Knowledge and Action

We live in exciting times. There are massively successful and influential people who, over the centuries, have condensed their life’s work into books which we can devour in less than a week. Or, better yet, we can go online and find exactly what we are looking for. This enables us to acquire incredible amounts of knowledge in a relatively short time. Better yet, you don’t have to attend a fancy school or university to acquire this knowledge. If you have access to a computer with an internet connection, it’s all at your fingertips. There are no excuses.

But….but…what if you can’t actually read? Well, you can access that knowledge through the increasing number of audiobooks, podcasts or instructional videos on Youtube. OK, but…what if you’re blind? Thankfully, a great number of texts are available in Braille. You get the idea. The information that we really need to be able to change our lives, and the lessons to be learned from the knowledge and wisdom of those who came before us, is available to almost everybody. So, in a day and age where we all fight to stand out from the crowd, it’s clear that access to these sources of knowledge and information is not what makes us unique.

What makes us unique is not that we think in a particularly original way either. Our uniqueness comes from the way in which we absorb and understand the existing knowledge and ideas, before reacting to it in our own individual way. It’s in taking existing knowledge and ideas and challenging them, or improving upon them, that we become unique and original ourselves.

Set your ego and your fears aside, and open yourself up to change. Now, put that knowledge which you’ve acquired so far into action.  Act and learn. Discard the elements which don’t work, make adjustments and tweaks wherever you feel necessary and do more of what works. This is how you can actually improve your life, by acting on the knowledge which you acquire and learning from it. Or, would you rather make it to 60 years of age and look back with regret at a life full of unfulfilled potential, in which you had the knowledge with which to make your mark on the world, but instead did nothing with it? The choice, for me at least, is an obvious one. After all, knowledge is useless unless you do something with it.

If you are not using the knowledge which you acquire, why are you even bothering to read?!

Read…Learn….Act…Learn some more…Grow…

To read or not to read? That is the question!

Readers are leaders!! We’ve all heard this before, and if you study some of the countless articles, books, interviews or infographics which deal with the habits of highly successful people, there are a number of behaviours which they will all have in common. There is, however, one of these which really stands out, and it’s this which I will be focusing on today. They all read. A lot.

It is no secret that the most successful people like to read. The difference is in their choice of reading material. Reading, for many of us, can be a wonderful form of escapism. A humble novel can transport us to far away lands or galaxies, while putting us in the middle of the action and drama which takes place. Some prefer to read magazines and the autobiographies of reality tv stars. Either way, we all like to do it. Most of us, however, do it for fun or relaxation. Of course, wealthy and successful people read novels too, but their primary goal when reading is to acquire knowledge. Knowledge acquired, if acted upon, can lead to even greater success, because the combination of knowledge and action results in power and progress.

I was reminded of the benefits of reading widely, around various topics, recently. Having been invited to several dinner parties over the festive period, I was struck by an interesting realisation. It is not uncommon today, to have a number of tv sets in your home. This usually involves having a large tv in the living room with a surround sound setup, and smaller tvs in the kitchen, conservatory and bedrooms. The realisation which hit me, in the homes of these friends and family who are hugely successful in their own right is that they own one tv. Just one. And it usually lives in the kitchen or conservatory. What they do have throughout a large portion of their houses, though, are bookshelves full of autobiographies, biographies and books on topics from art and culture to Victorian Britain. As a result of their preference of a good book over a tv programme, they are more knowledgeable on a wide range of topics, are more interesting conversationalists and are high achievers.

We all read. Newspapers, magazines, online articles, books…the list is endless. What really makes a difference, and separates the most successful from the rest of the population is the type of reading material, and the motivation for reading. Warren Buffett, the famous investor and one of the richest men in the world, reads every day. As did former US President and larger than life character Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who read and finished a new book every day. Most of the highest achievers read daily, but they tend to focus on biographies of successful figures, non-fiction literature related to their interests or a skill they are trying to acquire, trade journals and literature related to their area of business. They spend less time watching the latest series on Netflix or hit movie on Amazon Prime, and more time reading material which can help them to learn and grow both personally and professionally. They choose to acquire knowledge, while others prefer to simply be entertained. This is what sets them apart from the crowd, and helps them to remain successful. Their libraries is bigger than their televisions.

