Does Movember get men talking balls?

Movember is here again and already, less than halfway through the month, there are mucho moustachioed gents around town. It’s an inspired campaign for an important cause that I have supported financially for some years, while resisting the temptation to grow a moustache myself.

Yet, I have one slight reservation. While Movember gets men talkin’ ‘bout ‘taches, does it also get them talking balls (and prostates?) I suspect that many still avoid the subject, preferring instead to fixate on the safer topic of facial hair and how goddamned itchy it feels.

So my contribution to the Movember campaign this year is to write about my recent experience of getting checked out at a urology clinic. Not least because it also relates to my favourite theme of why some people enjoy their work more than others.

My GP referred me to a specialist just to ‘be on the safe side’ after I experienced some mild waterwork issues. As is usually the case, the symptoms cleared up as soon as the appointment letter landed on the doormat. But I decided to be a grown up and go ahead with the check.

As a father of three children, who has been present at all their births (if only at the ‘social end’), I have a good idea of what women must routinely endure in the name of health. But for me this was a unique experience. During the course of two hours, I underwent a decathlon of tests, both invasive and otherwise. I drank several litres of water. I peed into a bucket with a digital counter on it to measure my flow rate. I watched the ultimate reality TV, beamed live from a camera inserted through my urethra into my bladder. I ‘depanted’ on request (to use their delightfully tongue in cheek jargon), coughed and bent my knees obediently. I had an ultrasonic scanner on my tummy and then the whole of me was inserted head first through a CT scanner to create a 3D image of my insides. All this on the National Health Service and within a few weeks of my referral!

The truly incredible thing is that at no stage did I feel at all embarrassed. I put this down to one simple reason: every member of the team helped to create a culture that was characterised by respect, humour, compassion, efficiency and professionalism. Every member of the team – and incidentally, all were women – gave me the impression that they loved their work and wouldn’t swap it for any other job in the world.

I asked one member of the team why everyone appeared to enjoy their work so much and how they created such a great atmosphere. The answer she gave me was enlightening. Every year in the UK, prostate cancer kills 10,000 people and testicular cancer another 75. Testicular cancer is highly treatable if detected early, while prostate cancer, for most men, requires no more than active monitoring. If they can create a relaxed environment that encourages men to go for a checkup, they will save lives. Embarrassment kills.

Thankfully, on this occasion, I got the all clear. But something tells me this won’t be my last visit to a urology clinic. The important thing is that I won’t be frightened to go back. Nor should anyone be. And if wearing a moustache helps to get over the embarrassment of talking about it, then grow the biggest and bushiest one you can, my friends!

As an insight into employee engagement, it struck me how there is nothing like believing in the vital importance of your work to get the whole team working at 100% commitment levels. It is a lesson for every leader and every communicator.

Secret of a happy life

You would have thought that professional snooker players would rank highly amongst people who if not paid to do their job, would do it for the love of it. Although I find it mindnumbing to watch and impossible to play, I understand why others find the sport so addictive, as they chase the nirvana of that perfect 147 break. So it was a surprise to discover in Jim White’s excellent article in today’s Daily Telegraph about Ronnie Sullivan’s retirement, that  he secretly detests the game and the relentless pressure to perform. Of course, Ronnie is not alone in hating the sport that he has been so blessed to play.

Victoria Pendleton, similarly sees her awesome talent as a curse, ‘I turn left for a living’ she commented drolely after her 2012 Olympic cycling victory and incredible nine world records. The only thing that drove her on was that she hated the idea of giving up even more; could not bear the thought of letting her Dad and herself down.

It’s not uncommon for professional  footballers to loathe the sport that makes them rich. Their idea of fun is often to head for the nearest male grooming salon, bookmakers or golf course. Although highly successful as a football commentator, even the saintly Gary Lineker looks bored senseless when presenting Match of the Day. You get the feeling he would love to do something completely different, but has become addicted to the money and lifestyle.

Ultimately, it’s not enough to be good at something to be happy in your work, even if you have a  special talent. You also have to enjoy it to be there for the long haul. Find something you enjoy doing and get someone to pay you to do it – that’s the secret of happiness. And if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, find something different. In this respect, Ronnie and Victoria are both inspirational role models. I wish them  success in their quest for fulfilment, away from the sports that have made them famous.