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Putting the emphasis on the important

September 6th, 2015 5:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

Walt Hampton loves West Cork and its people.

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‘The West Cork lifestyle suits me incredibly well. It surprised me. We discovered West Cork in 2007. Dear friends of mine and my wife Ann, came to us a month before we were married and offered us their holiday home for a week.

‘Ann and I are high-altitude mountaineers, ultra-distance runners, blue-water sailors, we travel and adventure all over the world, and we were starting a business at the time and had given no thought to a honeymoon.

‘So when I said, “Honey, do you want to go on a honeymoon?’ she said “Alright.” And when we landed here, and came to Castletownshend, we immediately felt this deep connection. We spent a week here and, when we left, we literally wept.

‘We begged our friends to allow us to come back for our first anniversary, and then our second anniversary, and our third and fourth. Of course, by then, we had started looking in the auctioneers’ windows and in 2012 we stumbled on a little place on the coast road, high on the hill, overlooking Castletownshend and the sea.

‘We decided to buy it as a holiday home: We were going to come for a couple of weeks in the summer and maybe rent it out. We spent our first three weeks here in April 2013, and we spent that three weeks painting and cleaning and we never wanted to leave.

‘The house is not a traditional cottage, but it sits on an acre of land and has a view that allows us to watch the sun rise out of the sea every morning. It is peaceful and idyllic.

‘We love all of West Cork: we love the people, the connection to the land, we love the lack of pretence: You can be in a room with some of the great artists, or movers and shakers in the world, and never know it. It is a place where people are just happy to be in relationship with others.

‘Now, we spend half the year here, but there is a lot of back and forth to America. We have a home there, in Connecticut, and we do a lot of business all around the States, speaking and corporate training.’

Walt trained as a lawyer and spent 30 years working as a trial attorney, but now his work is as an executive coach, speaker, trainer and writer.

His book ‘Journeys’, which was published in 2011 and is now in its second printing, was an Amazon bestseller, and was named a top ten non-fiction book for 2013 by the Idaho Authors’ and Book Awards. In 2014, it also received a North American book award.

The message of ‘Journeys’ is to live richly, fully, deeply, here, now before the clock runs out.

Walt is 58 years old and says he doesn’t regret a single year he spent as a trial lawyer. It fits with his philosophy: ‘I don’t believe in regret. I don’t think there are any failures, only lessons.’

He does, however, admit that he never really felt deep satisfaction as a trial lawyer, but he loved the intellectual pursuit of law school.

‘What I didn’t like was the adversarial nature of the work. It went against the grain.’

Walt is the son of an Irish Catholic mother; he is a man who spent six years in a seminary but decided against becoming a priest because he liked women; and because his dad was a doctor he turned to medical school until he decided he didn’t like sick people. He jests!

Going to law school became the default option. The transition away from the law was gradual. He discovered that business and life coaching was a more collaborative way of empowering others to live their best lives.

His second book, ‘The Power Principles’ was published in 2014 to give people more practical tools and strategies that would allow them to take control of their lives.

What it comes down to he says, is this: ‘You must devote your time to what you say you value and learn to say no to what doesn’t serve what you value most.

‘Then you become meticulous at planning your days and your weeks so you are living it out in accord with what you value most. Learning to say “no” to the not so good, and the merely good, so that you can say yes and enjoy what you truly value – that is one of the most powerful of all of the time mastery

principles.’

When asked: ‘Are we all going to hell in a hand basket?’ Walt replied: ‘Yes, because we are living in a culture of distraction and overwhelm. We are distracted, or cause ourselves to be distracted, every three minutes of the day.

‘It is impossible to live on purpose in a constant state of distraction.’ So how do you slow it down? Walt said: ‘The hardest thing of all with so much coming at us is learning to say no and focusing on what matters most. We get distracted by the urgent at the expense of the important.’

But how do you stop the distraction? ‘That is a practice. That is a discipline. It is like anything, you do it one step at a time. There are very simple tools that you can use. Multi-tasking, for example, is physiologically impossible. Start by doing one thing well.

‘The great paradox of time mastery is this: we think that by packing more things in we are being more productive. The truth is all we end up doing is wearing ourselves down. Doing fewer things well is the secret to becoming a master of your time.’

Are you happy? ‘Every day: Every moment of the day,’ said Walt. ‘Happiness is a practice too. We can choose to be happy. If you are glum and want to be happy, you must simply choose.’

Walt recommends reading Viktor E Frankl’s book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’, because of its seminal message: ‘The most powerful gift of our humanity is the power to choose how we will be regardless of our circumstances.

‘You can focus on a negative item on the news, or the fact that the sun is shining: The thing is we have the power to direct our thoughts in every moment. But, as Walt continually reminds us: ‘It is a practice.’

When asked if he thinks Irish people suffer from a peculiar type of melancholia, Walt said: ‘I hear people saying that, but I haven’t experienced it. What I find is that Irish people have a particular preoccupation with the weather, but I’m starting to understand that.’ Again, he jests.

If you need to pick a point on which to focus, Walt suggests you ask yourself this: ‘What do you want the outcome to be?’ He said the answer to that question – irrespective of whether it applies to the row you are having with your spouse, teenager or neighbour – gives you a vision of where you want to go.

‘We are often very clear about where we are going to go on our holidays, but less so when it comes to our lives.’

Every Sunday morning, Walt and Ann have what they call ‘our hour of power.’ It is when they sit down together and plan their week ahead and determine what their outcomes are going to be.

‘It works because we are clear: You can’t hit a target you can’t see. Too often many of us complain about getting to the end of the week without having accomplished what matters. But how can you expect to achieve an objective if the objective was never determined at the start?

‘In the bigger picture,’ Walt said: ‘there is so little time to get this time mastery stuff right: The sands of our lives run quickly through the glass.

‘In the end, none of us is going to wish that we had spent more time in the office, billed more hours, accumulated more miles, closed more deals, seen more clients, sold more product, networked more, tweeted more, or updated our Facebook status more frequently.

‘What will matter will be the experiences we have had: The lives that we have touched, the love that we have shared; what will matter will be whether we have fulfilled the deepest longings of our hearts; whether we have spent ourselves not on the urgent but on the important; and whether we have lived without regret.

‘In this beautiful paradise of West Cork, we have the opportunity to do just that.’

• Walt Hampton will be special guest speaker at The Southern Star’s West Fork magazine Business Breakfast 2015 at the West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen, at 7.45am on Friday, September 11th; enquiries to 028-21200.

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