Hell Is Other People…Really?!

“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”
  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
From a young age, I was taught that we should make an effort to get to know people. All people. No matter what our first impression of them is. And when I read The Little Prince for the first time as a child, it reinforced the lesson that we should not be so quick to judge others. The narrator teaches us that if we spend time with caterpillars (the people we don’t immediately connect with) and get to know them, they eventually turn into butterflies. That is to say, that if you spend time with people and try to understand them, something beautiful can happen, whether that’s the beginning of a good friendship, or an important lesson being learned.
Everybody has something to teach us, whether it’s their level of knowledge on a particular subject, their life experiences or just their behaviour, body language and the way in which they interact with others. They can inspire us, motivate us and lift us. They can support us and offer us a new perspective on life. Or, maybe, they can serve as an example of what not to say or do. The two greatest teachers on life are our experiences, and the people with whom we come into contact with.
All of this only becomes possible if we approach others with an open mind. Which is easier said than done in the digital age. How often do we “google” a new acquaintance’s name or search social media outlets for them, only to form a judgement on who they are before we have actually taken the time to get to know them as a person? Even in this day and age, people are judged according to their political views, lifestyle choices, sexual orientation and so much more. None of which is a true reflection of who they are as a person and what they could bring to your life if you only put your judgements aside and really got to know them. It could be the case that, in getting to know each other, you are the one who will make a positive difference in their life. And isn’t that why we are all here? To make a positive impact on the lives of others around us? We are social creatures, so it’s only natural for us to lift and support each other.
Too often, though, we surround ourselves with people who share our beliefs and interests. People who think and act like us, and understand us. It’s the safe and easy choice. Given that we like the same things and think and act in similar ways, we know what we are getting with these people. No differences of opinion or challenging conversations. We can just be ourselves without the fear of being judged. As a result, we label ourselves and others, before joining the group which resonates the most with us. With everyone in isolated groups, it makes it harder to get to know others outside our spheres and share ideas and opinions.
In business, these isolated groups are called silos, and organisations are working hard hard to break these down in order to encourage better communication and co-operation between departments and colleagues. In much the same way, we need to work to rid society of these social bubbles, and encourage more people from all walks of life to get to know each other.
We all say that we want to better ourselves and improve the quality of our lives, so why are we overlooking one of the best teachers of all, the people whose interests and experiences are different from ours?!
Judge less. Communicate more. You’ll be surprised just how much this can enrich your life.

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

Closure

Whether in our personal or professional lives, there are relationships which will come to an end. Of course, if both parties work together, any relationship can be salvaged and perhaps grow stronger as a result of the effort. However, some are meant to end. Some of these will end more abruptly than others. Some will hurt more than others.

Why do relationships end? There are countless reasons, but poor communication is chief among them. By not listening to each other and communicating our thoughts, feelings and decisions, it leads to differences of opinion, misunderstandings and arguments. If we feel misunderstood, unappreciated or that another’s actions have hurt or offended us, it’s natural that we would want to distance ourselves from them. That said, sometimes we simply outgrow some relationships. As we learn, grow and develop ourselves, we seek the company of other likeminded people who will challenge and inspire us. Like attracts like, after all.

In business or the professional arena, the ending of a relationship can have financial consequences or negatively impact the reputation of a business. The best way to deal with this and find closure is to focus on forging new relationships, and revisiting your marketing strategy. New relationships can potentially be even more mutually beneficial than the ones which have ended, and by revisiting your marketing strategy, you make sure that it is relevant and up to date.

Finding closure in a personal relationship is not that easy. There are the stages of pain, anger and self-doubt to contend with. In truth, they are more than stages, and closer to rites of passage which you have to go through. Even if there was a way to avoid these, would you really want to? As painful as they may be, they help us to stop and reflect on who we are, what we want in life and what we are prepared to accept from others. This is what helps us to identify the kinds of people we want in our lives, and to find and cultivate relationships with them. It serves to enrich our lives greatly, because the experience of an ending relationship teaches us an awful lot about ourselves, such as where we went wrong, what areas of our lives we need to work on improving and what behaviour we accepted from others but now regret. We bounce back stronger as a result, with a clearly defined set of standards.

So how do you end a relationship, whether it’s a romantic one or a friendship. In person. Unless it’s a long distance relationship, there is no excuse for an adult to be ending a relationship by Skype, text message or social media. It’s childish and weak.

So, what do you do exactly?

  • Arrange a meeting in person. Talk to them in person. Explain that you are parting ways and why. Give them a chance to ask any questions or offer any explanations. This is very important in making the break as amicable as possible, but also for your peace of mind. The thought of doing this can be terrifying, though, and if it is, consider asking a mutual friend to join you or arrange a joint counselling session in which to do it.
  • Avoid airing your dirty laundry in public. There may very well be mutual friends, but whatever happens, avoid involving them. It will make you look weak, and make them feel uncomfortable. Is it really worth risking these relationships, just so that you can tell others how awfully your former friend/ partner treated you?
  • Keep any photographs or gifts, but store them safely in a box. Short-term, you will want to be rid of any reminder of that person. These gifts and pictures, however, are memories of good times, and you will regret not keeping them. Put them in a box and put that box away safely.
  • Cut off contact. It sounds harsh, but remember that you have decided that you no longer want this person in your life. Why then would you still have their phone number, or remain connected via social media? Maintaining any form of communication, will only give that person the opportunity to keep contacting you. In this instance, be ruthless and cut them off.
  • Question time. Now is the time to slowly get to work, asking yourself why you are ending this relationship, what you may have done wrong or could have done better and what you really want in a friend/ partner. Also think carefully about your standards. What are you prepared to accept in your life, and where do you draw the line?
  • Write them a letter. Once written, it’s up to you whether you send it or burn it. The act of writing the letter is what matters here. You may have written down your thoughts and feelings already in your journal, but this is different. Grab a notepad and start writing. There are a few rules, though. Obviously, you must address it to the person in question. After all, this is your chance to communicate anything which you were unable to in person. Ensure that the tone is friendly and polite, with no name-calling or finger-pointing. The purpose of this letter is to convey to this person how they made you feel and why you chose to end the relationship. Describe the behaviours which you accepted but now regret. If there was any wrongdoing on your part, this is your chance to explain yourself.

The above list is by no means definitive, but it worked for me and I hope that it might help others too. In my case, I was getting over the ending of my relationship and writing the letter was the key to finding closure. I actually sent mine and this gave me an incredible feeling of liberation. Nothing has been left unsaid, and I feel free and at peace.

What do you do to find closure after the end of a toxic relationship?

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

Touched By An Angel (Maya Angelou)

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

 

Touched By An Angel is a poem about the power of love, yet it is not your typical cringeworthy love story, which is why it is up there with my favourite poems which i’ve been sharing this blog

The poet, Maya Angelou describes love as something which is difficult to find and even harder to understand.  Even when love is found, although it can give us courage and a sense of freedom, we are warned that it doesn’t automatically solve all life’s problems. For love to last, as with anything else worthwhile and worth having in life, it requires hard work, sacrifice and a devotion to each other.

Love shouldn’t be taken for granted, which is something i’m guilty of, but worked at constantly. Love is teamwork, and requires effort in order to survive life’s ups and downs. You may be able to  get away not putting the work in for a while, but eventually this will cause your relationship to come to a premature end. It’s far better, and healthier, to heed the poet’s advice that although love costs all we are, we should never stop doing whatever it takes to preserve it. After all, once love has been lost, it’s a long road back in which you need to prove that you can be trusted not to make the same mistakes again. Better not to take the love of another person for granted in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Success (Bessie Anderson Stanley)

While there is much debate about who actually wrote the poem which I am sharing with you today, there is no doubting its value. Having long been attributed to philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, it is now believed to have been written in 1904 by the writer Bessie Anderson Stanley. Somewhat similar in style to Rudyard Kipling’s If, the poem is written as though a teacher, parent or grandparent is sharing their wisdom.

The poet questions what success actually means and what it looks like. Ask that question today, and due to the influence of social media, a number people will likely tell you that success for them means fame and fortune, big houses, fast cars and lavish holidays. Of course, that is not true for everyone, and others may define success as finding a cure for a terrible disease, protecting an endangered species from extinction or any other way in which they can make a meaningful difference and inspire change for the better.

The poet here reminds us that the successful person is also one who has lived well, enjoyed themselves and fostered good relationships with all kinds of people. To Stanley, success is about the intangible things, which cannot be bought and are difficult to measure. Success is not just about material things, but as with those who strive to make the world a better place, it’s about what we can accomplish, and how we can contribute to the betterment of society and the world around us.

So, you don’t need status or wealth to be considered successful. You are a success if you achieve something worthwhile, and leave the world in a better state than it was when you found it. Success is about interactions and whether you are able to inspire, lead or lift others. Success is about enjoying, and making the most of the beauty of life. For this, you don’t need social status or a well-paid job. All you need is kindness, compassion, empathy and respect, and we are all capable of these.

So, what is success? I hope the poem provokes some thought and reflection on what success means to you.

Success
He has achieved success
who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;

who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,

the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;

who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;

who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

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.