Stop Cheating Yourself

Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too.

Aldous Huxley

Everyone has a good idea or a dream as to the kind of life they want for themselves. The majority of us are wise enough to know that simply desiring something is not enough and that we actually have to work for it. So, we make plans, set small goals and tell ourselves that we will be embarking on a journey of discovery and personal development soon.

We start. It goes well. Very well. The results are evident, our motivation levels are sky-high and we are full of a newfound sense of accomplishment. Then either our progress slows down, or we hit a roadblock. This is natural and only to be expected. It is, however, the way in which people react to this inconvenience that determines whether they will be ultimately successful in the pursuit of our goals. We have all at some stage given in to temptation and cheated on our diet with some fast food. Many of us have missed a workout and spent the day instead in our pyjamas watching movies on Netflix. Your progress has slowed, and you’ve sinned for a day. Now what?! Successful people pick themselves back up  and get back on track. The rest of us, we lie to ourselves and cheat ourselves. We tell ourselves that we will start again when the time is right;

January 1st…Tomorrow…Monday…Next month..

We convince ourselves that we have the best of intentions and we want this. We really want this. We really, really,  really want this but before we start, we just have to prepare ourselves mentally to pursue our goals once more. All we are doing, however, is lying to ourselves. When you are putting the pursuit of your goals off to a later date, you are cheating yourself and selling yourself short. Why not now? Why not put down the tv remote and take a step, no matter how small, that will get you closer to your goals?!

There is a deeper threat here than merely falling short of your potential. Lying to yourself and cheating yourself can have serious implications for your mental health. This is not scaremongering, but something I have been through myself and finally come out the other side, wiser for the experience.

When you lie to yourself, cheat yourself and sell yourself short it is only yourself who you are hurting. Over time, your self-belief and self-confidence erode and you start to lose faith in yourself. You doubt yourself capable of carrying out even the most simple of tasks. This leads to frustration, anger and, potentially, depression. Worse still, when lying to yourself becomes acceptable you become more likely to lie to others too. And nobody likes a liar or an unmotivated, undisciplined layabout.

The best way to prevent the above? Make today the day you start, or re-start, chasing your goals.

Make today the day that the lying stops

Make today the day that you stop giving in and giving up without at least putting up a good fight

Make today the day that you take steps to build your confidence and self-belief, rather than damage them both.

Draw a line under what has gone before, and start afresh. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and misjudgements. Learn from them and move on. When you do this, today‘s date will forever be etched into your memory as the day when everything changed.

We strive and fight hard to keep our promises to others, and maintain our integrity. It’s time now that we keep our promises to ourselves. NO. MATTER. WHAT.

Dream big. Aim high. Fulfill your potential

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, but that it is too low and we reach it

Michelangelo

Demand more of yourself. Put the work in. Push yourself and challenge your limits to discover what you are truly capable of. We were not given the gift of life, making it this far, to now simply stumble along. We are here for a reason and have an untapped well of  potential within us. I say it’s time that we made the most of it.

Reflection, planning and goal setting are things that we should all be doing at regular intervals. Along with reviewing progress, reflecting on experiences and learning and adapting. Sprinkle that with a healthy dose of unglamorous, thankless hard work, and you have the recipe for achievement and success. There is, however, a catch.

The steps above, as with the act of learning itself, are a lifelong process. If you stop setting goals and pursuing them with hunger and determination, you will eventually stagnate. That is why New Year’s Resolutions do not work. Resolutions are made once a year and with no plan  of action. Therefore, when the initial excitement and novelty wears off, resolutions going out of the window for another year.

When you do set goals and take action, make sure that they are your own. Another thing that we see all too often is people watching and wanting to become like the latest social media influencer or celebrity. Be yourself. More importantly, be true to yourself. What I mean by this is that when you set a goal for yourself, it should be to achieve something that you want for yourself. It should be dictated by a desire which burns deep within you and won’t go away.

One of the main reasons people play it safe and don’t push themselves as far as they could, is self-doubt. They pay too much attention to that little negative voice, the one which tells them that they are not smart enough, experienced enough or skilled enough to succeed. If you have started to believe that you are not talented enough, and are letting a perceived lack of talent hold you back, you need to stop and get a grip of yourself. Talent is actually far less important than people assume. It’s hard work and perseverance which really matter.

Success isn’t the same as talent. The world is full of incredibly talented people who never succeed at anything.

Tim Grover

Do yourself a favour and ignore that negative voice. Actually, you can do yourself an even bigger favour, and stop letting negative people dissuade you from chasing big scary goals. When people belittle your ambitions, it’s a reflection of their limitations and not yours. Swap these naysayers for people who believe in you and support your goals.

Surround yourself with those who want you to succeed. people who don’t pursue their own dreams won’t encourage you to pursue yours

Tim Grover

You have nothing to lose by setting ambitious goals and pursuing them. Along the way you will grow and develop, achieving wonderful things and becoming the best version of yourself. That’s not such a bad thing is it?

 

What’s the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?

Grant Cardone

The Fire Within

January. The most wonderfully deluded time of the year. Everyone is keen to share their New Year’s Resolutions with anybody who will listen, and social media is full of every variation of the good old “New Year, New Me” post. Please forgive my cynicism, but come February 1st how many people will still be living their new lifestyle and still be working towards their resolutions? In my 36 years, i’ve made a lifetime’s worth of resolutions only to see them go out of the window not long after. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. People can and do make lasting resolutions and changes, and it’s something that anybody can do. How, I hear you ask…

The answer is simple, the only ones still standing next month and beyond will be those whose motivation is intrinsic. This means that their motivation comes from within. It’s more than just the pursuit of a goal which will earn a reward, it’s their purpose, their reason and their “why”.

For many people, their motivation is extrinsic, or motivated by external sources. This means that they are chasing their goals in the hope of achieving some kind of external reward, be it new clothes which they will treat themselves to if they lose enough weight, a promotion at work or the approval of others, for example.

The problem for those motivated by the hope of some external reward (extrinsic motivation) is that it doesn’t last. It simply cannot last. Sounds harsh, but it is also the truth. I know, because I have had to find this out the hard way over the years.

Externally motivated goals only work in the short-term and the reason is simple. Life is a rollercoaster ride with ups and downs. During the ups, extrinsic motivation works just fine, but it’s during the down times that it falls apart. In pursuit of a goal or resolution, you will undoubtedly encounter tough times and challenges. If your pursuit of the goal is tied to some reward, it is only natural to question, when times get difficult, whether it’s really worth continuing. This is the point at which people start to give up as they determine that the reward is not worth the time, effort or risk required.

When you pursue a goal or resolution which is motivated internally, the results are very different. Intrinsic, or internal, motivation is when you chase a goal for yourself. You’re not after a nice shiny treat. This is when you want something with every ounce of your being. A fire burns inside you for it. It is your purpose, and the reason why are here. It is your first thought in the morning when you wake, and your last before you go to sleep. This is the deciding factor between success or failure in pursuit of your goals, and it really works because it inspires you to keep going even on the most difficult of days, never giving up and never settling.

If you want something badly, deeply or strongly enough, you will do whatever it takes. You won’t just work for it, but you will suffer for it. When the difficult times come, you will persevere through the pain, misery and disappointment until you finally achieve what you set out to. Then, and only then, do you receive the greatest reward of all…the feeling of accomplishment.

