I am sitting looking out of the window on the 7th floor of Tower 42 in the middle of the City of London. From this height it looks almost as peaceful as a garden – only made of rooftops, treetops, some scaffolding and a few cranes. There are fluffy clouds, a hint of blue sky and the horizon is far away.
It’s such a contrast with what you can see when you are at ground level. Some years ago we filmed people coming up one of the escalators at Liverpool Street Station. I will never forget the looks on people’s faces. Just one person was smiling. The rest combined looks of unending boredom, bitterness, sadness and a host of other emotions that were being held in as they went off for another day’s work.
Since then I have watched people’s faces everywhere, especially in the tube and in places where you see lots of people in a very short space of time, for example during rush hour. It is strange to me that, as a society, we are able to build extraordinary buildings, send rockets to explore the planets, create global businesses, run cities and full supermarkets with food on a daily basis, and yet we seem so naive and underskilled in solving the basic problems of people’s everyday lives.
Recently a successful business owner told me that the most stressful time in his life was when he got divorced. He has built a complex business in financial services, created hundreds of millions of pounds of company and personal wealth and handled multi-million pound court cases, all of which should be vastly more challenging than a personal relationship. We have been managing relationships since human history began, whereas the history of modern business is relatively short.
How is it possible that we still know so little about the basics of life – health, relationships, emotions – when we are so sophisticated in other ways?