Never Wrestle With Pigs…

Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it

George Bernard Shaw

Pigs and fools. Unfortunately, the world seems to be full of them. I’m not talking about the adorable creatures whose intelligence is said to be greater than that of dogs, or of medieval court jesters. Pigs and fools, in this instance, are bullies, trolls and the spiteful people who we encounter daily, and whose whole purpose in life seems to be to make life uncomfortable for others purely for their own amusement.

With the rise of the internet, these bullies and abusers seem to be breeding and multiplying. This is partly because of the ease with which they can target people through social media outlets, and also the anonymity with which they can operate. Hiding your identity, or setting up an online profile with a false name is far too easy. Of course, this is a known problem, and authorities and the social media outlets themselves are working hard to tackle cyberbullying and trolling. Chances are, however, that you will still encounter it yourself at some point.

It goes without saying, that this behaviour is not restricted to the online world, but this is where it is at its worst. In person, you have the chance to talk to these people and try to find out why they are treating you in this way. However slim, there is always a possibility that you can communicate and reason with your tormentor. It’s not unthinkable that you might be able to open their eyes to how they are affecting your life, and the fact that there is no real reason for this anger and hatred which they are directing towards you. It’s not only in the movies that bully and victim can actually become good friends through communication and understanding.

Online, however, is where this behaviour seems to be at its most spiteful and evil. In this instance, you feel powerless because you have no idea who is targeting you and why. The temptation is to either try and reason with them, defending yourself and your actions, or to respond to their abuse with some of your own. Please resist this temptation, because you will only end up feeding their ego and prolonging the abuse. These people thrive on peoples’ reactions, so do what they least expect and starve them of yours. It is the hardest thing to do, doing nothing, but sadly the only way to deal with a troll. Starve them of your attention and reactions, and they will get bored and move on. It may feel as though you are letting them win, but please understand that this is not the case. In the public arena (online), any reaction will not remain between between yourself and the bully, but will also be seen by family and friends as well as any clients or fans which you may have. By rising to the bait of the troll, you are risking your reputation just for the sake of saying that you get the better of an anonymous abuser. Ask yourself, is it really worth it? Any victory will be pyrrhic at best, won at too great a cost to be of any value to you. If you are to respond at all, respond with kindness. My favourite is “I’m sorry that you feel this way, but more sorry that you have so much pain inside you that you have to abuse people anonymously in order to feel any happiness. I will pray for you that your source of pain may leave you and that you might once again experience the joy and beauty of life”.  Works every time. Even if you don’t get an apology, you will be left alone. It’s a win-win situation which will see your reputation and relationships unharmed and unaffected.

While I strongly believe that we should be kind and respectful to each other at all times, whether in person or online, not everyone feels the same way. Some people will always choose to bully others anonymously in order to feel better about themselves, because this is far easier than dealing with the source of their unhappiness or pain. They would rather make others feel pain and anguish like they do, rather than do something to remove whatever it is that troubles them.

This is why we need to develop a thick skin if we are to navigate our way through life effectively. As much as it might hurt to be on the receiving end of someone else’s bile and nastiness, we need to be able to shrug it off. Understand that their attack is a reflection on them, and not you. Don’t start to question yourself or let this hurt your confidence. Instead, sympathise with your tormentor, because they are in pain but are either unable or unwilling to do anything about it. In this instance the saying “kill them with kindness” couldn’t be more appropriate. Especially if this is being played out over social media, in the public eye. Don’t be dragged into a war of words. If you must respond, do so with kindness and respect, because your response is a reflection of who you are.

Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference

Mark Twain

The “Jobs For Life” Myth.

Today, the average CV will have a number of roles listed. In fact it is becoming increasingly rare for someone to remain in the same organisation for more than several years. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it is very good.

Previous generations were enticed into the workplace with the promise of a job for life. Or as long as they performed their duties well. Do very well, and you would get promoted. Or, if you’re content in your role, you would never have to worry about job security. The education system was geared towards this end goal of creating the workforce of tomorrow; employees who would work for the same company for 25 years or more. Back then, long service with the same employer was regarded as a badge of honour.

Things are very different today, but the education system is much the same. The teaching methods and styles may have changed for the better, but schools, colleges and universities are still largely preparing young people for changing job markets and not accounting for the change.

In the legal profession, the military, the police, medicine and education there are structured career paths, and those who work for it hard and smart enough will make their way to the top of the profession, or very near it. Elsewhere, it is a very different story.

People are experiencing more freedom and choice than ever before. The mindset has changed from that of an employee to an entrepreneur. This doesn’t mean that everyone is setting up their own businesses, but that people are taking ownership of their own careers, and taking responsibility for their own development. More time is being spent engaging in personal and professional development activities, and productivity is on the rise. More importantly, people are changing jobs more often in an effort to further their own careers.

What all of this means is that in order to attract and retain the most talented people, organisations must remain competitive. Salaries, benefits and bonuses must be enticing. While the costs may be high to the organisation, it costs an awful more in time and money to replace experienced colleagues. Which is good news for employees, who are being better rewarded for their efforts.

If you’re not happy where you are, leave for the right role. Sometimes a job offer from another firm is enough to convince your boss to offer a pay rise in order to stop you leaving. When you work hard and with integrity, developing a positive reputation, the power is in your hands.

What is worth remembering, is that is that the world of work is more fluid than ever before. You don’t need to have your career path all figured out by the time you leave education. Try internships in different firms to gain experience of, and insights into, your chosen industry. Spend 4 or 5 years trying several careers. Or pick one firm and stay there until something better tickles your fancy. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

 

 

Expand Your Network, Not Just Your Mind

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another

Proverbs 27:17

As we strive to become the best we can possibly be, there is one area which is often overlooked. We read journals, books and blogs, we listen to audiobooks and podcasts and we study for recognised qualifications to get us closer to our goals. We pay great attention to these areas and make sure that they are working for us and providing value, asking ourselves;

  • Is this course of study still relevant and meeting my needs? Will it still get me to where I want to be?
  • Is the material I read or listen to relevant? What am I actually learning or absorbing? Of this, how much am I actually applying to my life?
  • Am I making the best use of my time?

So, what is this area which we overlook? OUR NETWORKS. The people who we choose to spend time with, and whose influence we allow into our lives. While it is debatable how much you can learn and apply to your own life by reading the biographies of famous people, this is one thing which they all have in common and sets them apart from others. After all, almost everybody has strong desires and can develop a strong work ethic for any task which interests them enough. Successful people, however, also have strong networks which inspire them to keep striving for growth.