Setting goals is the easy part in the quest for a more fulfilled and rewarding life. On the other hand, putting in the time and effort required, and persevering through the tough times, is incredibly difficult.

So, as well as considering what you want to achieve and how you plan to go about it, i’ll leave you with some questions which you may find helpful to reflect upon;

  • How badly do you want this?
  • What/ how much does achieving this goal mean to you?
  • What do you hope to have received in reaching this goal?
  • What are you prepared to do, or give, in order to achieve this goal?
  • What sacrifices are you prepared to make in order to be successful?

 

Whatever your goals, I wish you the very best of luck. May 2018 be your best year yet!!

Book/ Film Review: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Having read the book a while ago, I stumbled across the film on Amazon Prime and decided to give it a go. I am not a fan of the book, at all, and was curious as to whether the film would be any better. No is the short answer. I would urge anyone contemplating this book to save their money. There are countless other titles in the bookstore which are more deserving of your time.

This long-lost secret simply deals with the Law of Attraction, and while there are a few decent parts in both the book and film, the majority of what you will read or absorb is just a mixture of half-truths and bullshit. Here are two of the best examples of bullshit you will come across;

  • The Law of Attraction means that whatever you focus on will come to you.  This is both bullshit and a half-truth, because it over-simplifies the process. There is no mention of the work and effort required to achieve that which you focus on. Nothing about reflection or goal setting. Nothing about overcoming difficulties which you may experience. Instead the audience is given the impression that you can just close your eyes, focus on something and in time it will come to you.
  • Disease can be overcome by positive thinking. This goes beyond bullshit to pure ridiculousness. While there is evidence from medical research of placebos being more effective than some medication in tests, and some stories of people defying medical diagnoses to recover from serious illness or injury, these are the exception. To offer such a broad statement is just plain stupid, and both denigrates and belittles the medical profession. I am particularly angry at this statement because I know from experience that no amount of positive thinking could have saved my life recently, but it was the medical expertise and hard work of a team of doctors and nurses which did.

The film itself is just boring. Its nothing more than a series of people, from authors to physicists offering a series of statements. It all seems very superficial with very little depth or substance, which is the same impression which I got from reading the book.

Fair is fair, however, and if I am going to highlight the negative aspects of both book and film, It’s only right that I mention the good elements too;

  • The Law of Attraction, and visualisation. I know that i’ve highlighted this above as bullshit, but that referred to the way in which it was presented. The Law Of Attraction is the first step on the path to achieving whatever it is that you desire. You determine what it is that you want, but that alone is not enough to make it a reality. There is a process which works for me (see below), which basically involves reflection and hard work. Without these 2 elements, the Law of Attraction is just wishful thinking.
  • The power of a positive mindset. This I really like. A positive mindset improves your mood and just makes you happier. Furthermore, with a positive mindset, you are more likely to be able to recognise and take advantage of opportunities for personal or professional progression which may come your way. This is due, in part, to the fact that a positive mindset increases your self-belief and gives you the confidence that you can succeed.
  • Gratitude. Important in helping to develop a positive mindset, gratitude is something we should all practice. In a society which tells us that we should always crave more, gratitude helps put things in perspective as we remind ourselves of everything we have in our lives which we appreciate. Practice gratitude and see your mood and mindset change for the better.
  • “Whatever you’re thinking and feeling today is creating your future”. In other words, we control the direction which our lives take. Our thoughts and feelings determine our choices and actions which in turn dictate the path we take.

The truth is that there is no secret to success, even though this book and countless others will try to convince you otherwise. I wouldn’t take the authors at the word, though, as self-help and personal development books are big business. From experience, and from what I know, in order to be successful, it could help to follow the below and adopt that which you may find relevant;

  • Reflection. Before you get started, you need to figure out who you are, what you want from life, your strengths and weaknesses, and the resources at your disposal.
  • Goal Setting. Once you are clear on what you want from life, the next step would be to define the goals or steps which will get you there. Break them down into small goals, because this will help keep you motivated as you achieve them in turn.
  • Action. Now that you know what you want and how you will be going about it, take action. If you don’t, your goals will remain nothing more than a daydream. The things you want will not come to you. You have to work for them.
  • Reflection, pt 2. Having started to work towards your goals, you will need to reflect some more. Reflect on what you have learned from your small victories, and also what you have learned from overcoming any problems experienced.
  • Next! As you meet your goals, don’t spend too much time congratulating yourself, but keep the momentum going. Move on to your next goal, or if you have accomplished what you set out to achieve, return to the first step for some reflection before setting new goals.

There are some good bits in both book and film, but not enough to justify spending any time or money on either. This, of course is just my opinion and if you disagree, I would love to hear from you and discuss this further.

Mistakes and Imperfections

All experts, leaders and gurus were once beginners. Like everyone else, they had to start from somewhere, and undoubtedly made mistakes. It would be fair to say that many of them would’ve been far from perfect right away, but they persevered and learned from their mistakes. They acted on what they learned, increased their knowledge and sharpened their skills, eventually achieving the successes for which they are known today

The same, then should be true for us. We should have the courage to take action in the pursuit of our goals. If mistakes are made, they should be seen for what they are; proof that we are trying to improve our lives and also an opportunity for learning. Lessons could then be learned, if we reflect on our mistakes instead of shying away from them, allowing us to move forward wiser and stronger.

Should…Could….

There is, however, a problem. Too many people want to wait for the right time or perfect circumstances before they take action. They wait and wait for a golden opportunity to present itself, but miss out on so much while they wait. Even when they finally summon the courage to act, they lose heart at the first sign of trouble.

The problem lies in our obsession with perfection, to the point that it seriously hinders our progress. We fear that if we fail to attain perfection, we will be ridiculed by others. We will be seen as incompetent, a fraud or an impostor. Our mistakes are, therefore, not learning opportunities to be embraced but rather sources of embarrassment to be covered up. Perfection, however, doesn’t really exist. It’s a myth.

Despite its bad reputation and negative associations, imperfections are actually very good. They show that we are only human, and that like everybody else we also make mistakes. This makes us more likeable and can help us to connect with others, increasin the size of our networks.  Imperfections, more importantly,  provide a learning opportunity which can lead to greater self-awareness.

It’s perfectly acceptable not to have all of the answers right away. Just as its ok to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. When you find yourself in this situation, here are a few suggestions as to how you can move forward;

  • Re-evaluate the situation and your goals. Where do you find yourself right now? How can you move forward? What led to this mistake? What lessons can be learned?
  • Seek help. If you’ve identified a gap in your knowledge or skills, seek help from a friend, a mentor or a coach.
  • Be patient. While you seek to address one area in which a learning need has been identified, do not put everything else on hold. Continue to push yourself, ask questions and pay it forward by helping others.

Life is a journey of continuous discovery, learning, development and growth, after all.

The secrets for a successful life

If you’ve been reading some of my previous posts, you will know that I don’t believe there to be any real secrets when it comes to success. Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of motivational speakers and gurus who claim to have all the answers if you sign up for their programmes, but I respectfully disagree. That is not to take away anything away from or discredit their work, though. The work which they do, and businesses which they run, help countless people take control of their lives and futures. The problem is that success itself is very personal and therefore difficult to boil down to a general set of rules and guidelines.