This is something which anyone can do. It is not easy, as it means changing habits and routines, which people are naturally resistant to. We love the comfort of routines and learned behaviours, but if you want to improve your life and become successful that can only happen if you step outside of your comfort zone. So in 2018, as you chase your goals, become more selective about how much time you spend watching tv and the material you read. It could be the deciding factor in your quest for fulfillment and success.

Happy reading!!

Money. The one thing they don’t teach you about in school

Throughout school, college and university, we gain vast amounts of knowledge. We learn incredible amounts, about topics ranging from geography to food preparation. There is, however, one gaping hole in our education and an awful amount of people suffer as a result of this omission. What we are not being taught is the basics of managing money, and this oversight is negatively affecting countless people.

I am of the firm belief that our educational establishments should be preparing people for the world in which we live, but too many are stubbornly sticking with an outdated curriculum. This means that young adults are entering the world of work, or higher education, without an understanding of how to effectively manage their money. Opening and maintaining a bank account, understanding overdrafts, loans and credit cards and making sense of payslips is what young people need to be taught. Without this, there is a danger of being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous employer who withholds pay, or a money lender who charges extortionate amounts of interest.

Young people need to be made aware of:

  • Bank accounts. This means that they learn how to open a bank account and maintain it, how to deposit and withdraw money, online banking, mobile banking, setting up direct debits and managing overdrafts. It would also help to advise young people about switching bank accounts, and when that may be advisable.
  • Taxes. What are taxes and how do they work? AT what earning thresholds do taxes rise and by how much? What is self-assessment and when is that applicable?
  • Credit Cards. How to apply for a credit card, and it’s impact on your credit score. Understanding interest and other charges, and making repayments.
  • Creating an invoice. The world of work is changing and there is a growing trend towards self-employment, freelancing and entrepreneurship. Even if their desired career path involves full-time employment in an organisation, it is important that young people know how to claim hours worked on a project and issue invoices.
  • Payslips/ P45s/ P60s. Often full of technical terms and numbers, it is essential that people are able to make sense of these statements of their earnings. People need to know how much they have been paid, and how much has been taken in taxes and other deductions.
  • Pensions. Even young people need to know about pensions, because this can affect decisions made about their long term future. It is important that people know about the different types of pension and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Managing finances. Regardless of whether they are starting a degree or entering employment, young people need to learn how to become organised and take control over their finances. The ease with which credit cards and loans can be obtained is worrying. I myself have fallen into this trap before, borrowing thousands of pounds on several credit cards for nice clothes and fancy holidays. Yes I had wonderful experiences and nice things, but the debt and its repayment was not fun. It got to the point where I was working 2 jobs only to see least 70% of my earnings go towards paying off my card debt.  The best way to avoid the many pitfalls is to become organised. Save your payslips or invoices in a folder for easy reference. Use a tracker app to keep a record of your weekly outgoings and incomings. Or just write them in a notebook. It’s worth bearing in mind that you need to fully understand how much you are spending and earning if you want to be in control of your financial wellbeing.

 

The good news is that there is plenty of advice freely available for everyone. Some schools are starting to deal with some money matters as part of Business Studies courses. If you don’t feel that this goes far enough, write a letter or start a petition asking that the school incorporate more teaching on the subject of money in their curriculum or hire specialists who can offer this in the form of workshops.

Universities also offer plenty of help and advice but you often have to be proactive and seek it. Thankfully, this is no more difficult than speaking to a Helpdesk Advisor (or whatever your particular institution calls them). An appointment will then be booked with a specialist who can answer any finance related questions.

Outside of educational settings, further help is available for everybody. Naturally, the internet hosts countless blogs and websites which can help you to better understand money. If, however, you prefer to speak to somebody in person, there are countless debt-relief and financial advice charities who would be keen to help you in any way they can.

Please see below for some of the leading UK charities which deal with money matters. Search in your local area for more options, and don’t be put off by the scary “debt” word. While their primary focus is helping people manage their debts, charities also provide education on all money-related matters. After all, the better people understand money, the less likely it is that they will become trapped and burdened by debt.

Money, and managing it, can appear very scary but it doesn’t have to be. If there is something which you do not understand, seek help, because ignorance in money-related matters can only hurt you if left untreated.

Be mindful of the company you keep

“If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room”

Michael Dell

We tend to surround ourselves with what is familiar. We know what we like, and search for it. Why? Because it’s easy, comfortable and makes us feel good. This applies to the people who we choose to spend time with too. If you really want to lead a successful and fulfilled life, though, you need to step outside your comfort zone. Too many of us still fear the unknown and avoid it wherever possible. What they don’t realise, however, is that these unknowns have within them the opportunities which could transform their lives.

