had the opportunity to talk to Chris to learn more about waking up and how taking yourself and your team off of autopilot is important for promoting innovation and transforming leadership.

You recently wrote a book about waking up. Tell us more about the message and intention of the book.
Chris B:
I work with so many people who feel as if life is happening to them rather than them making deliberate choices about how to make each day extraordinary. On waking they are subsumed by emails and demands on their attention and the next time they get space to be fully conscious, is just before they go to bed and another day has sprinted past them.

It’s impossible to lead a shiny life without having awareness of who you are, what’s going on around you and how to spend your limited time in the most productive way that guarantees your heart soars.

And that’s what Wake Up! is all about. How to escape autopilot and feel more conscious, engaged and alive.

Tell us more about turning off autopilot and how it affects us?  
The challenge that we all face is that large chunks of our lives are lived on autopilot. We all know how it feels to have driven a long distance and not remember large chunks of the journey; that’s because we are literally driving on autopilot. Our brain saves energy when we are doing something familiar by letting our subconscious takeover. As we have driven cars many times before we don’t need to concentrate and use our energy-hungry conscious brain; instead we use a much more energy-efficient subconscious. It saves energy by assuming that what we are experiencing today is the same as what we have experienced before and therefore we can function perfectly well doing what we have always done.

Autopilot feeds off habits and routines. The more we do what we’ve done before, the less energy we need for thinking. Over time if we let it go unchecked, more and more of our lives will be run on autopilot because our subconscious will naturally choose the most trodden path and therefore our lives will become more and more habituated.

It is estimated that we spend up to 80% of our lives on autopilot.

We all need this to function otherwise we would be exhausted. However, when it’s such a large part of our waking time, we struggle to see each day as the unique opportunity it is. We naturally look to our past experience to answer todays opportunities, and as we know today has never happened before. Deliberately breaking out of autopilot means that we can step back from all the busyness and answer the most important question, ”What’s needed here?” 

Why is shaking up your routine and getting off autopilot important for innovation and leadership?
The best creative leaders know that every opportunity is unique to that moment and therefore do not constantly look at what worked last time. They are brilliant at being self-aware so that they can flex depending on what’s needed. They are also sensitive to those they are working with so they can deliver what they need. 

This cannot be done when you are constantly driven by autopilot. You have to be able to pop out of the crazy pace of business and really see things as they are. To make your time count you must make sure your unique talents are best used to create the work of legends; stuff that really creates an impact rather than just fills up your diary.

What are some uncommon approaches to do so?
One of the most fantastic sources of inspiration for the book came from Ernie, who works for the great cold water surf company, Finisterre. Ernie had the most amazing energy and I was intrigued by how he managed to consistently be more upbeat, positive and full of drive compared to most folks I bumped into in my working life.

When I asked him what his secret was he explained with a big smile on his face,” Every time I go to the bathroom I do 20 push-ups”. Aside from him being extraordinarily fit, it guaranteed that every hour or so he got blood pumping around his body, and more oxygen into his brain so that he was in the best possible state for his next piece of work. This little habit helped him wake up and escape autopilot. 

What effects can this have on business?
This can have a huge impact on business. Nobody wants their talent to become robots doing the same thing day in and day out hoping that last year’s solution will fit next year’s (unless of course your job is all about delivering repetitive tasks). We need to be able to expand our consciousness so that our perceptions are more sensitive to the world in which we live which is increasingly dynamic and bizarre.

Sensitivity, awareness and consciousness is what sets apart the best leaders from the average. When you can really answer ‘What’s needed here?’ In any aspect of your work, you know you are adding great value and hopefully enjoying every minute of it too.

How do you personally approach getting off autopilot and shaking up your routine?
I’m a huge fan of experimenting. I love to try new and different things in all aspects of my life as you have to engage your conscious brain to stop autopilot from taking over. We have just carried out a bunch of creative experiments with different organizations where we have tried lots of creative approaches against different briefs to see which ones really deliver. Interestingly the ones that worked the best were the ones that the groups invented themselves. I could never have predicted that. The whole experience has really kept me on my toes and stretched my thinking.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Life is a game, don’t take it seriously. Smile, laugh and love and make every day count.

And…. You don’t need any more stuff in your life, you have everything now to make today perfect.

What would you do if you had three months to live?
If I only had three months to live I would get up early, spend more time in nature, give my kids and my wife so much love they may pop. Play more guitar, sing really loudly and do at least one thing each day I have never done before.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
This morning I was in our gym before the sun came up and then sat and watched it rise above the trees. Just spending some time sitting quietly without anything digital in my hands and setting an intention for the day is the tonic I love to start the day with. 

What are three Uncommon Sense principles you live by personally and professionally? 

  1. Be a dick not a cock
    This Uncommon Sense principle guided my talent strategy for many years. A dick is somebody who is very happy to monkey about, try new things, get things wrong and have a good old laugh about it without taking themselves too seriously. To be creative you have to be a bit of a dick. A cock, however, is something you never want to be. 
  2. Be generous and kind
    Nuff said
  3. Be creative for fun
    Always do some creative work that you don’t get paid for. It’s important that you create for the love of it and not for the money.

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