The definition of success, and what it means to live a fulfilled life, varies from one person to the next. This is because each of us has different dreams, goals and priorities. One person’s idea of success might involve having multiple houses, expensive cars and financial independence. For another person, success may be centered around spiritual development. For this reason, if you are to seek help on your journey, you should seriously consider working individually with a coach or mentor on a personalised programme to help you reach your goals.

Before you seek the help or professional services of others, though, here are a few things which could help you. In and of themselves, they may not bring you success and fulfillment, but they can certainly help to lay the foundations upon which you can build later.

  • Practice self-reflection. This will help you to better understand your dreams, purpose, strengths and weaknesses. You will gain a clearer idea of the direction which you would like your life to take, the goals to be accomplished along the way and how to meet the potential obstacles and challenges which you will undoubtedly face.
  • Practice gratitude. When you learn to identify and focus on what you have to be appreciative of, magical things happen. Expressing gratitude, whether publicly or in a private journal, improves your mood. Your mindset becomes positive and optimistic which in turn attracts positivity, but it also gives you the confidence and mental strength to keep going even when times become tricky.
  • Embrace life-long learning. Life is a journey of discovery so it makes sense to remain inquisitive. In order to keep moving forward, keep reflecting and learning. Reflection will identify areas for improvement, which you can address through learning. As you learn, your mind develops and grows through new experiences or knowledge gained. This means that you will be become better able to meet challenges in the future because of your new knowledge or experiences. Furthermore, it will also open up your mind to new possibilities.
  • Take care of your wellbeing. We have long been told that a healthy mind needs a healthy body in which to exist, which stands to reason, so we need to look after our physical health. This doesn’t mean that we should live in the gym, but there is a lot we can do to help ourselves, from getting enough sleep to trying to ensure that we eat foods which will provide us with the right nutrients. And of course, it helps to become more active. Just as important, though, is our mental health, which can be greatly helped if we surround ourselves with people who inspire us and challenge us to grow.
  • Pay it forward (wherever possible). We all have our own strengths and talents, and it would be a shame if we kept these hidden from the world simply through self-doubt. In sharing your gift, you can not only help and inspire others to follow their own dreams and passions, but you might also get some constructive feedback which could help you in your own development.

Experimenting with the above suggestions can help to lay the foundations upon which you can build a successful life by helping you to adopt a growth mindset.  This list, however, is far from exhaustive, and I would love to hear from you if you have anything further to add.

Coaching and Mentoring

Everyone we meet, whoever they may be, has something valuable to teach us. IF we are prepared to listen. It really all comes down to your attitude and desire, and whether you really want to live a healthy, happy and productive life. When your attitude is positive and receptive, you will notice how people quickly become more willing to to help you. Positivity attracts positivity after all.

This isn’t an easy thing to do, as you will first need to set your ego aside. Before you can accept any advice or guidance from another, you must accept that you don’t know everything and that there is a lot which you can learn from others. This is often best done through coaching and mentoring, but not always. It could just come from a simple conversation with someone you just met. Coaching and mentoring, however, are essentially more structured processes of learning from the experiences of other people, and applying that knowledge to your own situation. That new knowledge can help you to address any shortcomings you may have identified as you strive towards your goals. In order to be coachable though, you must be humble and receptive.

To really benefit from the guidance and advice of others, you first need to abandon the belief that you are always right, and accept that others may have a lot to offer. Ditch the ego. Moreover, you need to realise that seeking coaching, mentoring or help from others, is not a sign of weakness. Seeking help in the pursuit of your goals shows that you have been reflecting honestly on your strengths and weaknesses. It also shows that you have the strength, courage and self-awareness to address any shortcomings which might be slowing down your progress.

Your chances of really benefiting from coaching or mentoring in addressing your areas for improvement will be helped if you heed the following points;

  • Be ready and willing to do whatever it takes (within reason) to take a step closer towards your goals.
  • Be humble and accept that you do not know everything. Understand that other people have the potential to share valuable advice if you give them the opportunity.
  • Listen to feedback and constructive criticism, without regarding it as a personal insult or attack.
  • At regular intervals, reflect on your strengths, weaknesses and progress so far. This will help you to re-evaluate or replace your goals, or identify areas with which you need support in order to move forward.
  • Research. Once you have identified the areas with which you need help, visit your local library to see what books they have to offer, or go online to seek the information or blogs on your chosen topic which are freely available.
  • Not all coaching and mentoring opportunities are free, though, so if necessary, be prepared to invest a small amount of your monthly wage in the right programmes, books or seminars which could help you in pursuit of your goals.

There is a wealth of information online and in our libraries if we look carefully, but sometimes we need a little more guidance or support. This is where coaching and mentoring, whether formal or informal, can really make a difference. In order to get the most from a coach or mentor, though, we must first prepare ourselves as best we can. And leave our egos at home.

In short; talk less, listen more and keep working hard on yourself.

Complacency

Having recently looked at regret, and how it can either be a negative emotional state or a force for good, I would like to explore one of its main causes; complacency. In life, we often reach a certain level only to become comfortable, shift our priorities, develop a routine or just settle. In doing so, we lose some of our drive and stop chasing our goals with much purpose. Most worrying of all, though, complacency blinds us to many of the opportunities which present themselves to us. These could be opportunities, which with some work, have the potential to further improve our lives. However, we often don’t realise this until it is too late and the opportunity has long since passed.

Our minds, if we fully take advantage of them, are incredibly powerful. In the animal kingdom, doing everything they can to the best of their ability is a matter of life and death for many creatures. If they want to survive, then lions must become expert hunters, just as monkeys must become expert climbers and always alert. Humans, however have a choice. We actually choose, whether consciously or not, to do less than our best.

Every single person has the ability to choose their own destiny and to actually make it a reality. This is why some people, despite the most difficult of upbringings, achieve incredible success while others from privileged backgrounds falter and fall short of their dreams and ambitions. What is the difference, and why does one group soar, while other stumbles or falls flat on its face?

Much of this is tied to our mental and emotional strength. Anytime we pursue our goals, we will likely face challenges along the way. The bigger the goal, the bigger the challenges. It is our reaction to the challenges that we face which determines our success. The brain considers change to be a threat to the status quo, therefore we often become resistant to it or find ways to avoid it. Humans love to walk the path of least resistance. At crucial moments, we doubt ourselves and lack confidence. We give up too easily after a setback. Or we settle when we reach a certain point, for fear that the challenges which we will face as we try to strive for our next goal will be too big and beyond our abilities to overcome.

Challenges, as I have said before, are wonderful things. They are an important ingredient for success because they can teach us so much if we pay attention. We can gain knowledge, learn new skills or improve our abilities in a certain area as we strive to overcome them. Facing fears, challenges and obstacles which arise on your journey towards success also builds character. Or, if your prefer, you can avoid them and just remain comfortable while not exerting yourself. You are unlikely to achieve much with that attitude and approach though.

Settle for less or relentlessly go after your goals. One of these leads to a fulfilling life, the other to regret. The choice is yours, so choose wisely..