It’s an ego boost to surround yourself with people who have not yet achieved your level of success. While you could do much to help these people, and learn much from them, this is a scenario which is likely to breed comfort and complacency, which are 2 of the enemies of success. Simply put, if you are surrounded by well-meaning individuals who encourage you to stay as you are, you will stagnate and stop growing. If, on the other hand, you spend time in the company of people who push you and inspire you to keep going, the possibilities are endless. Which would you rather have, stagnation or possibilities? There are a couple of great ways to expand your network which have worked for me which i’d like to share;

  • Professional Networking. Professional bodies hold regular events which are open to most members, and are a great way to meet and learn from successful figures within your chosen industry. Aim to attend at least one talk or networking event per month, and engage with as many people as you can. Over time you will build a list of contacts, who may also become friends.
  • Clubs. What is your area of interest outside of work? What are you passionate about? Are there any clubs which meet near you, which you could join? Cigars are my guilty pleasure and I am a member of several groups which meet monthly. As well as sampling cigars and spirits in often luxurious surroundings, this is also an opportunity to spend time talking to, and learning from, extremely successful people in a range of industries and from differing backgrounds. Cigars are not for everyone, but the same applies to all kinds of groups whether their passion is Harry Potter or classic cars. Above all, it’s great for introverts who struggle when meeting new people. Because it’s a group which has a shared interest, there is no need for any awkward icebreakers.
  • Social Networking. No, not Facebook or Snapchat. Apps like LinkedIn and Shapr can help you meet new and interesting people, while on the go, with whom you could share experiences and advice.
  • Mentoring. Whether it’s for a personal or professional purpose, a mentor can motivate, support and guide you. Furthermore, a mentor can help you to improve your networking skills and push you to attend meetings and events which best meet your needs.

You will only learn, develop, grow and make real progress in life once you leave your comfort zone. Learn to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. If you look around a room and see people who are more accomplished and successful than you, then you are in the right room. Do these situations make you feel uncomfortable and awkward? Good! Use this to fuel your inner fire and strive to raise yourself to their level. Use your networking and communication skills to learn from them. Rather than close up and hide in a corner, make the most of this opportunity. You may very well end up talking to your next investor, mentor, business partner or boss. You won’t know unless you try, and you have to be in the presence of successful and accomplished people in order for this to even be possible.

I am not saying that we should distance ourselves from our friends and family. This would be ridiculous as well as damaging to our happiness and confidence. Unless they are negative influences, and holding you back. My advice is that we seek opportunities, preferably at least once a week, to spend time in the company of people more knowledgeable or successful than ourselves as they could provide a wealth of advice and a healthy dose of inspiration.

Surround yourself, and learn from, accomplished people and sooner or later their good habits will rub off on you.

The Most Liberating Word In Your Vocabulary…

..is nothing fancy, or a buzzword which appears all over social media. It’s a word which we all know, and is easy to remember. The word? No

When you say “yes” to others, make sure you are not saying “no” to yourself

Paulo Coelho

No is a negative word, so we try to limit it’s use, until somebody jumps out in front of us with a clipboard when we are out shopping. That’s when we can say it loud and proud with no guilt. The rest of the time, we use it sparingly so as not to let others down or miss out on something which we might regret later.

All day, every day, we are bombarded with requests from other people. Now, if your boss is asking you to do something and you are on company time, NO is not an option. Within reason, you do what is asked of you and you do it to the best of your ability. That is called integrity, which we need more of in business. Furthermore, integrity and a willingness to take on new tasks is what can help you progress in your career.

The rest of the time, however, you have a choice. NO is most definitely an option,. This is especially true if the request you receive will not direct your focus away from your goals, eating instead into the time in which you could be working on becoming the best version of yourself.

The problem is that we often feel guilty when saying no to someone. We don’t want to damage our relationship with that person, so we say yes. Again and again, we say yes. Until, before you know it, you have become a “Yes Man”. Nobody respects one of those. People, whether intentionally or not, take advantage of your helpful nature as they know that you will agree to help with whatever they ask. Time and again. So much so that, in fact, a Yes Man often has very little time in which to chase their own goals and live their own life. You are viewed simply as serving to help others live their lives.

The result is that your life goes unlived. Your goals and potential go unfulfilled and you end up frustrated, angry and even battling depression. Furthermore, your credibility gets undermined, your confidence takes a blow and your creativity and productivity suffer. All because you say Yes too quickly to others, without thinking of yourself first. You MUST put yourself first. Only when you have designed for yourself the life that you want, can you afford to help others to build theirs. After all, you need to be happy with your life and in a good place before you can help anybody else.

Sometimes you have to be selfish to be selfless

Edward Albert

Don’t be afraid to say no. What is the worst that can happen? A friend stops talking to you? I hate to break it to you, but when that happens you have received a blessing. That person was not a friend at all, they were using you and taking advantage of your generosity and kind nature.

The people who care about you will respect your decision to turn down their request, as long as you do it politely, tactfully and respectfully. You will then find yourself with the time to do the things that you want and that make you happy. This is a truly liberating feeling, that you control your life once more. You will have more time to work on your side-hustle, spend time with your kids or take up a new hobby which you had been thinking about for so long but never had a chance to start.

Time is so very precious, yet we give ours away so freely to others at times. This leaves us with very little opportunity to work on ourselves, and this hurts us whether we realise it or not. So, start saying no without feeling guilty. You will never get anywhere near your potential if you constantly let others dictate how your days are spent.

Take back control of your life, by becoming good friends with the word NO. Use that newfound freedom and time to gain knowledge, acquire a new skill or whatever else will take you closer to your goals. Then enjoy the resulting improvement in your relationships, career success or whatever else you have been working towards.

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.

The Power of Apologising and Taking Responsibility

More people should apologize, and more people should accept apologies when sincerely made.

Greg Lemond

Mistakes, in life, are inevitable. We try our best to avoid them, but they happen. Even when our intentions are noble, our thoughts measured and our actions carefully considered They are a part of life, and a very valuable learning experience if we reflect on them. The fallout from a mistake can be painful, but the long-term benefits can far outweigh the negatives. It’s really about the mindset you adopt when viewing the mistake. A negative mindset will blow a mistake out of proportion and could lead to self-doubt, self-loathing, loss of motivation and the fear to take risks in the future. With a positive mindset, you look for lessons to be learned, and are more likely to take risks again in the future, armed with the knowledge gained from the previous experience.

Sometimes, however, our mistakes affect other people. This is what I would like to discuss today. When things go wrong and it’s largely us who are affected, we can perform a post-mortem, determine what we can learn from the experience and then do our best to bounce back. When other people are involved, that’s a different matter.

Very rarely do we set out intentionally to hurt or upset another person. Especially if we value the relationship we have with them. But it happens. We set out upon a course of action, only to completely misjudge what would happen or how it would affect other people. So, while we acted with the best of intentions, we ended up with the most undesirable of outcomes. In this instance,the first step should be to accept responsibility for what has gone wrong, provided that it was your fault. Next there should be a genuine heart felt apology and, if possible, an explanation of what you had set out to do. It is important to communicate to the other person what you were trying to achieve so that they can understand your reasons and intentions. Share what you have learned from experience with them too,  if you get the opportunity.