Growing up,I was taught that there is always someone in life, there is always  someone better than you out there. The key is to be humble, seek out these people and learn from them. In order to really develop and grow both both personally and professionally, you need to spend time around people who are more successful, more intelligent, more experienced than you.  It may seem daunting and scary at first but these are the people who will challenge you, stretch you, motivate and inspire you. Not to mention the fact that they may have the knowledge, skills or networks to help you overcome a particular challenge which you may be facing.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t devote time to your family and friends. These are the people who bring joy and meaning into our lives. Even if they don’t challenge us, the love, understanding, friendship and support which they offer us is a welcome support. You can still maintain your relationships, while also seeking out new groups which will help your professional development. There are a number of ways in which you can do this with minimal impact to your personal life.

For those who lack confidence in social situations, there are countless forums and groups on social media with a common interest, such as business networking, which can be joined. Or you can search for the nearest networking event or meeting taking place on a topic which interests you, and attend. In fact, many universities and colleges host such events which are open to the public and free to attend.

Alternatively, look to join a group with which you share a common interest and which holds regular meetings. Personally, I benefited most from joining 2 cigar clubs in London. Cigars are my guilty pleasure, which I allow myself when I have cause for celebration. After a bit of research I picked 2 clubs and joined, each of which meet once a month for tasting sessions, for the experience. The aim was to learn more about, and try, more cigars in a relaxed friendly atmosphere. This I definitely got, but there was something else which these groups gave me. I gained the opportunity to meet and learn from new people. On attending the first meeting of each of these clubs, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was in the presence of entrepreneurs, successful businessmen and women, diplomats and creators of government policy to name but a few. That said, the atmosphere is always relaxed and friendly when we meet as everyone has  a shared interest, which in this case is the humble cigar. In the time which I have been a member at both of these clubs, my professional network has grown as have my opportunities for personal development. Better yet, as the groups only meet once a  month, I have plenty of time outside of these 2 meetings to spend with the people who really matter, my nearest and dearest.

I am not saying that everyone should now start smoking cigars. Some would even argue that it’s a filthy habit. What I would suggest, though, is joining a group based on something which interests you. An increasing number of workplaces have groups which meet on a number of subjects, so find the one which interests you the most and give it a go. Universities have societies for virtually everything you can think of, and allow you to create your own if you can’t find one you like. You never know which doors it might open for you.

Your family and friends, whether they challenge or comfort you, are important and should never be neglected. That is not to say, however, that you can’t find a group or society to join which will give you the challenge and motivation to keep learning and developing.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17)

 

 

 

 

 

Unsure of which path to follow?!

Choose the path of MOST RESISTANCE!!

It is fair to say that the choices we have made until this point in our lives, are largely responsible for the circumstances in which we find ourselves. No matter how small, they all add up over time and take you closer to, or further away from, your goals.

Humans are creature of habit, and our habit is to seek comfort in what is easy or familiar for us. We lead incredibly busy lives with countless demands being placed on our  time and attention every day and often find ourselves drained of energy. Therefore, when we are faced with a choice we favour the easier option. This is often the choice which requires the least effort or energy from us, with the outcome more certain. The rewards tend to be smaller when we play it safe and take the easy option, but so are the risks.

However, it is the more challenging, riskier choices which could potentially make a huge difference in our lives. It is those things which we often regard as challenging, time consuming and tiring which we should be doing in order to succeed. Even if you take the  riskier, more difficult choice and it doesn’t work out as you had hoped, you have a valuable experience from which you can learn. You might even have developed a new skill or acquired new knowledge along the way, neither of which are bad things to have.

That is not to say that you should be reckless and bet your whole future on one roll of the dice, so to speak. Never risk your last penny, home or your livelihood. If, for example, you have a passion which you would like to turn into a business, start it as a side project and only quit your day job when it takes off. I use businesses as an example because they can take a long time to become established and profitable, so quitting your job early would only increase the financial pressure and the risks.

Be bold enough to make difficult, and wherever possible calculated, choices. Enjoy the highs of following the path of most resistance, and learn from the bumps in the road.

I’ll leave you with this popular saying as food for thought;

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations