Going All The Way..

If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?!

Joe Namath

As Sunday draws to a close, our batteries are recharged and we gear up for the week ahead, I wanted to share the above quote with you. Why? Because too many people still play it safe, and are denying the world all that they have to offer. You could have it within you to become a great artist or musician, teacher or doctor, but unless you actually do something about it, nothing will happen.

Playing it safe exposes you to less risk, requires less physical or mental energy expenditure and frees up time to focus on things which bring instant gratification. This could manifest itself in the form of a steady job which pays the bills, mortgage and holidays. Or that you willingly avoid relationships. Or perhaps spend your evenings and weekends socialising, watching tv or just doing whatever you regard as fun. Whatever it is, the result is almost always the same. While it could lead to more time for fun, and experiencing less stress now, there is a price to pay, and that is frustration and the feeling of unfulfilled potential later on.

The best way to avoid this is to change your mindset. Go from being satisfied with mediocrity, to constantly seeking improvement. Seek to make small improvements in your life every day, and watch those small steps lead to massive success if you keep going.

This really is as easy as it sounds. Identify what areas of your life you would like to see a change in. New job or career change? More money? Better health and fitness? Now, think about where your strengths and weaknesses lie in relation to your goals. What are you good at and could be doing more of to make quicker progress? What areas do you need to work on improving? Are there skills which you need to learn or gaps in knowledge which need to be addressed?

This is different for everyone, so you need to do the reflection yourself. There is no one-size-fits-all formula to do this because we are all unique and each of us has different wants, needs and reasons for wanting that which we crave. We all know that there are no shortcuts to success. It requires lots of hard work and perseverance. When it all comes together though, and success comes knocking, it feels all the sweeter because of the effort which it took to reach your goals.

There are 24 hours in the day, and this is the same for every one of us. No exceptions. The only difference between the most successful people and everyone else, is largely a matter of how they use their time. For example, they spend less time watching tv and more time reading. Furthermore, they are more selective in what they read. They read to gain knowledge and understanding, which could potentially help them.

Have a think about how you spend an average day. Outside of work, how much time do you spend on positive activities such as exercise, networking, reading, studying or listening to audiobooks or podcasts? How much time do you spend out with colleagues with friends or watching tv?

What changes can you make in how you spend your free time? Can you turn off the tv one hour earlier and read in bed instead? Can you use your morning commute to listen to podcasts or read? Can you give up one or two nights a month to attend networking events?

Small changes to your daily routine (we love routines!) can add up to massive progress over time if we are consistent. In this way, with baby steps and small daily sacrifices we can turn the potential which is within us into a reality.

Perseverance Pays…

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time

Thomas Edison

How many social media posts have you read by “gurus” claiming to have the secret to success?! Yep. They’re everywhere. Everyone seems to be super-successful, and keen to share their secrets with you . All you have to do is just buy their book or join their programme. Thing is, the world of social media is no more real than a Disney movie. It’s entertaining, but it’s also make-believe.

To be fair, some of these people are expert storytellers, and their books make for great reading. BUT when you buy the book or the course, you are not looking to be entertained. People part with their hard-earned cash because they want help getting started on the journey towards their goals, or have reached a plateau and need some help to get to the next level.

Reality check time. There is no secret, magic potion, silver bullet, book, online course or any other shortcut to success. Anyone who claims otherwise is either deluded, a liar, a charlatan or a fraud.

Success is achieved when you decide what you really want, identify your strengths which you can take advantage of, and the weaknesses which you need to address before taking determined action. Small steps every day which take you closer to your goals, learning and growing all the time.

If, however, there was to be one key ingredient to success, I would argue that this must be perseverance. Given that absolutely anybody can decide what they want and take action, why aren’t more people massively successful?! The “P” word. Perseverance.

Perseverance is what separates the successful few from everyone else. Those who persevere are the ones who keep going when progress slows down. These are the people who take a positive view on failures and setbacks, treating them as opportunities to learn from what went wrong wrong, adapt their approach and then try again. Whether things are going good or bad, they keep going and are always learning, adapting and growing.

Most importantly, those who persevere and achieve their goals are the ones who don’t look to others for validation or permission from others. They understand that everybody has an opinion on everything, and you don’t have to give your time and attention to all of them. Some will doubt you and others will openly laugh at your dreams. This is perfectly normal, and not to be taken to heart. Believe me, all of your doubters will change their tune once you prove that it can be done. Don’t let their limitations derail your efforts.

In order to persevere and ultimately succeed in your endeavours, the only opinion you need to pay attention to is your own. You need to believe in yourself and your ability. You need to be confident that achieving your goals is a matter of “when” and not “if”. This will keep you going when times get tough. This is what separates the successful from the mediocre – they keep going and never give up. They keep going when nobody else believes in them or shares their vision. They keep going when times get tough. They keep going when they don’t feel like it. They just keep going until they achieve whatever it is that they desire. They persevere.

 

The Steam Train Metaphor For Success

How many times do you think a steam train got the job done over the course of its service? Through rain, cold, snow and ice…No matter the conditions, it pushed through and got the job done.