This is no time for bravado, ego or empty words. Be humble, and take responsibility  for what you did and didn’t do. Apologies must be followed by action to rectify or improve the situation. Without action, all that you are offering are mere words and platitudes. Prove how sincere you are, and don’t just say it. Tell the other person how sorry you are (and make sure that you mean it!!) but then show what you are doing to either fix the problem or to ensure that it never happens again.

Why talk about this subject on a blog about fulfilling the potential we hold within ourselves? Simple answer? Because of what it teaches us.

Apologising is not a sign of weakness, and it doesn’t make you any less of a person. When we own up to our mistakes and apologise either to ourselves or to others, we take responsibility for them and this is a mark of maturity, honesty and integrity. These are traits which are respected by others, and can actually strengthen relationships, both personal and professional, as well as reputations. In business, people want to know what type of person they are dealing with, so being known for honesty, integrity and trustworthiness is never going to be a bad thing.

Most of all, though, we will never reach our potential or get anywhere near it until we take responsibility for our lives. I have read countless quotes about how the circumstances in which we find ourselves today are a result of decisions we have made and actions which we have taken in the past. So very true. If you are not where you hoped to be in life, you need to look at where you went off-track. That’s not to say that you should just beat yourself up and give up hope, though.

Take responsibility for where your life choices have led you to so far, and learn as much as you can from this reflection. Once you have learned all that you can, it’s time to start looking forward. Time, now, to take responsibility for your future, and make sure that the decisions you make and actions you take today will be steering your forward towards the life you want.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
George Bernard Shaw

Choose Kindness To Others Over Competition Against Them

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.

Og Mandino

If ever you find yourself in doubt as to which approach to take, kindness or competition,  choose kindness. Kindness and compassion are what we need more of, in business as much as in daily life. However, you would be forgiven for thinking the opposite.

Popular culture, best depicted in films such as “Wall Street” and “Wolf of Wall Street”, or series such as “Billions”, would have you believe otherwise. They would have us believe that life is one big competition, and if you want to achieve success, fame and fortune, this can only be done by crushing your opponents and taking everything you can.

There are many different kinds of competition, which can be seen everywhere we look, from the gym to the boardroom. Competition also exists in nature, but that is again very different. In nature, competition is a fight for life and a preservation of a species. Contrary to the lies that the media scaremongers peddle, the human race is safe. For now. That is not to say that people do not face terrible hardships of the worst kind due to natural disasters. But rarely will we be caught in a fight for our lives.

Competition is not about finding the best way to beat others, in order to gain a particular advantage, reward or stand out from the crowd. Any competition you partake in, should ultimately be against yourself. Forget about circumstances outside of your control, such as the strengths and weaknesses of a colleague who is chasing the same promotion, or a competitor in a race. Focus instead on what you can control. Yourself. Challenge yourself to become the best possible version of you. Increase your knowledge, physical fitness and sharpen your skills. Beat any perceived opponents by being the best version of yourself.

When finding yourself being drawn into competition with others, there is a very real danger that you end up forgetting who you are. You change and make sacrifices to the point where you could almost become a new person, completely different to the real you who only comes out when nobody else is around.

The healthiest competition is when you focus your efforts on improving yourself, challenging yourself daily. Wake up each morning with the intention of taking steps during the day which, when repeated consistently over time will make you more knowledgeable, fitter, and more polished in a particular skill or whatever else you desire. This is what competition should look like. After all, as you learn, improve and grow, you become better able to serve those around you.

Which brings us back to kindness. As you grow, develop, progress and taste the sweet nectar of success, PAY IT FORWARD. Share your experiences and what you have learned so that others may be inspired to strive to become the best version of themselves too. Who knows, the person you help today could become your business partner or a mentor to troubled youths tomorrow.

Challenge yourself to chase after your goals daily with vigour and determination and share your experiences with others so that they may be inspired to do the same. The world has plenty of successful people who adopt the Gordon Gecko and Jordan Belfort mentality of greed being good, but what it really needs is more is successful people who act with kindness and compassion, improving the lives of those around them as well as their own.

The healthiest comptition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.

Colin Powell

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

Financial Freedom and Fulfilling Your Potential.

The ease of obtaining credit, whether through loans or credit cards, is ridiculously easy for the majority of people. Given the damage caused in 2008 because of easy access to mortgages and loans, the fact that credit is still so readily available is more than just a little worrying.

Daily, we are bombarded with messages about products and services which will improve and enhance our lives. We see fairytale lives being lived out, picture by picture, over social media and feel pressured to keep up. All of this costs money, and even if we don’t have it readily available, credit cards and loans can easily be had.

If you are smart and shop about, credit cards can be found which offer 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers over periods of up to 36 months. The problem is that these offers are dependent on your credit rating, so those eligible for the best deals tend to be those who can use and manage credit cards responsibly.

For those who fall short of the criteria for the best deals, there are a growing number of vultures, cleverly disguised as Loans Companies, circling. These companies offer loans of up to £1500 at interest rates of over 1000%. Just let that sink in. OVER 1000%. Pure greed. People often skim over the small print and rush to get their hands on these loans without a thought for the future and what the repayments of a loan with interest that criminally high would look like. It is true that people can sometimes find themselves in very difficult circumstances, desperately needing the money for home repairs or to help with rent payments. More often than not though, people wrongly see these loans as easily available money, and end up spending it on things that they don’t need just so that they can post pretty pictures on Instagram.

Debt is often described as modern-day slavery. I hate this phrase. It really is horrible, but there is no denying that debt is a form of entrapment. Debt keeps us in steady jobs which pay a wage but offer very little challenge and stifle our creativity. We find ourselves relying heavily on our paycheck to pay not only our bills, but also repay our credit cards and loans. As such, our dreams are shelved because we can’t afford to take a risk and chase them.

That is not to say that all debt is bad. If you are launching a side business or are looking to turn an existing side business into a full-time venture, debt can be a necessary evil. Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to borrow money to secure a premises from which to operate and all of the necessary equipment you will need. Obviously, the more money your side business has already generated, or the more you have already set aside for your venture, the less you will need to borrow and the more freedom you will have. Those critical first few months in which you fight to establish yourself, the pressure is somewhat lessened if you’ve borrowed less from the bank and thus have lower repayments to meet at the end of every month.

Christmas is an expensive time of year, no doubt about it, and is usually followed by New Year’s resolutions to quit jobs and launch businesses instead. I would ask that you be careful and do your homework before you borrow a single penny. Ask yourself;

  • What do you need the money for? Is it absolutely necessary? If you are launching a business venture, is it feasible? Can you realistically make it work?
  • Have you read the small print about interest rates and repayments? Do you understand the contract and agreement which you are entering into? If not, DON’T DO IT!!
  • Can you afford to meet the repayments with your finances in their current state? Or will it put a strain on you?

Think carefully before borrowing money. Do your homework and figure out whether you really need it. It is far better to go without some luxury items which you don’t actually need, and retain your freedom to change jobs, set up a business or exercise your creativity, than to find yourself trapped in your current role in order to meet your financial commitments

 

Thinking of starting your own blog?

I regularly get asked for advice on how to start a blog, what to write about and how often to post on a blog. While I respond as quickly as possible and as best I can, it’s about time that I share what I have learned on my journey in the hope that it might help other aspiring bloggers.

Before you start, you need to have an idea of what you want to share via your blog. Will it be related to your personal or your professional interests? My personal interest and passion is in personal development and how our mindset and attitude determines whether we will fulfill our potential or fall short. I share advice based on what i’ve learned through research and experience, inspirational and motivational poetry and book reviews. You don’t need to have it all figured out at this stage, but you need to know what you want to talk about. This will help to ensure that your message is clear and runs throughout your blog posts.

Starting a blog is pretty easy. There are a number of platforms out there, with WordPress and Blogger among the most popular. Do your homework on what each platform offers and pick the most appropriate one for your needs.

Once you have chosen a platform, registered a name and set-up your blog it’s time to start writing. Don’t spend months waiting for the perfect topic to come to mind, or the perfect time as I did. Search for, read and follow other blogs with a similar theme to yours for ideas and inspiration. Use your other social media platforms to connect with similar-minded people and keep reading up on your area of interest. Then, start blogging.

As you post on your blog, you will learn and grow, which will help you to develop your blog. Respond to messages and feedback from readers. Engaging with your readership and inviting feedback is how many blogs increase in quality as well as popularity. You don’t need to have your writing style figured out, just keep blogging and that will come to you over time.

When I write, I just open the page and let it all out. Then I go back to proof-read and edit, but you need to determine the style and process which works for you. Depending on your theme and your proficiency with your blogging platform, your posts may have graphics, charts, links to other pages or other interactive elements. This is your own space which you can have fun with and fill as you like. Experiment with it and have fun.

Don’t get caught up in the statistics and numbers. When I started, I posted many items which didn’t receive a single “like”. It still happens sometimes. Don’t take it to heart, just keep blogging. It’s easy to get discouraged by a lack of interest but please understand that there are countless blogs online all vying for peoples’ attention. It just might be taking a little longer for yours to get noticed, that’s all. The only person you should be writing for is yourself. You need to be satisfied with the quality and content of what you post. Not everyone will appreciate it, but a blog should be an expression, and outlet, of what is burning inside you and struggling to get out. While it may entertain or inform the reader, it is also an indication of who the writer is as a person, what motivates, inspires and drives them.

As for the length of your posts and how often you should blog, the best advice I can give is to do what feels right for you. The more time you can spare and the more you feel you have to share, the more often you will be posting. Don’t get caught up in this, because as you post on your blog, you will get a feel for how much you can write and how often.

Most of all, enjoy the process. If you are planning on blogging to earn fame and fortune, you are setting yourself up to fail as your priorities and intentions are wrong and you are putting extra pressure on yourself. You should be blogging because you enjoy it, because it means something to you, because you want to inspire or motivate others. Fame and fortune may very well come your way, but it should be as a happy coincidence while you do something you enjoy and not the reason why you started blogging in the first place.

If you are thinking of starting a blog, I wish you the best of luck. It’s a wonderful experience which can teach you so much, and I personally would not change it for the world.

Happy Blogging!!!

The Job Hunt is a Numbers Game

A month from today, people will be making an eager start on their New Year’s resolutions. Virtually everyone you meet will be telling you about their “new year, new me” transformations and what that entails. Basically, this will fall into 2 categories; improved health and fitness or new jobs and careers. Perhaps a mixture of both. It’s the hunt for a new job which I would like to discuss with you today.

Landing a new job or changing careers is not easy. Sorry if I’m bursting anyone’s bubble here. It is, of course, possible to be headhunted by a recruiter and this will feel as though a dream job is just falling into your lap. It is, however, the exception to the rule. Generally, waiting for the job to come to you or making minimal effort is the quickest way to ensure that your wish for a new job remains just a wish.

Landing a new role, whether it be your first or twenty first requires hard work, time and being proactive. Depending on the industry you want to get into or progress in, it could be of help to read trade journals in which specialist vacancies will be advertised, or visit trade fairs and conferences where you have an opportunity for networking. Most vacancies will be found, however by visiting the “Careers” pages of the organisations which you are interested in working for, or checking online job boards such as Monster. It also helps to register and submit your cv to any other relevant job boards your search may bring up, and to engage the help of agencies which specialise in recruiting for the industry in which you want to work.

It goes without saying, though, that simply applying for a job which matches your skills and experience won’t necessarily land you an interview. There could be hundreds of other candidates with similar experience also applying for the role. A growing number of recruiters and HR departments are using algorithms to filter out the lesser-qualified candidates, following which a selection panel will then decide on who they would like to invite for interview. This takes time after which, maybe, you will get an invite. Maybe not. Once you have submitted the application, the rest is out of your hands.

So, was does this mean? Firstly, if you apply for a job which on paper you are perfectly suited for, don’t just stop after that and wait for the closing date to come so you can find out if you’ve been shortlisted for interview. Keep searching and applying. That first application may earn you an interview, but even that’s not a guarantee that you’ll land the role. Another candidate could interview better.  If you don’t get shortlisted for interview, on the other hand, your confidence will be boosted by the fact that you still have a number of other applications pending. More importantly, if you don’t get an interview for a job which you feel to be perfect for you, don’t be disheartened. Just pick yourself up, scan over your cv and see if there is anything which could be improved upon.

As the title warns, the job hunt is a numbers game. An article I once read stated that you should expect a positive response rate of 10% when applying for jobs. So, if you apply for 10 roles, you should expect at least 1 interview invitation, while hoping for many more. In search of a career change, I have applied for over 60 roles in the last month. While I wait for the closing dates to come and find out for which roles (if any) I will be offered interviews, I am continuing to apply for relevant and suitable roles. So far, my tally is 1 rejection and 1 interview, and if the article’s claim is to be believed, I should expect 5 more interviews. Naturally I want every remaining application to earn me an interview but that may just be wishful thinking.

Takeaways;

  • The more roles you apply for, the more chance you stand of being shortlisted for interview. You also get more experience in completing the application forms and answering questions relevant to your suitability for the role.
  • The more interviews you have, the more chance you have of landing a new role. You might be brilliant enough to succeed in your first interview, but if not, learn from the experience so that next time you can be better prepared for the types of questions that will be asked.

Good luck with your search. Hope t brings you the results you want!!

We all need a challenge

If you don’t push yourself and leave your comfort zone, how can you hope to discover what you are truly capable of, where your talents lie and what your limitations are? That’s why, as well as goals, we need to set ourselves challenges. Challenges not only force us to learn, develop and grow, but also keep complacency and laziness at bay.

If you are a gym-goer,for instance, then you will probably be aware that every 6 weeks or so you have to increase the amount of weight you lift in order to challenge your muscles to grow stronger. A runner may find themselves increasing their distance or speed every few weeks. This is because the body adapts to the pressure it is put under after a few weeks and your progress begins to slow. This is why it is necessary to increase the pressure under which the body is placed, in order to keep your muscles adapting and developing.

Challenges come in many forms, not just physical. Studies have shown that, in the workplace, people not only need to feel appreciated but also challenged. Without challenging your brain, work can start to feel mundane and repetitive leading to the best staff heading for the exit. Outside of the workplace, our brains can still benefit from exercise, whether it take the form of puzzles, creative work, video games or anything else that forces you to learn and develop.

In short, all forms of challenge can;

  • Increase focus
  • Give you something to aim for
  • Force you to learn, grow and develop
  • Provide a huge confidence boost when overcome

While laying in hospital in a weakened state, I decided I needed a physical challenge which would motivate me to work hard on my health and fitness. So, after I was discharged, I took the plunge and entered 3 triathlons for next year. It’s been a few years since my last race and this is the perfect motivation to get me back on track. For me, a triathlon is one of the best physical challenges with 3 disciplines back to back. As your body tires, the temptation will present itself to keep stopping, slow down or give up. Persevering through the soreness, tiredness and negative self-talk is as important as your fitness levels and preparation for the race. The feeling when you cross the finish line in a triathlon is like nothing else, because you have not only taken on a physical challenge and won, but have also become mentally stronger in the process. I want to experience this feeling again next year, 3 times, so have already started easing myself into a training programme.

So far, we have only looked at voluntary challenges, by which I mean ones which we consciously choose. These, however, are not the only challenges we will face in life.

As we pursue our goals in life, no matter how well prepared we are, at some point we will hit a roadblock. As in many other difficult situations, there will be a temptation to give up and try something easier. A little voice in your head will also be telling you the same thing repeatedly. These situations, which seem terrible at the time, can be a blessing in disguise as they force you to reflect on your progress so far, what has led to this point and what you could learn from them. Once you overcome these unforeseen challenges, you will be able to get back to pursuing your goals while being wiser and more knowledgeable for the experience.

Whether you choose them specifically or they just happen, challenges are powerful forces for good. They force us to learn and grow, and stop us from stagnating in life and becoming bored or boring.

 

Is it really impossible? Do you know for certain?!

“Impossible is just a big word thrown about by small men who find it easier to live in the world they have been given than to explore the power they have to change it”

Muhammad Ali

Impossible. It can’t be done. Be realistic…. We hear this an awful lot, and are often discouraged. Far too easily, in my opinion. I would like today to ask you, next time someone tells you that something is impossible, to see it as a challenge rather than a fact. Don’t just take their word for it, but put their theory to the test and see if it really can’t be done. When someone declares your proposal to be unachievable, it is a reflection of their own limitations and not yours. They can’t accomplish it themselves, so assume that nobody else could either. Overlooked in this instance are not only only your knowledge, skills, ability and experience but also your determination to succeed.

Act, and see where it leads you. You may succeed and prove your doubters wrong. Alternatively, you may fail in your initial attempt, but in the process discover what knowledge skills or abilities you lack. By working on these areas and trying again, you may succeed or learn further valuable lessons. Life is a journey of discovery, learning, growth and development and the only way that all of this becomes possible is through action. Challenge what is commonly believed to be impossible, and see which doors open for you and where that leads.

The truth, is that those whose achievements we admire and who we look to for inspiration weren’t dissuaded from their efforts when others believed they were aiming for the impossible. They took action and tested that theory. They faced challenges and setbacks from which they learned and adapted, and kept going until success was theirs. At the time, these were people who were regarded as dreamers and doomed to fail. Some were ridiculed, others were simply ignored but we now look to them as visionaries and trailblazers.

Like the greats before us, we need to test the boundaries of what is possible and see what exactly it is that we are capable of. We may very well fall short of achieving what we set out to, but even if this happens all is not lost.  If you do not achieve the impossible, you will learn the limits of your capabilities and plenty more besides. Who knows what else you might stumble upon instead? After all, viagra  and penicillin are just 2 discoveries stumbled upon by accident while looking for solutions for very different problems.

“Action, or work, is the connecting link between desire, plan and fulfilment”

Napoleon Hill

Keep Up The Good Work

“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming”

Richard Branson

 

Having written yesterday about not giving up, I stumbled across the above quote from Richard Branson and had to share it.

As in all areas of life, it is inevitable that you will, at some time or other, miss out on the job you want or a business development opportunity. When this happens it is important to remember that there will potentially be plenty more opportunities coming your way. You must be driven and willing enough continue to work for them though, despite your disappointment.

The truth is that there are countless people applying for the same jobs as you, or chasing the same business opportunities as you. Some of these may be better qualified, more experienced or put forward a stronger case on the day. That does not mean that you should become disheartened and give up. It is easy to feel helpless and that the odds are stacked against you, and just accept that it will not happen for you. This is a lie, and the easy way out.

Every missed opportunity requires reflection, because when you reflect honestly on what happened, you learn. You learn how to better answer questions in future meetings and interviews as well as better control of your nerves and body language. When you reflect, learn and apply that new knowledge, you bounce back stronger and better able to give a more confident performance in your next interview or business pitch.

After the disappointment of one bad outcome sinks in, it is easy to believe that you won’t get another opportunity. The fact of the matter is very different. If you fight to remain positive, you will notice plenty more opportunities arising, and if you have reflected and learned form the last experience, you will be in a strong position to meet these head on.

The opportunity which you miss out on may not even be the right one for you. With plenty coming along all the time if you look for them, it could be the next one which offers you all that you want and more.

Happy hunting!!

The Pain and Pleasure of the job hunting process: Application Forms

Once you have decided which approach to apply to your job search (Recruitment Agencies and LinkedIn/ job boards, direct applications or a blended approach), you will face the next hurdle: the application form.

Until the internet took over, a job application was made by requesting an application pack from the organisation, filling in the forms and then sending or faxing them to the return address. Or simply sending in a cv. This process later evolved into online applications.

The first generation of online application forms involved downloading a form (in Microsoft Word format), completing it and either uploading it to the relevant online page or emailing it to a specified address. While it was a much smoother process than the manual one it replaced, it wasn’t without its problems. I personally lost count of the amount of times my computer crashed or internet connection dropped out at the wrong time, causing the completed form to be lost or become corrupted and unreadable. Thankfully technology moved ahead, with computers and internet connections improving greatly thus making the process easier. As for the information which the form requires, it hasn’t changed much. Neither has the order changed much. You will be asked for;

  • Personal information
  • Education
  • Current and previous employment
  • Personal statement
  • Disclaimers to be signed.

Of these, the personal statement is the most interesting and the most challenging. The only guidance given is to ensure that you address the role’s requirements, as highlighted in the person specification. So, you have to write about yourself and how you meet the role’s requirements in a way which is engaging and interesting enough to earn you an interview. Easier said than done, and my problem was that I tended to write a few paragraphs which looked good but didn’t really address the person specification. This would then be copied and pasted into most of my applications, and I would wonder why I didn’t get shortlisted for interviews. Go figure!

While this is still a very popular, and widely used approach, the process is again evolving. Increasingly, organisations are launching their own recruitment portals online, where you can search for current vacancies and apply for them. The job vacancies section is divided into two areas; one for internal applicants who already work for the organisation but are looking for a new role, and the other for external applicants.

Rather than asking you to fill out a form, these portals ask for the same information as above, usually in the same order too, which you complete on several pages which you can return to later and update if necessary. Filling in these sections is easy, and can even be copied and pasted from saved application forms. It’s not cheating, as your personal information, educational background and career history is unlikely to have changed.

The one section which does present a challenge is the new and improved personal statement. This is now broken down into a number of questions (usually 10-15) in which you address the key requirements of the role. Frustrating as it may be that you don’t get to cut and paste one statement across all applications any longer, this approach is far more effective.

In asking you to reflect on individual questions, recruiters will gain a clearer idea of whether you should be shortlisted for interview. Should you be interviewed, you will find yourself with a better understanding of the role and able to communicate how you would be a good fit. This is well worth the extra time required to answer those questions in the first place.

The best part of the new online application process is that after you fit out your first application, all the information copies across to further applications, with the exception of the personal statement.

As with all things over time, the application form has developed and is now being slowly replaced by an online application process. Embrace it! It does require more time and effort to complete, but its worth it. Put in the time and effort which the form requires and you’ll be in a good position to be shortlisted for interview. If you do get shortlisted, the questions you addressed during the application will stand you in good stead.

Than you for reading. I hope you have found in here something useful and of value to you in your job search. In the next post, I will be taking you through the interview itself and the kind of questions that you might encounter

The pain and pleasure of the job hunting process: Recruitment Agencies

With Summer now over, there are an army of recent graduates and school-leavers about to descend on the job market. Having likely spent August recharging their batteries on holiday, or  updating their personal statements and preparing for potential interview questions, they are fired up and ready. Moreover, it is now that job vacancies are starting to appear with more frequency, and therefore the perfect time to share some of my experiences and observations from years spent navigating the recruitment minefield.

In my current role, I have sat on a number of interview panels, but now that I am looking for a new challenge, I am also experiencing being on the other side of the table again. It is for this reason that I would like to pass on some of my experiences of the process, starting with recruitment agencies.

Living in the digital age as we do, passive recruitment is growing. This is the term used to describe LinkedIn and the numerous job boards and sites to which we commonly upload our CVs. We fill in the application forms, specify our preferences, upload a CV and wait to be contacted by recruiters with a fitting vacancy. With our lives so busy, this feels like a blessing as it saves countless hours which would’ve been spent visiting the careers pages of companies which interest us and searching for a suitable role.

It is important to stress that there are two very different types of recruiter, the first of which works for an agency servicing one or more industries and countless companies therein. Companies pay large sums to these agencies to create the job adverts and source candidates. If the candidates interviewed are successful, further commission is paid to the agency. So, it is fair to say that getting as many candidates signed up to the agency is a big deal and potentially worth a lot of money. Note here, that profit is prioritised over the needs of the candidates. The other is an internal recruiter, who recruit solely for the organisation in which they are based. In this capacity, there are still KPIs to be met and bonuses to be earned, but the focus is on finding the right person for the roles. It is the former which I would like to address below.

It is all too easy to hear the word “recruitment” and picture an industry geared towards matching suitable candidates with jobs. The idealist will believe that recruiters have their best interest at heart. Some agencies do employ this approach, but in my personal experience they are the exception to the rule.

Recruitment is a sales role. The salary is low, but the commission and bonuses are very attractive. It is for this reason that KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) take priority over people and their needs. If you doubt this, then please do an internet search for Recruitment Consultant job adverts. Yep, it’s a sales role.

Having long been curious as to the workings of the recruitment industry, I interviewed for a number of roles in recruitment and even worked shortly in the role. What I experienced was far from reassuring. At their worst, recruiters can be manipulative and economical with the truth. I witnessed the use of fabricated job adverts in order to entice people to register with the agency, but more alarmingly, I saw people being encouraged to leave full-time jobs in order to take up short term contracts. People, often with children and mortgages, were being convinced to leave stable but unchallenging jobs for a new role which would give them more responsibility and a higher salary. What they weren’t told was that they would be leaving a permanent role for a short-term contract and the uncertainty which that would bring. This behaviour was not uncommon, as targets had to be met in order for the consultants to keep their jobs and secure their commission.

While the picture above could be viewed as pretty bleak, this is far from the truth. There are a large number of very good, conscientious recruiters out there. This is, in part, due to the large body of business research which points to the importance of empathising with others and working hard to forge relationships. Those who are able to do both successfully, tend to progress further in their careers.

I have found that by asking yourself the below questions, it becomes easier to differentiate between the good, the bad and the ugly of recruitment;

  • Has the recruiter actually read my cv/ application? Recruiters read, or are passed, hundreds of cvs daily. How well do they know yours? It is unrealistic to expect that they know it well, but if you have to repeat everything to them, then alarm bells should start ringing.
  • Is the recruiter actually listening to what you say, or are they pushing you to visit the office and complete the registration process? Are they discussing roles, location and the strengths/ weaknesses of your cv? Are they open about your prospects and how they might be able to help you?
  • Is the recruiter trying to build a relationship with you? There will likely be several emails and phone calls exchanged before you visit the agency to complete the registration process. During this time, are you dealing with one person who is looking to establish a working relationship with you? Or are you communicating with somebody different every time?

Recruitment consultants offer a potentially great help with the job searching process. That said, I would strongly advise exercising caution in your interactions with them. Unfortunately, the high commission on offer can lead to unscrupulous behaviour among some in this industry. Thankfully, they are seemingly a dying breed.

Please don’t be put off from the use of recruitment agencies, but I would ask that you proceed with caution and eyes wide open. While I would always advise taking calculated risks in life, as they can either propel you forward or provide a valuable learning experience. In this instance, however, I would ask that you don’t rely solely on one agency for your job search. Speak to as many as you can, and sign up for several of the most promising. They can prove to be a great help, but at the same time do not give up on the direct approach.

It is worth bearing in mind that some organisations do not advertise vacancies through agencies as they want to avoid the associated costs. So, in light of this, don’t stop directly applying to the companies which interest you. The internal recruiters working for this company do have, after all, a vested interest in filling vacancies with the strongest candidates.

I hope that you have found this useful, and have some food for thought. I wish you the best of luck in your search.

The art of building relationships, and why it matters.

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people”

Theodore Roosevelt

In today’s connected world, those who get ahead tend to be those able to forge strong relationships both personally and professionally. The problem is that this ability doesn’t come naturally to all people. Some of us are introverts and can often find social situations challenging.

There is plenty of advice out there with more appearing online and in print daily. That said, it’s something that was written a very long time before even my parents were born, that I found to be rather helpful.

“How to make friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie was first published in the 1930s, but much of the advice whuch it offers is still relevant today. 

The book gets a lot of mixed reviews, but this depends on how you approach and understand it. If you experience a level of anxiety in social situations or would like help in networking or forging professional relationships, you will be introduced to some techniques that could make meeting new people a little easier.

Critics argue that there are techniques introduced which could be viewed as manipulation but I disagree. You will read about ways in which you could influence others, but there is also an underlying emphasis on being respectful, sympathetic and genuine in your approach to others. The aim is to forge a relationship or exchange value with another person, not to take advantage of them.

It’s an easy read, dated in places and if nothing else, will give you some timeless advice to reflect on and experiment with. As with everything else which could potentially help you in your personal or professional development, any success really depends on whether you are prepared to adopt some of the approaches and see where they lead.

Good communication and interpersonal skills are essential for forging relationships with people, and here is what has worked well for me;

  • Listening. When somebody is speaking, actually listen to what they are saying. Rather than waiting for them to stop talking so that you can make your next point, make a real effort to understand what they are saying. This will lead to richer conversations.
  • Empathy. Try putting yourself in another’s shoes, so that you might better understand their views or needs.
  • Give. All to often people enter into conversations with others as a way of seeing what value they can get from them. Be different, and aim to give to others without expecting anything in return, even if that just be advice. This will help build trust with others and could lead to an exchange of value for both of you.

 Any time devoted to improving your interpersonal skills and ability to interact effectively with others is undoubtedly time well spent.

The weight of expectation

“Live no longer to the expectation of those deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Parents, family, friends, social groups, teachers, managers… These are just a few of the many people to whom we give the power to influence our daily lives. We turn to them for advice, guidance, help or support whenever we need it. Many of them, such as parents, managers and social groups have certain expectations for how we should act and lead our lives. This is not necessarily a bad thing when they only want the best for us, and support our goals and dreams. The problem arises when they try to dissuade us from a plan of action because it does not fit in with their expectations. It may that they want to protect us from the risk of failure. It could be that they are jealous of our potential success. Or perhaps a determination that we should not stand out from the group. Whatever the reasoning behind it, some people will inevitably try to dissuade us from following our own paths because they would rather we stay on the one which they approve of. This is not a healthy way to lead your life. If you are simply living your life in accordance with the expectations of others, is it even your life that you are living? What about your own plans, hopes, goals, dreams and aspirations? How about what makes you happy, drives you and gives you a sense of purpose?

One example of expectation gone wrong is social media and the distortion it creates. In this day and age, young people are becoming increasingly addicted to social media. It is a wonderful creation and has the power for good, but it does have its darker side. This is the side that encourages people to take drastic measures for fear of losing out. All too often, people spend huge amounts of money on credit cards in order to buy things which they may not particularly like, want or need. Why? In order to fit in. They see the pictures on Instagram, for example, and do not want to miss out. But it goes deeper than that, with people adopting almost completely new personas in order to remain part of a social group or maintain the popularity of their social media accounts. The problem is that social media is rarely a reflection of real life. Furthermore, trends and tastes change very quickly so you will be forever adapting and changing yourself in order to fit in.

The only goals and expectations which really matter are those which you set for yourself. It is worth asking yourself, when someone tries to impose their expectations on you, why they may be doing this. In whose best interest is it for you to follow their lead? Naturally, other people have something to teach us, and it is a very good idea to get a second opinion wherever possible. Talk to those closest to you. Seek advice. Share your experiences with them. But follow your own path. Be confident. Listen to the warnings and lessons of others but do not be so quick to abandon your own goals in order to live up to their expectations.

This is your life, and it’s short, so you should live it as you want. Provided that you are not hurting, offending or taking advantage of anyone else, you should absolutely live up to your own expectations and the standards which you set for yourself. The people who truly care about you will respect you, understand and adjust their expectations in order to support you.

Rather than blindly living up to the expectations imposed on us by others, have the courage to listen to what your gut is telling you. You never know, it may actually be them who are wrong, not you.

Book Review: Influence by Robert Cialdini

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Robert B. Cialdini, Ph. D. (Quill/William Morrow, New York, NY, Revised Edition 1993). 320 pages.

I love to read, as I feel that it is an essential ingredient for personal and professional development. So, I read a lot and today I would like to share with you my first book review. Having seen Influence appear on a number of business and personal development related reading lists, I decided to give it a go. It was a real eye-opener, which I would recommend to everyone.

Cialdini, a Professor at Arizona State University, shares his research on the art and science of persuasion. Backed by scholarly research, he shares his own real-world experiences and other lessons learned from people described as “compliance professionals”. These are, essentially, people whose job it is to convince others do or buy something. This group is not limited to marketers and salesmen, but also includes parents, waiters, political and business leaders amongst others.

Throughout the book, Cialdini shares his six principles of influence. These principles still ring true today, regularly appearing in books and journal articles on the subject by many others. They are;

  • Reciprocity: If I do something for you then you are obliged to return the favour.
  • Scarcity: The harder it is to get my hands on it, the more I want it
  • Likeability: If you find me likeable, then you are more likely to do what I ask of you.
  • Authority: If you look and act like somebody in a position of authority, then I will obey you, often unquestioningly.
  • Social proof: We look to other people for guidance.
  • Commitment/consistency: If I say something I am more likely to act in a way that shows consistency with that commitment.

The author explains that each of these principles of persuasion can be employed effective against us, because they often appear to be reasonable. Modern life is complicated, and rather than apply critical thinking to every moment of every day, we allow these principles (and their countless variations) to guide our decision-making processes in order to make our lives a little easier.