Pay It Forward

At some point in our lives, someone gave us a chance when nobody else would. We received a random act of kindness and nothing was asked in return. Somebody believed in us, and helped us. Maybe we were offered a job despite lacking experience. Perhaps we were caught doing something we shouldn’t have, but were given a second chance. Whatever form it may have taken, if we think hard enough, we can all bring to mind at least one instance in which somebody saw enough in us that they were prepared to take a gamble.

In times gone by, helping others was a more common practice but somewhere along the way we seem to have become a bit more selfish. Today, people are becoming increasingly driven by self-interest and self-promotion, and ignorant of the world around them. Self confidence is good, and we do need to work on ourselves before we can help others BUT it’s the last part that we are forgetting. We are focusing on ourselves and forgetting that our experiences and knowledge can be a source of help for someone else. Social media posts increasingly seem to revolve around somebody’s latest luxury purchase or their luxurious lifestyle. While we should absolutely share what makes us happy and motivates us, I feel that there is an opportunity being wasted. Rather than your latest watch, why not share some of your knowledge or experience so that you might inspire and motivate others? Share what you have learned on your journey and how you have developed along the way. Or give a glimpse of what life is really like, when the cameras are off, for an entrepreneur, writer, actor, artist…

What I am asking, is for you to pay it forward. Take that kindness, belief, trust or opportunity which you benefited from, and use it to help somebody else who has no real way of returning the favour. Inspire them, in turn, to pay it forward themselves when the opportunity presents itself. In this way, we have something of a virtuous cycle, in which we help others through random acts of kindness and they then do the same for someone else. This is applicable in all areas of life, from business to personal relationships and has the potential to be a huge force for good.

Let’s return to the social media example for a moment. Even if there is a social media strategy in place, and the self-promotion is helping to grow your account and increase your influence, you can still pay it forward. Even if you only devote one Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat post to helping others, it has the potential to be seen by, and inspire, millions of people around the world. This inspirational or informative post might help someone in Australia find the strength to over come a challenge they are facing. It might provide the spark for someone in India who dreams of launching their own business. It might give strength to someone in England who is trying to overcome issues with their self confidence. With the help of the internet, your act of kindness can help people all over the world in a multitude of ways. As a happy coincidence, the more awareness that spreads of what you have posted, it could even serve to enhance your online presence and reputation. Rather than compete with others in showing the world how great you are and what you have, stand out from the crowd and share instead some of your wisdom.

It’s not just online that we can pay it forward. You might be interviewing a candidate who doesn’t quite tick all of the boxes, but if they interview well perhaps you might give them a chance to prove themselves. You might have a friend who is launching a business and would welcome your support. When the opportunity presents itself, however it presents itself, please take it. As well as good art, music and literature, the world needs us to be more considerate towards, and supportive of, each other. Help someone who just needs a chance, and in the future they may be the one helping you.

The untapped potential of your morning commute

For many people, the morning commute is something to be dreaded, whether it involves getting the bus, train, driving or walking. It’s regarded as nothing more than a necessary evil, which gets them to their workplace so that they can earn a living. Does it really have to be that way though?!

It’s easy to understand why this one particular journey, in the morning, is a source of stress for so many people. You wake up, wash, get dressed, have a quick breakfast and then leave the house to head for work. As you leave the house, you put on a pair of blinkers, which provides a dose of tunnel vision for your journey. You then either get in the car and fight the slow-moving traffic all the way to work, or find yourself fighting the crowds of fellow commuters to get on a train or bus. All that then happens is that you arrive at your place of work bored, tired, angry, annoyed, a bit flustered or just in a daze. None of this will set you up for a productive day.

Maybe i’m wired differently, but I enjoy commuting. For me it presents the perfect opportunity to get the day off to a positive start. In total I spend 3 hours every weekday getting to and from work, and I enjoy it because I make the most of the time spent travelling. I love to watch people and observe their behaviour, and it never ceases to amaze me how much time we waste. I see a lot of people listening to music, playing games on their phones, watching a film or just napping. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this. Not at all. But what if, instead of playing games or absentmindedly leafing through a newspaper, we chose to fight boredom by doing something a little more productive during our commute?

We have become so accustomed to leading fast-paced lives that we feel anxious whenever we have to slow down. The commute is seen almost like a race to work. We rush around to get ready, then rush to the car or station and then try to get to our destination as quickly as possible. Every day, without fail, I see people start checking their watches or nervously tapping their feet on the floor as soon as the train leaves the station. It’s almost as though they believe that their nervous energy can help the train to go faster.

I strongly believe that the morning commute to work is the ideal opportunity to get your day off to a good start. I love to read, and will spend the majority of my travelling time with my head in a book. Not only does this mean that I spend this time learning about a topic which I am interested in, but I arrive at the office more relaxed, more focused and with my brain wide awake and contemplating what I have just read. I don’t need time to adjust or get myself ready for the day ahead. I just make a coffee and then get started. Reading on the train really works well for me. Alongside the knowledge which I gain or the enjoyment which I experience, I also become immune to the many irritations that come with being in a confined space with lots of people. I don’t care if I get bumped, nudged or someone is talking loudly. I am focused on the book in my hand, so much so that even on the worst of days when delays and other irritations come all at once, I still arrive at work calm and happy.

If you don’t read, or drive a car so you can’t read, what then?! Modern technology has blessed us with audiobooks and podcasts on almost any topic you can think of. Pick one, and enjoy a dose of knowledge or escapism. Try to either read a book or listen to a podcast/ audiobook, for a week. Monitor your moods and how you start your day when you get to work during that time. Has it helped in any way?

As I said earlier, we tend to go about the majority of our days with tunnel vision, focused solely on what we are doing or where we are going. In doing this, we miss so much of the beauty of daily life, not to mention the opportunities it presents for happiness and enjoyment. Reading a book or listening to an audiobook focuses the mind. We are no longer fighting tiredness or daydreaming, because we have to be present in the moment in order to understand and make sense of what we are reading or listening to. As a result we turn off autopilot mode, and become more aware of what is happening around us, becoming more conscious and less ignorant of the people around us.

We spend so much time reviewing our daily routines and planning how to improve them as we chase our goals, but we overlook the greatest opportunity of all. The time we spend commuting not only presents us with an ideal opportunity to focus our minds, learn and develop but also ensures that we arrive at work motivated and ready for the day ahead. As you put your daily life under the microscope and look at how you can make improvements, take a good look at your commute and how you can harness its potential How can you use that time to make progress towards your goals?

 

You already have the answers…

..so stop making excuses for not taking action. Stop doubting your knowledge, ability or skills. Stop playing it safe, for fear of failure. Take action. What is the worst that can happen? You stumble and fall short of your goals? If that does happen, learn from the experience and get back to work.

You already have the answers to many of your questions. You also know what you have to do, and even know how to do it. For those questions which you can’t answer yourself immediately, a quick internet search could help. The real obstacle here is not a lack of knowledge or ability, but a crippling fear. You are being held back from leaving your comfort zone and fulfilling your potential because fear is leading you to doubt yourself.

While I do believe in mentoring and coaching, I also believe that they come much later in the personal development process. First, listen to yourself before you seek counsel from anybody else. In my own experience, the following process has really helped;

  • Quieten your mind. Whether it’s a quiet room in your house, or a walk in the forest, go there and get away from the fast pace of daily life. Now, you can clear and quieten your mind.
  • Reflection and goal-setting. You can’t discuss personal development without mentioning reflection and goal-setting. Both are crucial, as this is where you identify your strengths, skills and abilities as well as your weaknesses and areas for improvement. You define what success looks like to you and set goals which can get you there.
  • Research. Having identified gaps in your knowledge, search online and read books to help find the answers you seek.
  • Trust your instincts. Now is the time to act. No excuses or waiting for the perfect opportunity or time. Trust your instincts and listen to your inner voice. What are they telling you? Just put the work in to get yourself closer to your goals.
  • Checkpoints. At regular intervals, reflect on your progress so far. What have you learned? Every experience, even a bad one can offer us a valuable opportunity to learn and grow. Learn, adapt and then get back to work. If you have hit a wall on your journey and can see no clear way forward, this is the perfect time to seek a coach or a mentor whose fresh perspective can make all the difference to your progress.

Stop telling yourself that you don’t have the answers or know what to do. In looking everywhere for answers, you are just procrastinating and wasting time. Quiet your mind, reflect and the answers will come to you.

If you are ever in doubt as to how much you already know, ask yourself what advice you would give to someone else if they were in your situation. This simple act of taking a step back and looking at a problem from a different perspective, could be all you need.

You have a choice; Are you going to trust your instincts and act in order to take a step towards your goals and dreams? OR are you going to play it safe while you procrastinate and search for  more answers?

 

 

Know your worth..

..and the value you bring to the world. People only respect us to the extent that we value and respect ourselves, and this applies to all areas of our lives from our personal relationships to our businesses. 

When we lack confidence and self-awareness, this is reflected in our body language and interactions with others. We then get treated accordingly. The negative behaviour of others towards us affects our confidence further, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Furthermore, there will be unscrupulous and manipulative individuals who will be looking to take advantage of a weakness which they perceive in us. This is why knowing our worth and having a healthy amount of self respect is so important, as it provides an effective defense mechanism against these situations and circumstances. 

If, however, we think and behave as though we are confident and know our worth, people will behave more positively towards us. “Faking it” has its limits though. If we really want to live the lives of our dreams, we need to work on becoming more confident, more self-aware and having more self-respect. In order to achieve our goals and taste success, we need to know our worth, our strengths and the value which we bring. Then we need to let the world know about who we are and what we can offer. 

How can this be done?

  • Reflect, then take action. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Determine where your passions lie, and define what success looks like to you. Set goals, make a plan of action, and get to work. As you make progress towards your goals, you will become more confident and more aware of your worth which will show in your behaviour and speech.
  • Learn a new skill. As you master a new skill, your confidence will grow. Furthermore, as you master new skills, you become better equipped to provide value to the world around you.
  • Invest in yourself. Read books, attend training courses or go to conferences. However you do it, invest some of your time and money in your personal development.

As you reflect on yourself and identify your strengths, as you learn new skills and take steps towards your goals, your confidence will grow. In turn, there will be a positive shift in your behaviour and how you carry yourself. In turn, people will respond to you in a far more positive manner and you will find more opportunities presenting themselves to live a more fulfilling life.

Hustle

“Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you”

Mark Cuban

You have the power within you to go from good to great. Don’t wait for a spark of inspiration to motivate you. Don’t wait for the offer of a reward. Don’t wait for a push. Don’t settle when you become good, but use that as a springboard to greatness. Even when you think you have achieved everything, keep going and be relentless in your pursuit of greatness. What am I talking about? Allow me to set the scene and put it into a business context…

So, you’ve carried out your research, set your goals, planned and put in the hard work. It’s been a bumpy road, but you have reflected and learned on your experiences and, as a result, have continued to adapt and grow. Now, comes the most challenging point of all. Your effort and dedication is starting to pay off and you are tasting sweet success in your chosen arena. What do you do next?

The temptation is to take a holiday or treat yourself to a shopping spree in Harrods. Or maybe just to take some time off to recharge your batteries. Appealing as each of those options may be, they could do more harm than good to your progress and stall the success of that which you have created.

As your strategy and hard work pay off, things start moving in the right direction. This isn’t the end point, but rather the perfect opportunity to create some real progress. Don’t leave it to chance, but work for it like you have never worked before. Rather than taking a step back to savour your success, build on what you have created. In getting attention and successfully launching your venture, you have opened a door and taken the first step. Now is the time to build forward momentum. Keep growing and developing your business, until you reach a point where you have enough market share that you can’t be unseated or replaced by a competitor. This will take different forms for different people but there are some general steps which anybody could benefit from;

  • Re-evaluate your situation. On a personal level, reflect on where you are at the moment and where you would like to get to. Identify your strengths and areas for improvement. Update your goals and how you plan to achieve them. Now, with a renewed focus, carry out exactly the same audit for your business.
  • Spread the word. With the knowledge that you have a successful product or service, and a clear idea of the direction in which you want it to go, make sure people know about it. Network. Get out there and meet people. If you don’t have one already, think also about a marketing and social media strategy. How will you be engaging with people? Which social media outlets will you be using? Will you be using influencers to increase awareness?
  • Hustle. Do that which brought you success in the first place; work hard with passion and determination. Of course, the goalposts have moved and your business is in a better position but if you want to remain successful and build on what you have created, you need to keep working at it. Keep pushing forward, be bold and take calculated risks. Take note of what works well so that you can do more of it, and learn from bad experiences so that they won’t be repeated.

Originality

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing”

Salvador Dali

Give credit where it’s due. All too often, our ego won’t allow us to acknowledge our influences and sources of inspiration, for fear of being ridiculed as an impostor and a copycat. After all, everyone wants to be seen as unique and recognised for an original talent, ability or skill. What we fail to acknowledge is that much of what we believe, know and understand about the world in which we live, comes from schools, books, magazines, films and any other medium through which we have consumed information. We read, watch or listen and absorb that which we believe and agree with. If something doesn’t ring true or we can’t fully grasp it, we either explore it further or just reject it altogether. But where did all this information, which is so readily available to us, come from?

The truth is that much of what we consider today to be conventional wisdom has its roots in Ancient Greek or Eastern philosophy. Over the centuries, this has been challenged, revised, rewritten and updated as our knowledge in areas such as science, technology and medicine have evolved. Humans are naturally curious. This has led us to question and challenge any pre-conceived ideas which we may have, and explore their relevance and validity. This research has, in turn, led to the increase in knowledge and understanding, fuelling innovation and leading us to update what we know to be true about the world. Without the reflections or research of scientists, philosophers and great minds in years gone past, would we really have learned and progressed as far as we have? Have we truly innovated, or have we built on the foundations which we inherited?

The same is as true for art, music and literature as it is for business, science, technology or medicine. Much of what is produced today for our appreciation and consumption has its roots in the work of the true pioneers who came centuries before. They inspire us to challenge what is possible. Many of those who came before us, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, offered us their blueprint for the future. While he was alive it existed in his mind but survived him in his work. In exploring this work, much of what he envisioned has actually become a reality because modern technology and techniques were used to challenge the validity of centuries-old thinking.

“What is now proved was once only imagined”

William Blake

Don’t be so caught up in trying to be a modern day pioneer that you fail to acknowledge the wealth of wisdom which we have available to us through the efforts of those who came before us. Much of what we know to be true today, was hinted at or touched upon centuries ago. It only became a reality when it was explored further using modern knowledge, techniques and skills. Wherever applicable, acknowledge your influences. It could be that your work inspires others to explore the source of your inspiration. In turn this can lead to greater knowledge creation, technological or scientific advances or even a new creative movement being formed. Either way, as well as your own work, share that which has inspired you so that it might awaken something special in someone else. You are not, after all, as unique as you believe yourself to be. Which is a good thing.

I think Mark Twain said it best;

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages”

The world doesn’t owe you a thing.

All too often, we encounter people with a sense of entitlement and a chip on their shoulder. They feel that success is owed to them, and that they should have it all. When success, fame and fortune fail to fall in their lap they don’t make any effort to chase that which they want, but simply become angrier, more resentful and more bitter. Today, I am asking you, please, not to be that person.

Being confident and aware of your strengths and weaknesses is a good thing, but as with all good things it is important to practice moderation. In this instance, without moderation, the ego takes over. People then overestimate their worth and the value which they bring to the world, which in turn breeds entitlement. They feel that they deserve more than what they currently have and, eventually, the world will realise this and give it to them.

The truth is that you are not owed anything and you can’t have it all. We get that which we work for and earn, no more and no less. So, if you want more from life, whatever it may be, work for it. Some people are fortunate enough to have opportunities handed to them wrapped in a bow, but I prefer to work for what I have. If nothing else, the experience itself of striving for something is itself a valuable teacher. Furthermore, when I work hard for something, I find that I appreciate it an awful lot more.

With the power of the internet, we all have access to the same tools and information which will help us on our journey towards success and achievement. The potential to earn everything which we want is within us all, and the playing field is more level now than ever before. So, why doesn’t everyone have everything which their heart desires ?! Simply put, your desire has to be matched with a will to succeed and a determination to work as hard as it takes earn whatever it is that you want.

 

Profiting from your passion

Turn what you love into a successful business, and quit your 9-5 job!! This is the new dream which we are being sold. It’s everywhere we look from magazine articles to social media. Is it really possible, or just too good to be true? I am not about to try and find fault with this proposition, but rather urge caution. So yes, I do think it’s possible, but you need to be smart about it.

We read and hear of plenty of success stories in which people have turned a hobby or passion into a very successful and profitable business. They subsequently quit their jobs and are now wealthy entrepreneurs. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who gave up everything to pursue their dream only to be brought back to Earth with a vicious bump. Countless people are staking everything on their passion project and losing badly. This begs the question, as to why there are such extremes.

Having helped a number of people launch small business over the years, I would like to share a few pointers on what I have learned. I’ve said it before, the world needs more beauty and positivity, so we should create art and music, or launch businesses which will bring value to people and brighten their lives. However, too many people are rushing in to their new ventures blindly and leaving too much to chance, and it is this which. I would urge against

Your passion must be mixed with practicality. You must also be realistic about your expectations. Yes, you dream that you will take what you love and turn it into a very successful business. You can envision it. You can reach out and touch it. You can taste it and smell it BUT in order for it to go from dream to reality, there will be a lot of hard work involved. Your passion needs to be mixed with a strong work ethic, a well thought-out plan, a strategy of how you it will unfold, resilience and an incredible amount of hard work.

If you are serious about profiting from your passion and turning it into a viable business, there are a few things to bear in mind;

  • Research and Plan. You need a well-researched plan. Look at the market and who you might be competing with. Look at consumer trends and research the forecasts for the future within your chosen market or industry.  Use this information to plan wisely for the future.
  • Be financially savvy. Save enough money, or secure enough funding before you take your first step. It is a hard fact that many business run at a loss in their first year. This is because it takes time to establish yourself and build a customer base. Naturally, there are exceptions, but I would strongly recommend that you plan for this outcome. Plan for the best and work to make it happen, but have enough money in the bank to support yourself if it takes longer than expected for success to come. The last thing you want is to have to abandon your business and take a full-time job to pay the mortgage and bills. Worse still, you might keep your business only to be maintained by funding from an investor who pushes you to compromise your values. Give yourself a financial safety net, and remove one of the big pressures when starting a business.
  • Determine your strategy. You have a plan, a financial safety net and the drive to succeed. Next step? Work out how you will go about launching your business. Who is your audience? How will you grab their attention? What is your story? What value will you offer them? What is your marketing plan? How will you promote your business?
  • Hard work. You are now clear on what you want to do and how you will go about it. Now, just put the work in. Give it your full focus and attention and put in the relentless work. Take advantage of any networking opportunities and use social media to raise awareness of your brand. As you work, though, you must also reflect on your journey. Learn from the positives and negatives and use this knowledge to adapt and grow. This is a fluid process, and as you work towards making your business a success you need to keep learning and adapting. You need to have a plan and execute on it, but you also need to be able to respond quickly to any challenges or expand on what is working well.
  • Perseverance and resilience. There will be bumps in the road, challenges and rejections. This is unavoidable. The key is to keep going. When disaster strikes, reflect on it and see what you can learn from the experience. Learn from it and then get yourself back on track, stronger and more determined than before.

Having witnessed the struggles of people as they launched their new ventures, I would ask you to please reflect on the above so that you can avoid the same challenges. Research thoroughly, plan well, develop an effective strategy and go for it. Give it your full focus and attention, but don’t forget to take advantage of any learning opportunities on your journey and use them to adapt and grow. If the entrepreneurial route is the one for you, I wish you the very best and pray for your success.

“No” is not a dirty word. Embrace it.

Wherever we look, there is a battle going on for our attention. It’s big business. There is a whole array of books, seminars and programmes devoted to it, because attention is priceless. Once someone is granted your attention, they can use their sales and marketing techniques to try and manipulate you into buying something you don’t want, or doing something you don’t want to.

Most of the time we don’t realise that we are being manipulated into doing another’s bidding . Even when we do, it’s only after the event, or because we feel unable to decline or picture any alternative and therefore just go along with it. The downside to all of this is that time, focus and energy is taken away from our own lives. We stop doing whats important to us. Our progress slows and our relationships become strained, all because somebody else convinced us that their need was all that mattered. This is why we should start saying no, and stop putting the wants and needs of others before our own. Of course, there must be give and take in life but we need to be careful of just how much of ourselves, our time and our energy we give.

If it sounds a little selfish, that’s because we sometimes have to be. In this case, putting yourself, and those you care about the most, first is absolutely necessary if you want to be happy. If you handle the situation respectfully and with tact, people will respect your decision to say no. What form this “no”  takes will differ from person to person. For me, I prioritise my own journey and the goals which I am working towards, alongside spending quality time with my family. As such, I say no to things which can divert my energy and attention away from what is important to me, such as resisting the temptation to check work emails at home. When you say no to things which you don’t want to do, strange things happen, such as an increase in productivity. You find yourself getting fewer requests, and having more time to do what makes you happy. Most significant of all, though, you get to focus on what’s important to you. Your confidence also gets a healthy boost as you take back control of your life and stop being led by others.

The more you try to help others  and accommodate their wishes, the more they will ask of you. However, if you say no to whatever you don’t feel to be a good use of your time, people will soon get the message and leave you in peace. Say no, and watch as your happiness, time, confidence and productivity all get a healthy boost

Perspective

Too often, people unwittingly sabotage their own success and fall short of their goals. They fail to fulfill their potential, but the problem is that most don’t even recognise that they are doing it. This is because the cause is not openly visible for them to see. The sabotage comes from somewhere internal and hidden from sight; the mind. Your own worst enemy can often be found in the space between your ears.

The mind is as wonderful as it it complex. In good times, its positive voice can keep up the momentum and keep us motivated and inspired. It can identify opportunities for more success, or just identify things which we should be grateful for. In short, when times are good, our mind instills in us a positive outlook and we become happier and more determined to do well. This has the ability to attract more positivity and good results into our lives. Today I would like to focus, however, on the negative voice which can sometimes take over and bring our progress to a screeching halt.

When things are not going so well, though, our mind can also work against us. We find ourselves almost paralysed by fear or insecurity, being held back by thoughts of what others will say or do. We also tend to dwell on our misfortunes, or get so accustomed to a certain lifestyle that we are filled with terror at the thought of losing it.

The difference between these 2 scenarios is perspective, and the ability to take a step back and look at the overall situation, not just the snapshot in which we find ourselves. Whether times are good or bad, we should still be reflecting on our journeys. This helps us to keep everything in perspective. In times of success, maintaining a sense of perspective is what keeps us focused and motivated, but also humble. We realise that, in order to maintain our momentum and stay ahead of our competition, we need to keep learning from our experiences, putting in the work and taking steps forward.

In bad times, a sense of perspective is what can help us to turn the situation around. Again, you need to reflect on your current situation and identify opportunities for learning. Ask yourself where it went wrong and what you could’ve done better. Identify areas of weaknesses which need attention, and areas of strength which need to be taken advantage of. Use this reflection as an opportunity to learn, but also as a chance to rediscover your hunger, motivation and passion. This is how you put a setback into perspective, by using it as a chance to learn and bounce back wiser and hungrier to succeed.

Focus on the important aspects, such as your journey and progress, and not on things which you can’t control, from the approval of others to the lifestyle you wish you had. This is how you will develop the ability to put situations into perspective, and stop a bump in the road from totally bringing your progress to a halt.

 

The good thing about bad decisions…

..is that they can provide a valuable learning opportunity. IF you heed their lessons, that is. As with failure in general, bad decisions should be regarded as a necessary inconvenience which have in them the power for good. This is all on one condition though, that you not only learn from these mistakes but also put that learning into practice so that it doesn’t happen again.

Hence the importance on reflecting on your journey, and the direction in which you are headed. When you have a positive outcome, reflect on the decisions, actions and behaviours which led to the successful result. This will allow you to identify which aspects of the decision making process and behaviours to continue, or seek to improve, in order to prolong success. On the other hand, reflecting on what may have led to a negative outcome is just as valuable. It highlights flaws in the decision-making process and behaviours which can be avoided in the future. Rather than just blaming everything on bad luck, ask yourself if there was anything you could’ve done differently; are there resources at your disposal which you could’ve used to achieve a more favourable outcome? Could you have devoted more time, attention or effort? Are there warning signs which were missed?

Reflection is not easy, especially after a negative outcome, but the benefit is immense. When you are able to identify areas for improvement in your decision-making process, and address them, you develop a more proactive approach to life. Life is no longer something which just happens to you, and to which you react. You have, to a certain extent, ownership over your future and no longer leave everything to chance. In turn, you become resilient and feel in control of your destiny. You also feel better able to deal with life’s ups and downs.

Self-awareness also increases as a result of reflection. You become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears. Not only that, but with time and effort, alongside the ability to identify decisions which were good or bad, you also come to understand what drove you to make those decisions. This stops your ego from driving you to continue chasing losses or making bad decisions.

Improving your decision-making process is as important in business as it is in our personal development. Don’t just take my word for it though;

Part of making good decisions in business is recognizing the poor decisions you’ve made and why they were poor. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’m going to make more. It’s the name of the game. You don’t want to expect perfection in yourself. You want to strive to do your best. It’s too demanding to expect perfection in yourself

Warren Buffett

Love your haters.

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”

Winston Churchill

Haters. Doubters. Naysayers. Critics. We all have them. Most have good intentions and mean well; just family and friends urging caution as we chase our big goals and dreams. They urge us to be realistic, play it safe and think smaller. They do it because they care, though. They want to see us succeeding and doing well, but fear that we might overreach and fail. It comes from a good place and they mean well, but it’s also a reflection of their own limitations. Perhaps they too chased big goals once, only to fall short, become discouraged and give up. Out of respect we should listen to what they have to say, as their experiences could provide priceless opportunities to learn from, but be careful not to let your spirit and passion be dampened.

Sometimes, however, criticism can come from a more sinister place. This is a dark place inhabited by curious lifeforms known as trolls, where the air is thick with the pungent smell of spite and jealousy. These people seem to exist solely to discredit, discourage or abuse people online. Maybe they resent the happiness of others. Perhaps they are jealous of the success of others. Perhaps they are unhappy with their own lives but too weak to address the cause of their misery. After all, it is easier to point out another’s flaws, weaknesses and shortcomings than to admit that you have your own and tackle them. Or maybe they were never taught kindness, respect and compassion. Who knows?! It’s not your responsibility to diagnose their ills and try to fix them. If you have worked on becoming more resilient, then this is one area in which it will pay off handsomely. With the increased self-awareness and confidence which you have developed, you will be able to see trolling as a cry for attention. You will neither take it personally nor give them the attention they so badly crave.

If the criticism is constructive, welcome the opportunity to learn and develop. If it isn’t, just do your best to ignore it and move on. In order to succeed, you need a thick skin. Most important of all, though, is not to lose your focus, passion, desire or drive. In order to persevere and stay on course in the face of criticism;

  • Remain open to constructive feedback, and act on that which you feel is relevant.
  • Keep reflecting on yourself, your journey, your work and your progress. Keep updating your targets and adapting to circumstances wherever necessary.
  • Just keep going.

 

Monday. Your Time To Shine

“Everyone has his day, and some days last longer than others”

Winston Churchill

Monday. Its mere mention is enough to instill fear in some of us, while filling others with eager anticipation. Why the contrast? In a word, outlook. Whether a person regards Monday positively or negatively, is largely dependent on their mindset, vision and attitude. Those who welcome the first day of the working week, are those who sense opportunity. These are the people who view the traditional working week as a chance to make progress towards their goals. Those who dread it, however, see the working week as a necessary evil. To them it is simply a means to an end; they suffer through the drudgery of the week so that they can enjoy themselves in the evenings and weekends.

Social media, and Instagram in particular, is slowly working to change Monday’s bad reputation though. How?! Through the humble hashtag, #Mondaymotivation. People are starting the week by sharing positive quotes which motivate them, or by simply declaring their determination to work tirelessly towards their goals. This, in turn, inspires others to change their attitude towards work and strive for more. After all, who wants to be left behind when everyone else becomes successful?!

Here are a few truths i’d like to remind you of. If you work hard enough, smart enough and for long enough you will succeed. If you are patient and persistent you will succeed. If you can bounce back from setbacks and bumps in the road without a loss of enthusiasm you will succeed. With self-awareness, passion, drive and purpose you will succeed.

Your time will come. If you want it badly enough, visualise it so well that you can reach out and touch it, and are constantly striving to learn, grow and improve, it will happen. For some this might last for no longer than a fleeting moment, but for others it may last much longer. There are various factors which can affect this, many of which are outside of our control, and there are no guarantees that we will be able to extend our 15 minutes of fame when it comes. That said, there a few steps that we can take to help prolong our success;

  • Keep going. The hard work and effort which brought you success…keep it up! All too often, people ease up when the good times come and turn their attention to enjoying their time in the spotlight. We should, of course, celebrate our successes but this is the perfect opportunity to make even more headway. If we stop innovating and making progress, we allow our competitors to catch up and overtake us.
  • Keep evaluating. Even when your hard work and effort is finally recognised, the work doesn’t stop there. In order to remain successful and relevant in your chosen arena, you need to keep reviewing and reflecting. You need to reflect on yourself and decide whether you need to set new goals and targets for yourself. You also need to reflect on your work, and what you have learned so far; is there anything that can be improved upon? how do you move it forward?
  • Keep networking. Markets, trends and fashions are constantly changing and evolving. What was popular yesterday might be seen as cringeworthy and to be avoided at all costs today. You need to stay relevant in your chosen arena if you want your success to be lasting. You need to do what you can to ensure that people continue talking about you, and the best way to do this is by networking. Connecting with your clients, suppliers, stakeholders, industry insiders or fanbase will help you to keep abreast of developments which may affect you.
  • Keep telling your story. People relate to each other best through stories. It’s our oldest form of communication. The way you tell your story, or market yourself, is crucial. As other competitors challenge you in your chosen industry or area of expertise, your story will help you stand apart from the crowd. In selling a story, people will feel as though they know and understand you better. This in turn fosters a sense of loyalty in your consumer or fanbase which can in turn translate into lasting success.

If you don’t take control of your life..

…someone else will. This is why I feel so strongly about why we should become more self-aware, set goals in life and pursue them. It’s why we need passion, purpose and drive, or else life can become uneventful, dull and repetitive.

That is not to say that we need to have it all figured out, but we do need a certain level of direction in our lives. We need to know, roughly, where we are headed. With this awareness, we are less likely to be led astray or manipulated by others. We become stronger mentally, more focused and wiser. We are, essentially, better able to position ourselves to live the life of our dreams.

We also need to have interests which we are passionate about, as this gives us a break from the stresses of life. Being in control of our lives means that we will be immune to the doubts and criticisms of others, and have the strength to do whatever it is that makes our hearts sing. After all, when we follow our passion and share that which we create, we are inspiring others to have the courage to do the same.

Humans are creatures of habit, though. We like that which we know. Hence we develop routines which feel safe and also provide a source of comfort. We also don’t need to think too much when something is familiar. But there is a downside to the comfort of habit and routine, which is best summed up in a quote from the inimitable Charles Bukowski;

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”


The truth about luck

“It seems the harder I work, the more luck I have”

Thomas Jefferson

We are often being misinformed and told half-truths when we read about the success of others in journals, magazines or online. All too often, we are entertained with tales of overnight success and pure luck. In the same publications or websites, however, we also find motivational articles advising us how we can achieve whatever we focus our attention and effort upon. Confusing to say the least. Are we to wait for Lady Luck to shine brightly upon us, or do we get out there and work for what we want?

We must give credit where it’s due, though, and stories of luck do make for good reading. They are heartwarming and reassuring. We start to think that maybe we will get lucky too. I enjoy a good story as much as anyone else and love reading. However, I also live in the real world and am a strong believer in hard work and consistent effort. For me, there is no other way and it stands to reason. Imagine, for example, a man named John who dreams of becoming a successful musician. He sits around at home all day, binge-watching programmes on Netflix while waiting for inspiration to strike, after which he hopes to get lucky. What are his chances of success? Pretty small, right?! Now imagine John version 2, in which he is more proactive. John spends his day writing songs, practicing, performing in bars and clubs, putting some examples of his work on Youtube and networking online and in person. It goes without saying that Version 2, the version that works hard and doesn’t give up easily, will have the higher chance of becoming successful.

The truth is that when we work hard on our ourselves, our passions and our dreams, we stand a higher chance of finding ourselves in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the right people, after which we can achieve success in our chosen arena. There is no such thing as an overnight success or pure luck. The uncomfortable truth is that persistence and continuous hard work are the keys which will open the door to achievement and success. There is no shortcut. You need to work hard and be patient. Believe that, if you are doing everything you possibly can, the doors will open and your time will come.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll just get run over if you just sit there”

Will Rogers

 

So you want to be a…?

Shortly after finishing a recent post on passion and doing what you love, I was inspired to revisit some of Charles Bukowski’s work. I found myself reading So you want to be a writer? and it spoke to me just as it did the first time I read it.

The poem is essentially about being true to yourself and doing what you love. While it discusses writing, the poem is applicable to any area of life and the message is clear; devote your time and effort to that which you love, which you are passionate about, that makes you happy and makes your heart sing. Don’t be seduced by money or lifestyle but rather listen to what the voice inside is telling you. Whether your calling is to write, act, dance, paint or whatever else, just do it. Follow your passion and share your gift with the world.

So You Want To Be A Writer – by Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Talent vs Hard Work.

Which one wins? This is the age old question. Talent is a wonderful thing, and we all have it. Talent is what makes us unique, because we have an ability to do something in a way that precious few others can. The problem is that talent alone is not enough to bring achievement and success.

Identifying your talent is the easy bit; you just reflect on what you think you are good at, and also seek feedback form family and friends on where they think your strengths lie. Once you know where your talent lies, you then have to do something about it. In this respect, talent is very much like knowledge because they are both good to have, but useless unless you act upon them. How many young, talented players have been drafted into NBA, NFL or MLB teams but failed to live up to their potential? How many talented people graduate from universities only to struggle to make an impact in the business or creative world? We focus on those who do capitalise on the opportunities which they are given and become successful, but should also be learning from the talented individuals who fail to live up to their potential.

There has been plenty of research carried out in this area, and one of the most interesting findings is that talent requires focused practice. 10,000 hours of it to be precise. In studies of successful sportsmen and women, and musicians past and present, it was found that they each averaged around 10,000 hours of focused practice on their talent before they became successful. In other words, talent needs hard work and patience to become a success. Lots of it.

Which brings me to my thoughts on this question of talent vs hard work. I strongly believe that there is no substitute for hard work. A good work ethic will open doors to wonderful opportunities, whereas a poor work ethic will leave you floundering. In order to become successful in your chosen arena, you must be prepared to outwork your competition. This means being smarter in the way you work and being constantly on the lookout for ways to develop and grow. This needs to be coupled with patience and persistence, as there is no shortcut to achievement. Too many people focus on the overnight success, which is misleading and a myth. It focuses on the end result, which may appear to have come out of nowhere, but was in reality the culmination of much blood, sweat and countless months of toiling away in anonymity. Talent can help, but I believe it comes second to passion and a strong work ethic.

Talent alone will not get you very far. Greatness comes from hard work, patience and having the resilience and perseverance to deal with adversity. In the battle of hard work vs talent, hard work wins every time.