I would hazard a guess that the challenging conditions far outnumbered the ideal ones. Yet it still persevered and got the job done. For me, a steam train (not this one in the picture, though, because that’s the Hogwarts Express) provides a perfect metaphor for a fulfilled and successful life.

There are going to be many, many times during which life will threaten to overwhelm or frustrate you. It’s easy to do what countless others do in these circumstances, and blame it all on unforeseen forces. If you do fall into this trap, you will find yourself asking questions like;

  • Why me?
  • Why does God hate me?
  • Why does the Universe deny me?
  • Why do I always have bad luck?
  • Why does everything have to be so difficult for me?
  • Why can’t I catch a break?

What happens when you ask questions like these, though? They create a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and powerlessness. You start to believe that there is nothing which you can do to improve your circumstances, so you give up and quit trying.

How about the steam train? When faced with a challenge what does it do? Keep going and power through, or abort it’s journey? Exactly! It keeps going.

Please understand that you are sabotaging your progress when you indulge in this negative self-talk. Negative self-talk and negative thoughts only lead to negative outcomes.

All of us have been there…every single one of us. These, hard, difficult, challenging and frustrating times serve and important and practical purpose. They prepare, condition, strengthen and teach you about the responsibilities which come with the life you desire.

This is why success can seem so rare and mysterious to some people…because most people either don’t understand that tough times have many benefits, or are unable to summon the mental and physical strength with which to push themselves through the tough times.

What is the alternative, though?

Become a passive passenger? Sit back and let life just happen to you? Life will beat you down at times. Rather than despair or feel sorry for yourself, why not take advantage of the opportunities on offer to learn and grow? By developing a new skill or gaining knowledge with which to overcome life’s frustrations, you become better equipped for the rest of your life’s journey.

Don’t waste time and energy focusing on how hard life can be and what sacrifices you have to make, just accept that life is tough. Focus instead on your big goals and end results, and the daily actions which will get you there.

It’s always darkest before the dawn. If, however, you learn to persevere through the darkness, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes so much more meaningful and enjoyable.

So, like the steam locomotive train, keep chugging along

All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter (J.R.R Tolkien)

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

The Riddle of Strider; The Lord of The Rings

See It Through (Edgar Albert Guest)

When you’re up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
When it’s vain to try to dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
You may fail, but you may conquer,
See it through!
Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don’t let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you’re beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting;
Don’t give up, whate’er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish.
See it through!

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!!

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!!

Don’t give up

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all”

Dale Carnegie

Persistence. Perseverance. Resilience. Mental strength. Grit. Whatever you choose to call it, you will need plenty of it in order to achieve great things.

No matter what your idea of success looks like to you, the truth is that it won’t come to you overnight. It will take time and a lot of hard work. There will be ups and downs, both of which you should regard as opportunities to learn and develop. This is the famous “journey” which we hear so much about. For me, this is the best part of personal development and striving towards your goals.

As you set off in pursuit of your goals, you will gain knowledge, skills and there will be countless experiences from which to learn and grow. At the end of the journey, you may very well have achieved your goals but the person you have become in the process is much more important. The thing about this journey, however, is that if you keep giving up when times get tough, there won’t be one.

So, my message to you is not to give up when things are no longer going according to plan. After all, if you quit once you will be more likely to do it again the next time you face a challenge. Learn from the experiences, both good and bad, and keep moving forward. Enjoy the journey, learn from it and grow. By refusing to give up, and persevering, you will appreciate the good times even more when they come. And they will. Plenty of them. You just have to be patient and keep trying.

Love your haters.

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

Winston Churchill

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Talent vs Hard Work.

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

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

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

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

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

The unconquerable spirit

We all face challenges and go through difficult times. It’s a hard fact of life, but also a formative opportunity.  The way in which we respond to adversity can forge our character and make us stronger.

The truth is that each of us, alone, is responsible for our own life and the direction it takes. The power really is in our hands, and the sooner we realise this, the better. I’ll say it again; you are in control of  your life. When you realise this, wonderful things happen. Chief among these positive changes is the shedding of the victim mentality. You no longer feel helpless and powerless in tough times, and that things just happen to you. Simply put, you gain a new perspective. You become stronger mentally, more resilient and more confident. You then begin to see challenges as a small bump in the road which you will overcome.

When I am going through tough times, I revisit one of my favourite poems, Invictus by William Earnest Henley, which I would like to share with you below. Invictus itself is a Latin term and means to be unconquerable or unbeatable. It’s about an indomitable spirit and a refusal to accept defeat. It is also strength and perspective in the face of adversity, which makes it perfect for times when you find yourself lacking courage or strength after a setback. Take ownership of, and responsibility, for your decisions and actions…..then watch the magic happen as your life changes for the better. Things do not simply happen to you. Understand that you make things happen. You have the power. Use it wisely.

Invictus 

Out of the night that covers me,   
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
  For my unconquerable soul.   
   
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.   
Under the bludgeonings of chance   
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.   
   
Beyond this place of wrath and tears   
  Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years   
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.   
   
It matters not how strait the gate,   
  How charged with punishments the scroll,   
I am the master of my fate: 
I am the captain of my soul