One of the many anecdotes which I found to be most interesting was his revelation regarding the marketing of toys in the lead up to Christmas. Leaders in the toy industry, naturally, want an increase in sales to last throughout the year rather than just a short surge over the Christmas period. The author shares how he discovered that toy makers will market a certain toy very well, but once interest has been generated they will deliberately ship a limited amount of the toy to stores prior to Christmas. Parents who have promised their children this toy for Christmas will then struggle to find it in time. So, instead, they buy something else to make up for it, only to discover that the desired toy becomes available in January. Wanting to keep their promises to their children, parents then buy the toys which their children had originally wanted. The toy companies thus succeed in selling a large number of alternative toys in December, followed by strong sales of the popular toy in the following months. Like many other techniques used by compliance professionals, this is a hybrid, using both the consistency and scarcity principles to manipulate people and their buying decisions.

In each chapter, Cialdini also offers ways in which we could counteract these forms of influence. There is often a reluctance to simply say no, even when we are not completely convinced, because the aforementioned principles usually work, and can potentially be good for us. So we tend to follow them automatically. Therefore, the author stresses the importance of  being alert, so that we can identify instances in which the above principles are being manipulated by unethical sales or marketing professionals. After all the sooner we become aware of the principles being employed against us, the better able we will be to avoid being manipulated or misled.

This book, and the lessons it can teach us, can benefit everyone. Being aware of how we are influenced can help us to make better decisions in our personal and professional lives. This in turn can lead to stronger relationships, better buying decisions and success in business. Or it might just make us less susceptible to the manipulation of others, which is not a bad thing.

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.

How to keep on winning..

You’ve achieved your goals, personal or business, and success is yours. Finally, you are living the life you had until now only dreamed of. So what do you do next?! KEEP GOING!!! After all, success is an ongoing journey of learning and development. It doesn’t just come to you one night, at random, and stay for a lifetime. It requires an incredible amount of hard work before you can even think of tasting success, and even more of the same to remain successful.

All too often people hit the dizzying heights of success only to then fail, fade away or be overtaken by competitors. This is especially true in the business world. Why does this happen? How does it happen? One big reason why some ventures fade into obscurity after a very strong start, is the naivety and the misunderstanding of what success really is. Too many people see it as an endpoint or a finish line. As soon as they achieve their big goals, they become comfortable and complacent. Most telling of all, though, is that they stop doing what made them successful in the first place. The hunger and desire which drove them this far is now replaced with satisfaction and contentment. Focus turns to living a comfortable lifestyle with nice houses, cars and luxury goods which they can show off to the world through social media.

Unfortunately, success does not last forever. Tastes change, new inventions come to market, new writers or artists release their work and competitors emerge to challenge you for your market share. The problem is that, during this time, you’ve taken a step back in order to enjoy the fruits of your labour. From there, you won’t be able to see, let alone react, to the challenges you will be facing. Before you know it, you are yesterday’s news and scrambling to catch up with everyone else.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Not at all. Take, for example, our personal lives. As we achieve the goals we set for ourselves, we simply stop to reflect before setting more challenging goals. In this sense, our development is ongoing and we are never truly finished learning and growing;

  • We begin with reflection on who we are, our values, what we want from life and our strengths and weaknesses.
  • Once the above has been established, we determine our purpose and then set ourselves goals, both short-term and long-term.
  • At regular intervals, we reflect on our progress so far
  • As we meet each goal, we return to the beginning and reflect before replacing it with another, more challenging, goal.

Sounds a lot easier than it actually is, but this is a formula which can work for anyone willing to put in the required work and effort. Moreover, it can be applied to a business venture too. The only real difference is that the reflection being done and the goals being set are not for yourself but for the business as a whole.

In order to maintain the momentum built by your initial success, you need to be proactive. This is regardless of whether the success is for yourself personally or a business you have launched. You can’t afford to sit back and wait for events to unfold and then react to them. It is far better, and far less stressful to reflect on your progress at regular intervals, adapting or updating your goals whenever necessary. Take a proactive approach and let others strive to catch up with you.

Naturally, when the bad times come, you should maintain your focus and keep going in the direction of your goals. The exact same is true of when the good times come. Keep doing what brought you success in the first place, and fight off complacency with a proactive approach. Don’t lose the passion, desire, hunger and determination which drove you towards achieving what you set out to. Just keep learning, developing, growing and moving forward.

 

 

The “self-made” Myth

Self made. It was all down to me. I did it all by myself. I wanted it bad enough that I went out and made it happen…

How often do we hear the statements like the above when successful people are interviewed? How true are they? Are these people alone responsible for their own success, or is there more to it? Don’t get me wrong, I am not against these comments at all. Narratives like these can provide a fantastic source of motivation and inspiration for others. The message sent is that you don’t have to wait for the right conditions or time for success to come, because the power is in your hands. You control your destiny and have the ability in you to achieve success if you want it badly enough. If doors keep slamming in your face? No problem, just keep banging on more of them until one eventually opens and you get given a chance to prove yourself.

Nobody can achieve success for you. There is no denying this. Others can only teach, advise, guide or assist you to a certain point, after which the rest depends on you. You have to put the work in. The passion, desire and drive needs to come from you. You will be the only one facing the challenges, and in order to overcome them and keep going, sacrifices and compromises will be made. But are you truly going through all of this alone?

No, is the short answer. In the last post, Pay It Forward, we looked at how many of us got to where we are today because somebody took a gamble on us. We were given a chance even though we lacked experience, or another of the key factors which they were looking for. Someone simply saw potential in us and gave us an opportunity, where others would’ve turned us down or shown us the door. So, unless we have been living alone on an island in the middle of nowhere while creating our art or building our business, we have someone to thank for helping us on our journey.

However, it’s not just to the people who gave us a chance and showed faith in us that we have to show our appreciation. While there are some who do manage to go it alone, the majority of us have the love and support of family, friends and communities to support us. These are the people who did everything they could to help us on our journey and asked for nothing in return.

Take credit for your achievements, because they came as a result of your relentless effort and hard work. Be sure to tell the world, as this is a story which could inspire and motivate others. When you do tell your story, though, please give credit to those who helped, supported, influenced or inspired you along the way. Many of these people did all they could to help you and asked for nothing, so please be sure to thank them. “Thank You” is made of just 2 words but when they are said with genuine feeling, they can mean the world to those who helped and believed in you. Mention also your influences too, such as philosophers or businessmen, so that others may read their work and become inspired too.

When success comes, it stands to reason that you should be proud of your achievements and enjoy the accolades. However, telling the world that you are “self made” and alone responsible for your success, is only telling half of the story. Remain humble and grounded during these exciting times and express gratitude for the help, support and inspiration which you received. After all, would you be able to recreate your success if you had to do it all again without the helping hand of family, friends or a mentor?

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.

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?

 

 

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.