Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.

~ Guillaume Apollinaire

I love the above quote from Apollinaire. It’s so beautiful and so true. Fear of the unknown leads us to play it safe in life, and avoid risks. It’s hardwired in all of us but causes so much pain and regret.

The two biggest drivers in our lives are pleasure and pain. We are drawn to pleasure, and avoid pain wherever possible. This is why we are so risk averse. We stick with what we know, or what we think we know because it’s comfortable and familiar. Taking risks, however, is taking a leap into the unknown, no matter how well researched the risk is. We weigh up what could go wrong, at which point we decide that taking a leap of faith could lead us into a painful, negative situation. So we decide against it and stick with what we know. The fear of loss, failure or embarassment is too great.

The problem is that in order to lead a fulfilled life in which we constantly push the boundaries of that which we are capable of, we need to take chances. We need to step into the unknown. This is where amazing things happen. We either taste success or are left with a valuable experience from which we can learn and grow.

So, stop selling yourself short and dare to achieve greatness. Take chances, expecting success while also being prepared to greet failure as an old friend and wise teacher;

  • Ditch your ego
  • Drown out the negative voices, and just believe in your abilities.
  • Stop taking pride in what you know, and instead open your mind to the possibility of learning and experiencing something new
  • Take that leap of faith.

You Are What You Think About Most Often

The seeds which you plant in your mind today, will become tomorrow’s reality. Sounds like a rather bold and far-fetched statement when you first hear it, but it’s true. The quality of your life depends very much on what you choose to feed your mind. Whatever you feed it, your mind will work to turn that into your reality through your thoughts, beliefs and actions.

If you fill your mind with negative input, you become negative and pessimistic.

If you occupy yourself with mindless activities, you will become mindless and go through life on autopilot.

If  you carry out the bare minimum amount of work on your personal and professional development, just enough to get by, then the life you lead will be strictly average.

If, however, you fill your mind with positive input, you will develop an optimistic mindset and lead a positive life.

Furthermore, if you work hard on your personal and professional development, constantly striving to learn, adapt and grow, you will lead a successful and fulfilled life

Which would you prefer?

You can’t blame anybody else but yourself for where you find yourself today. After all, you can’t reap the benefits if you haven’t taken the time to sow the right seeds in the first place. That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost, though. It’s never too late to start turning your life around.

You are your own creator. When people talk about the power which we all possess, this is what they are talking about. Each of us has the power to shape our own individual destiny. Our lives, and our current circumstances, are the physical manifestation and result of our beliefs, decisions and thoughts. Those who do not realise this fact often find themselves working for, or idolising, those who understand this truth and live their lives accordingly.

Grab a pen and paper and audit your thoughts and decision making processes.

  • What kind of input do you mostly feed your brain? Positive? Constructive? Helpful? Negative? Mindless?
  • What do you spend the most time thinking about?
  • Do you often reflect on how difficult and unfair your life is? Or do you think about how your potential is limitless, and how incredible your life would be if you applied yourself and put in the necessary work?

Your thoughts dictate your actions which in turn determine the quality of life which you will lead. Feed your mind with knowledge and positivity. Expect good things of yourself, and then get out there and work for them.

Be Selective About Who You Give Your Time And Attention To

Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great

Mark Twain

Each if us has the same 24 hours every day. No more, no less. Sounds like a lot, and it is plenty. In those 24 hours, you can sleep for 8, work for 8, work out for 1 and still be left with around 7 hours to chase your goals, spend time with friends and family, and just  relax.

The more you do with the time you have, the more chance you have of ending the day with a sense of fulfilment, and the satisfaction of having taken steps closer towards your goals. Who wouldn’t want that?!

The people who we spend time with can have a huge impact on whether we make progress towards our goals or not. Surround yourself with high achievers and caring people who support your goals and ambitions and you will thrive. If, however, you are spending time with negative people who make fun of your ambitions and gossip about you rather than support you, you will suffer as your confidence takes repeated blows.

We have previously looked at how to grow your network and surround yourself with likeminded people who push you to become the best you can be. Friends, colleagues, partners, clients…these are some of the people whose presence in our lives we decide. If they are toxic, we can make the conscious decision to stay away from them. For the most part, we choose the people we spend time with and we also choose how much we share with them.

There is, though, one group who we can’t rid ourselves of even if their absence would be a blessing. This group is your family. Most of us are blessed with very good immediate family (parents, siblings and grandparents) who only want the very best for us. Even if they are not as optimistic as you are about your goals, they will support you in whatever way they can. You can’t ask for much more than that, really. It’s with the extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins that there can be an issue.

At its very worst, this group can be disgustingly judgemental. Normally, we have pretty thick skins which allow us to ignore others’ criticisms. It becomes harder to ignore, though, when the criticism comes from those closest to you. People have their own motivations for speaking and behaving the ways in which they do. It could be that they do not fully understand the journey which you are on. It could be that their negativity is a reflection of their own limitations and fears. Or, it could be that they are unhappy with their own lives, and find it easier to belittle your ambitions than it is to improve their own circumstances. Whatever their reason for being so judgemental, it’s not your problem. So, how do you deal with them?

  • Limit your time with them. Easier said than done, though. You could limit yourself to seeing them at big family occasions, but the rest of the time, seek the company of other more supportive people. This, however, is not always an option because people can be very close even of they don’t support one another’s dreams.
  • Limit what you share with them. You do not need to share everything with everyone, especially if you can’t count on them for any support or understanding. If they keep probing about your journey and you don’t want to share, just change the topic. Answer with something as ambiguous as “so far so good, happy with things are progressing” then switch the conversation back to them by asking about something which interests them.
  • Stop placing so much importance on the opinions of others. Understand that people can only affect your confidence with their words if you let them. When they speak, nod, smile and then forget about it. Have faith in your ability. If you are to hold on to another’s discouraging words, do it with the aim of proving them wrong and use those words as motivation to keep going when times get tough.

Sometimes, we can’t choose who we spend time with. We can, however, choose how much influence we allow others to have over us. Understand that, for example, just because an aunt doesn’t support your goals and dreams that they are not any less important or achievable.

Stop looking to others for validation, but just have faith in your ability. Surround yourself as much as possible with people who do support your vision and can help you to become the best version of yourself. Take small steps every day in the direction of your goals but, most of all, don’t let a few negative voices discourage you from achieving great things, no matter who those voices belong to.

 

 

 

 

 

Substance over Style

Fake it until you make it. Dress like you already have the job or lifestyle which you want. Copy these 5/ 6/ 10 habits of highly successful people if you want results. Dress this way. Read this, watch that...The list goes on. If, however, you are serious about becoming the best version of yourself and achieving great things, then this is advice which is to be avoided.

The problem is that this advice is superficial and cosmetic. Furthermore, it’s a waste of time. The time which is wasted on dressing a certain way to impress others, for example, could be better spent working on yourself. This definitely does not count as working on yourself, because all you’re doing in this instance is putting on an act. Copying the behaviour of famous people won’t actually help you to become more like them. It won’t make you rich or famous. It won’t get you any closer to your goals, either. Instead, it could derail your progress.

If your ultimate goal is fame and fortune, then you are doing it wrong. The journey which you embark on should be one of self-discovery, learning and growth. The aim should be to achieve the big goals which you set yourself, while also growing personally and professionally along the way. If all you crave is money and status, then there is a very real danger that you will neglect your principles and forget who you are as you sacrifice everything in the hope of becoming rich.

This is why the current advice, like the above, which is being peddled by all the leading personal development speakers and authors is so very wrong. It misleads people into thinking that all they have to do is copy a celebrity to become more like them. Style over substance. Don’t worry about knowledge and experience, just dress like Steve Jobs and you can follow in his footsteps. Ok, so i’m over-simplifying but I hope you get the idea. When you prioritise style over substance, it’s like having a large double-fronted house with 4 cars on the driveway, but nothing of any value inside. It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, the clothes and nice watch, but what’s inside. Your values, drive, determination and character. The things that make you…you. Those are important.

Rather than focusing on material gain, I strongly believe that the ultimate goal of a personal and professional development journey should be to become a person of value. If you are self-aware and can provide value to others, then good things will come your way if you continue to work for them.

This is why it makes no sense whatsoever to simply copy famous people and hope for the best. It seems to me bizarre to simply dress a certain way, then sit back and wait for success to come and find you. This will never happen. If you want to progress in life and achieve great things, then you have to put the work in. But you also need to be self-aware, knowing who you are and what you want to achieve in life.

This is all part of the reflection process, which comes before you even set your goals. Doing the reflection first, and becoming self-aware, is crucial because it ensures that throughout the journey on which you will embark, you will never forget who you are and what is important to you.

This is substance over style. Instead of compromising who you are, you stay true to yourself. This helps to forge and strengthen relationships with other people who will feel themselves able to trust you, and more inclined to help and support you. Moreover, it ensures that the goals which you set, the decisions you make and the actions which you take will all lead you to become the best version of yourself.

Forget about what others do, say, wear or eat. Nothing can be gained from merely copying them. Instead, aim to become a person of substance and someone who is self-aware, honest and trustworthy. This, along with determined action in the direction of your goals, is what will bring you success. The world needs more substance, and less mimicry.

Urgency

Urgency doesn’t sound as cool as “hustle”, “grind” or any of the other popular phrases we hear so often, but that doesn’t make it any less important. If you want to become successful, then a sense of urgency is essential. Putting essential tasks off until later, so that you can watch a movie now, won’t help you get to where you want to be. It just delays your progress.

Do you think Richard Branson and Elon Musk take a laid-back approach to business, frequently putting off until another day those things which they could do now? Of course not. They understand that the world of business is fast-moving, so they act quickly and decisively.

Unlike most of us, successful people are not selective in what they approach with a sense of urgency. They adopt that same approach with everything, so as to avoid the disappointment of missed opportunities. How do they manage to do this and still find time for their families and personal interests? They prioritise.

In order to be of service to others, you need to take care of yourself first. This means guarding your time. Throughout the day, every day, we get bombarded with requests for help from other people. High achievers, however, don’t stop to deal with each one but they have the courage to say no when that task would distract them from their own goals. They take care of their own priorities first, and then serve others if they have enough time and energy left.

Successful people have to-do lists for their days, which helps to avoid distractions and getting side-tracked. They also prioritise their activities to make sure that if they don’t complete everything, at least the most important tasks get completed. Most of all, though, they act with urgency in everything they do. This means that that by the time that they sit down to relax in the evening, they are able to reflect back on the day with satisfaction because they have taken positive steps towards their goals.

If, for example, your goals are to get a new job, lose weight and become debt-free in 2018, you need to give your all, in all 3 areas, every day. This is what helps you to achieve more, because you are constantly striving for improvement. Rather than taking one at a time, you fire yourself up and tackle all 3 because there is no time to lose. Momentum builds, experience is gained and progress is made. This, in turn, keeps you motivated and the fire burning to keep going and challenging the limits of what you are capable of achieving.

Better yet, when acting with a sense of urgency in all you do becomes a habit, it benefits you in other ways too. Of course, it has the potential to bring quicker results from your efforts, but it is also a great way to build momentum and boost your confidence. You will find yourself becoming more driven, focused and productive. You will find your work ethic increasing, and as a result, opportunities for personal or professional development will present themselves. Best of all, you stop procrastinating or deferring important tasks to another day. Your mindset changes, and you strive to complete as much as you can today, in order that you can push yourself harder and achieve even more tomorrow.

All of this is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Create a to-do list for the tasks that will get you a step closer to your goals each day. Then attack each one with an equal sense of urgency, and watch the magic happen.

Remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss.

When Are Habits Helpful?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

There are two types of habits, one is good and the other..not so much. Good habits are the ones which are productive and helpful, such as drinking more water or waking up earlier. Then there are the ones which are frowned upon, such as smoking. Naturally, in a blog devoted to striving towards your potential and making the most of your life, the focus here will be on the good habits.

Why are good habits such a big deal?

In an average day, our brain is working furiously for as long as we are awake. It controls our thought processes, our decision making processes, our actions and also how we interpret everything going on around us. Being this busy, any help it can get to reduce the workload is definitely a good thing. This is where the healthy habits come in, and if those habits can become daily routines, then that’s even better. When a habit becomes a routine, we no longer think about it, because it just happens. This means that some of our brain power can be turned towards focusing on other tasks or issues.

Healthy habits and routines not only ease the burden on our brains, but they also help us to structure our days. This means that we find ourselves with a number of things which we do because we want to, without thinking, and they help to get us closer to our goals. Adding structure to our days is essential, because it prevents procrastination and wasted time. It can stop us from putting off things which we could do now to propel us forward. Essentially, it can help to prevent us from becoming complacent and lazy, instead keeping us working to build and maintain the momentum which can bring positive results.

If you’re wondering just how to get started with developing positive habits and routines, there really is no secret. Just get started. It’s a matter of trial and error, keeping that which works and learning from that which doesn’t. Habits vary from person to person depending on who they are and the direction in which they want their lives to be headed. For me, I want to push myself to test the limits of what I am capable of. I want to keep learning and developing all the time in order that I can become the best version of myself and provide value to everyone around me. I want to raise myself up, before reaching out to raise others too.

To do this, I can’t allow myself to just take my days as they come. By the time my head hits the pillow at night, I want to know that I have achieved something with my day. Of course, I make sure I have enough downtime during the day for entertainment and relaxation because the least thing I want is to burn out. Here are a few of the things I do every day, which work for me;

  • Get up at the same time each day. On a weekday i’m up at 5:30 to shower and get ready for work. On the weekends, I am up at the same time. I don’t have lie-ins. Firstly, it keeps my body clock in good working order. Secondly, getting up early allows me to fit more into my day. Tired? Go to bed earlier. When I used my weekends to catch up on sleep, I would be exhausted on Monday morning and this is not a good way to start the week. I had allowed my body two days of sleeping late but was now asking it to spring into action early again. By getting up at the same  time every day, your body doesn’t need to adapt to anything. Simple, but effective.
  • Make your bed. Yes, you read it right. Making your bed takes a matter of seconds, yet it gives you the satisfaction of completing a task before you’ve even had breakfast. Plus it looks nice.
  • Gratitude journal and to-do list. While my coffee is cooling down to a temperature which won’t incinerate my insides, I write down 3-5 things for which I am grateful and a brief explanation why. This is a wonderful exercise, and puts you in a positive mental frame of mind for the day because you can’t write down your blessings and not feel happy. I also have a look at my to-do list for the day, which helps me to prepare mentally for the day ahead and also prioritise the tasks on the list. By the time I get to my desk, I know what I have to accomplish that day, and in what order.
  • Physical activity. If I can’t make it to the gym, i’ll go for a walk in the park. It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I do something which involves getting active. When I get moving,  I clear my head and de-stress.
  • Journal and to-do list. In the evening, i’ll set some time aside to journal. This is where I reflect on the day, my decisions and their outcomes, my progress towards my goals and any issues I have encountered. This helps to clear my head again, and a clear head means a good night’s sleep. After journalling, I grab a separate notebook and make a to-do list of important tasks for the next day, so that I don’t forget anything or get distracted. If it’s on paper, then I will make sure it gets done.

All this makes for a busy but productive day. It keeps me learning, reflecting and growing. More importantly, though, it keeps me working hard on my goals. When bad things happen, I am too busy to wallow in self-pity so instead I reflect on what I can learn from the experience, apply it and move on.

I share this with you today, because it works for me and can work for anybody else. You don’t need any equipment, specialist skills or knowledge. All you need is to decide which habits you want to develop, identify how they can help you on your journey and get to work on them. Repetition and discipline will turn these activities into habits and later into routines. Once formed, these habits and routines will help you to build and maintain the momentum which will propel you towards your goals. You just need to want it bad enough that you are prepared to put the work in. Every day.

 

 

 

 

Keep Knocking On Doors…

..long enough and eventually someone will open up to let you in. This applies to everything in life. You will often fall short in your first attempt at anything, and that’s ok. It’s all part of the learning and growth processes. Don’t let failure or rejection stop you from chasing after whatever it is that you really want, though. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.

Job hunting is a prime example, whether you are seeking your first role, a better role or a totally new career. You find the ideal role advertised, and it is a perfect match with your experience and skillset. You apply and if you’re very lucky, you get shortlisted for interview. More often than not, however, you get a generic rejection email. Or maybe no response at all. You find another role for which you believe you are a perfect fit. Same thing happens again.

This can be a kick in the teeth for anyone. Left unchecked, it erodes your confidence and you find yourself reluctant to apply for more roles. Those which you do apply for, you only put minimal thought and effort into, because you already anticipate rejection. This is a vicious cycle which only serves to keep you from finding the right job.

This cycle can be broken, though, through persistence and a bit of good old review and reflection. If your efforts have fallen flat so far, change your approach. Think about it – when you hit turbulence while pursuing your goals, what do you do? You reflect on your approach so far and what you’ve learned, you seek advice and feedback and get back to work. The same applies to your job hunt.

Applying for jobs is a numbers game. Along with yourself, there could be tens or even hundreds of others all applying for the same role. The recruitment software that companies use to sift through CVs and application forms will cut that number down, and a panel will review the remainders and shortlist the lucky ones. In my own experience, the response rate to job applications is between 10 and 16%. This, however can differ for you, depending on your industry, qualifications and experience.

What does all of this mean? Well, when you hit a brick wall in your job hunt;

  • Take some time to review your personal statement, cv and cover letter. What messages are you sending? How well are you selling yourself to a prospective employer?
  • Seek help. There is plenty of good advice available online about how best to apply for jobs according to each industry, but don’t just rely on the internet. Make friends with recruitment consultants. Register with the main recruitment agencies according to your industry, and get feedback on your CV and cover letter. These are the people who will be approaching companies on your behalf, and their feedback and advice is priceless. Alternatively, ask friends, family or your professional network to help you.
  • Review your approach. Apply directly to companies which interest you. Apply via job boards such as Totaljobs, CV Library, or Indeed among others. Sign up with recruitment agencies. Check trade or industry-specific journals. Go to networking events. Speak to your personal and professional networks. There is no one right method to search for your next job so use as many as you can. Don’t just sit in front of a computer and wait for the right job to come to you. Get out there and hustle for it.
  • Keep applying. Don’t just apply for one or two jobs and then sit back and wait for a reply. Keep searching and keep applying. The more the better, because the more jobs you apply for, the better able you will be to sell yourself to prospective employers. Furthermore, when you have applications pending and are finding more jobs to apply for on a regular basis, you won’t be downhearted when you get rejected. And if you do have a high success rate, with lots of interviews? Then, you will gain a wealth of interview experience and will be in the envious position of choosing your next move.

So, if your job hunt is taking too long and you’re becoming frustrated, just keep going. Review what you have been doing so far and learn from it. What is and isn’t working for you? Why? What can you do about it? Who can help you? Put the work in to improve your personal statement, cv and cover letter and then get back to work.

The more doors you knock on, the more people you talk to and the more jobs you apply for, the more chance you will have of landing your dream role. Want more? Then do more!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rid Yourself Of The Limiting Beliefs Which Are Holding You Back

Go a little out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom. you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.

David Bowie

When it comes to identifying opportunities to improve our lives and circumstances, and taking advantage of them, we are our own worst enemies. Every decision we make can potentially be the first step to something wonderful, but for this to happen we need to be prepared to take calculated risks. I’m not suggesting that we should be reckless and rash with our choices, but that we should weigh up our options and be willing to step out of our comfort zones.

Yet, we don’t take chances, but instead make safer choices. So, all that we want for ourselves remains a dream because we fail to act upon it. After all, taking action towards our goals forces us to leave our  comfort zones. We fear the unknown, so comfort zones feel good. When in your comfort zone, you feel in control. You know, from experience, what to expect and there are no unwelcome surprises. This is a place reserved for people who are happy as they are, and have achieved all that they set out to in life. This is for those who want to save their energy and time for their families or interests.

Comfort zones, however, are the enemies of progress. If you want more out of life than you currently have, if you want to become more than you currently are, then you can’t afford to become comfortable and complacent. You can’t afford, either, to keep making the rubbish excuses which you use to justify remaining in the comfort zone. Of these, there are plenty, but I want to look at just three; background, circumstances and experience.

How many times have you dreamed of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg, opening your own restaurant or having your ideal job? More times than you can count, right? And what have you actually done about it?

For a number of people, their dreams remain just that. Dreams. Not because they lack the knowledge, skills or work ethic, but because they talk themselves out of even starting to work towards making these dreams a reality. They don’t apply to the bank for a loan to open a restaurant because they believe that their current circumstances will only earn them a refusal. They don’t apply for their dream job because they lack experience, or believe that their background will make it difficult to relate to others and fit in. This negative self-talk needs to stop as it destroys your confidence. The truth is that you don’t know anything for certain unless you try. Even if somebody else from a similar background, for example, has tried what you want to do and failed, it means nothing. Everybody is different, and you may very well succeed where someone similar to you tasted defeat.

The reality is very different. We now live in an unprecedented age of opportunity. Your background, circumstances and experience can actually be a source of strength. So what if your parents aren’t millionaires?! Talk to them and learn from them about their struggles and how they overcame them. Instead of being embarrassed about a modest upbringing, use it to fuel your hunger for success. Aim to work yourself into a position that you can now provide a comfortable life for your parents and your own family. Strive to succeed so that you can ensure that your family will no longer struggle.

“But my current circumstances are bad, so I can’t help anyone let alone myself” I hear you say. Rubbish. We all go through difficult times in our lives. I have hit rock bottom several times, each new time worst than the last, but have always bounced back. As can anyone else. If this is your excuse for not trying to do and become more in life, you need to stop wallowing in self-pity and take action. If you are unhappy with your current circumstances, you have in your hands the power to change them. Leave a toxic relationship, get a new job, start exercising regularly…Identify whatever it is that is getting you down, and tackle it. A bad week or month does not lead to a bad life if you do something about it.

How about experience then? This really isn’t as important as people believe, because experience can be gained. Whether you lack experience in relationships or want to change career, don’t let that hold you back. Have the courage to go after what you want, and let your passion and dedication show. You will find doors opening for you, and you will get the experience you need. If you want to change careers and work in an industry where you lack experience, focus on what experience you have gained in studying and working and how that could help you in this new role. This is what will make you an interesting prospect for an interview panel.

Overcoming these limiting beliefs is one area in which reading the biographies of successful people could help. I am against the idea that copying the greats and trying to be more like them will bring you success, because it makes no sense. You could match their work ethic and ingenuity and still fall short because they succeeded in a different country, or even era. The only way you will succeed is by being you, and giving all you have in pursuit of your goals.

What these biographies can do is highlight how to people can succeed despite their background or circumstances or anything else which could have held them back. They didn’t let the negative self-talk take over and dissuade them from their path. Instead, one thing that many of the greats have in common, is their determination that they would succeed, regardless of the start they had in life or the circumstances in which they found themselves.

Like many of the other limiting beliefs which hold us back, background, circumstances and experience are not fatal to our progress. What does matter, and does determine how far we will go in life, is the courage, commitment, dedication, passion and hard work which we are prepared to put into the pursuit of our personal and professional development.

 

 

What Messages Are You Sending Out?

In our personal and professional lives, we are always trying to convince other people of something. It could be that you are trying to convince an interview panel that you are the perfect fit for the role, or thirty disinterested students that today’s class will benefit them. Perhaps, as discussed in a recent post, you need to convince someone that there could be a mutual benefit if they were to help you in your current endeavour.

How do we convince people to believe in us, support us or allow us to lead them? A lot of people rely on just words. The prevailing belief is that, if you want to convince anybody of anything, you just need to know what to say.  The reality, though, is very different. Words alone do not work because we have learned to tune them out. Technology has shortened our attention spans, so if somebody talks for too long we lose interest. There is also a growing awareness of the ways in which we are being bombarded with marketing and sales messages on a daily basis. This leads to some people regarding sales and marketing professionals as manipulative and deceptive, so anything that sounds too polished or too much like sales-speak is likely to be ignored. So, how do we get people to buy into our vision if words alone are not enough?

Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This brings me back to the title. You need to think very carefully about the messages which you are sending out. People do not only listen to what you are saying, but they also take into account your behaviour, appearance, accomplishments and even relationships. Are you qualified to teach the subject matter? Have you experienced enough of something to be able to offer advice on it? Do people see the potential in you, which could be realised with their help?

There needs to be congruency between what you say and do. That is what convinces people of your authenticity, and that they can trust you. If there is an intentional discrepancy, and you are a different person at home and in the office, then you need to take a step back and take a long hard look at yourself. Are you happy leading 2 separate lives? How is that leading you to behave towards others? Is it opening doors for you, or are they being slammed in your face? If you are anything but happy as you are, then perhaps it’s time to consider a job change or a relationship in which you can’t be yourself. When your actions and words are in harmony with each other, this brings peace of mind and helps you to develop more meaningful personal and professional relationships with people who feel that you are trustworthy.

Sometimes, there is a discrepancy between our words and behaviours which are unintended. Take, for example, a teacher who is also an introvert. These are polar opposites. A teacher needs to exude confidence, because students will allow a confident teacher to guide them in acquiring knowledge. Yet, an introvert is often rather quiet and can lack confidence. So, putting an introvert in a room with 30 teenage boys can be a recipe for disaster as they will sense the lack of confidence and spend more time pushing boundaries than learning French.

This brings me back to a recent post on seeking help when you need it. families and friends are a great place to start, but you do need to be careful. They will often sugar coat the truth, and not highlight all of the ways in which your behaviour and words do not match. They do this because they are trying to protect you and not destroy your confidence, but by telling you what you want to hear they are unintentionally doing you a disservice.

This is where professional help comes in. Consider talking to a psychologist. I did and it was amazing. We unearthed so many ways in which I was subconsciously sabotaging my progress, and once they were brought into the open, I was able to work on them and overcome them. I was also unknowingly causing a huge amount of damage to my relationship with my fiancée, because personal relationships can be hit particularly hard if your words and actions do not support each other.  It may be that an underlying issue is causing a difference between the messages you want to send out and those that you are actually sending out. Seek help and put the work in to rectify this. It’s not easy, because you will need to seriously question yourself to determine who you really are, what you want from life, what drives you and how you want to perceived by others.

A psychologist is a good place to start, because they are impartial. It could be that you would be better served by a body language expert, a speech therapist or a professional coach whom they could recommend. Having spoken to a psychologist first, though, they will be able to refer you to the right person.

While it is necessary to seek help at times from others on your journey through life, you will only get it if they feel that you can be trusted and won’t waste their time. To do that, you need to make sure that your actions reflect your true beliefs and values. Ironically, you may find that you need help in making sure that your words and actions support each other. If, however, you are serious about becoming the best version of yourself that you can be, you won’t hesitate to seek the support that will help you to become the person you need to be in order to achieve your goals.

Don’t Go It Alone

No man is an island

John Donne

You can do it. You already have the answers. The power is within you. Go out and hustle to get what’s yours. Nobody or nothing can stop you. You..You..You.

Almost every piece of self-help and personal development advice from the self-styled social media “gurus” will mention one or more of the above ideas. In short, they would have you believe that if you want success, you have to go it alone and that everybody else is your competition. Asking for help, or putting your trust in others, is discouraged and often pointed to as a sign of weakness.

The truth is very different. Our journeys towards our goals are also journeys of self-discovery. We learn who we are, where our passions lie, what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are. Identifying your weaknesses is essential to making personal or professional progress. When you know what gaps you have in your knowledge, skills or experience you can do something about it.

One of the main ways in which we can tackle our weaknesses is through working on them. Practicing a skill and reading books to gain knowledge are just two ways in which you can address your weak areas, but these take time and energy which can often be in short supply. If your goal involves working to a tight deadline, then the time required to turn a weakness into an area of strength is time that you do not have to spare.

This is where other people can help you. Ask for help, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised at how many people will be willing to support you in your efforts. It all depends on how you approach the other person. Simply asking them to give up their time to support you is not the way to go about it, though. People generally want one of two things; value for their efforts or to feel like they are a part of something. This value you provide in return for their help could be anything from a stake in your company, acknowledgement as a contributor in your novel or a meal at their favourite restaurant. As for wanting to feel a part of something, if that is what they desire, be prepared tell a compelling story that will entice them. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and self-awareness. You will benefit from another’s perspective and skills, which could be just what you need to progress to the next level.

Family, friends and professional networks are a great place to start but not your only option. It all depends on what you are hoping to achieve and the kind of support which you need. It could be that a coach, mentor or psychologist could be your best option. Don’t be afraid to experiment with help from different sources. At one time or another, I have benefitted from turning to all of the above and it has helped me greatly. I have gained confidence, knowledge and skills when I needed them the most.

This whole “self-made success” story which is so often peddled, is a lie. When you look deeper into the lives of people who claim to have come successful through their efforts alone, you will very often see that this is not the case. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. However, for the vast majority of these individuals, you will notice that there were people in the background who helped, supported, guided, inspired, pushed and believed in them which made it possible for them to succeed in their endeavours.

The only person who you should ever enter into competition with is yourself. Aim to improve daily, focusing on what you can control and not on what anybody else is doing. Put your ego aside and be prepared to ask for help when you need it. Also be prepared to help others. There is no shortage of possibilities for those who are prepared to work for them, and working together we can achieve even more. We can all taste success, and there is no need for greed. There is plenty to go around for everyone.

Again, be strong enough to ask for help when you need it and be prepared to provide it when called upon. This is how you grow your reputation positively, forge meaningful relationships and become known for your integrity.

 

 

 

 

 

What Will You Do With Your Pain?

In a recent post, I made the claim that pain is a necessary evil in our lives. I stand by this. If we reflect on it and learn from it, pain can be a springboard to success. As with most other things, though, it’s up to the individual what they will make of it. For pain to be a force for good, it requires reflection and a lot of hard work. The easier option is to find someone or something to blame this pain and failure on, and give up.

Pain can come in many different forms. The most common tend to be the emotional trauma of losing a  loved one, the break-up of a relationship, falling short in pursuit of your goals or physical pain. Pain is very rarely something which we seek (unless you like tattoos) and usually just happens to us. More often than not, we are unwilling participants when pain strikes. For example,if you give your all in an interview and don’t get the job, the resulting pain is a consequence of falling short in one of your goals and not an act of self-sabotage. We can’t control the actions of others or the outcomes of all situations, but we can control how we react to them.

One thing that tends to stand out when you study the lives of great men and women, is that at some point they faced adversity, hardship and pain. What separates them from everybody else, however, is how they bounced back from these negative situations. Media mogul Simon Cowell lost everything at age 35. J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, was a struggling single mother. Yet both have overcome adversity to become hugely successful in their respective arenas. Why? Because they believed in themselves and did not give up. They learned from failure and rejection, and it molded them into the people they are today.

Successful people welcome pain as a force for good, because it forces them to adapt, grow and redouble their efforts. They do not seek to shift the blame, but simply get to work. It’s not easy, but the person you can become and the things which you could achieve if you bounce back strongly make it all worthwhile.

What will you do with your pain? Will you let it break you, or will you let it redefine you?

 

Easy Money…

..is just marketing hype. Sorry to burst your bubble. It’s a lie, but it also sells books and coaching programmes to people who want quick results. There is generally no such thing as easy money, unless you buy a lottery ticket and get lucky. The rest of the time you need to work for it, or at least be resourceful. Unless you try something which has served me well so far…

There is a lot of excellent advice freely available on changing jobs or careers, launching a business or earning money from something which you are particularly good at, and passionate about. Hustling. Grinding. Entrepreneurship. Moving up the corporate ladder. Investing. Search for these terms and you will discover great ways to boost your income. Please be cautious before adopting any particular approach, though, as they all have their own particular risks to be mindful of. Take investing, for example. If it all goes wrong, can you afford to lose that money you invested? Or will it put a strain on your finances?

Today, however, I want to look at one thing which you can do to earn a little extra money when you are happy in your current job. Maybe you have a career which you love, or a successful business which you started from scratch. But you need more money. What can you do then to get a little extra cash, when you have neither the time nor inclination to hunt for a better job, launch a side business or take out a loan?

In a  word, Ebay. Gather up all the old clothes or stuff that you no longer want or need, and which is taking up valuable storage space. Then sell it on Ebay. It really is that simple. You will need to register for an Ebay account to buy or sell anything, and also Paypal to manage payments. But this is straightforward and doesn’t take long. Try and make the headline and photographs interesting in your listing, and sit back and watch as your items sell themselves. This is as close to easy money as you get because there is no risk. If an item doesn’t sell, you can simply relist it or put it back in the cupboard. Other than a little time, it won’t have cost you anything else.

Once you start selling your unwanted stuff, it can become addictive. At this point, don’t sell the stuff you don’t want to part with, but instead become acquainted with your local charity shops. These shops are full of wonderful old clothes, games and random items which you can resell on Ebay for a profit. For example, the market for vintage shirts is huge.

It won’t make you a millionaire, but with minimal time and effort, you can earn money by simply getting rid of your old stuff. Apply the 6 month rule. If you unlikely to wear or use it in 6 months, sell it. You de-clutter your wardrobes, and life, while getting enough money for a day out with the family, to pay some bills or whatever else you want to use that money for.

I mention Ebay because it works for me, but it’s not the only way. Facebook has a marketplace where you can sell your stuff, there are a number of other websites and apps you could use, or there is the good old car boot/ garage sale.

We could all do with a little extra money in our lives, and getting it is easier than you think. You just have to be a little resourceful, that’s all.

Pain Before Pleasure

If you’re going through hell, keep going

Winston Churchill

 

Pleasure’s good. We love it. Pain, on the other hand…No thank you very much. We do whatever we can to have as much of the first one as we can get, while trying to avoid the second. The truth, however, is that you can’t have one without the other.

I reflected on this a few days ago while getting tattooed. The actual tattooing process is uncomfortable, and at times painful. But if you suffer through the pain and discomfort, the results are beautiful and lasting. Every time you look at your tattoo, you see something beautiful while also being reminded of what you suffered through to make it happen.

The same rule applies in life. Good things do not come easily. Unless you win the lottery, in which case you get a huge amount of money from a lucky ticket and can afford whatever you like. Lottery wins, however, are far from guaranteed. What is guaranteed, though, is the simple fact that if you work hard consistently on your goals, good things will happen.

Much like a tattoo, work is painful at worst and uncomfortable at best. It’s the countless hours spent on market research, building a website or finding the right commercial space. It’s learning to bounce back from countless rejections. It’s picking yourself up after every setback. It’s working for hours on end to make things happen.

Yet, almost every single charlatan or snake-oil salesman you encounter, who wants to sell you their book or programme on how to become an overnight success, will gloss over the above truth. I am not saying that every keynote speaker, author, entrepreneur, life guru or coach falls into the above categories, but the bad outnumber the good. The truth, that it takes hard work and dedication to become successful, is just not sexy enough to sell books. People want to be led, directed and given the answers. Now.

Life is all about experiences, not things, and when you work hard for a goal you learn, develop and grow. If you simply were given all that you wanted without trying, what would this teach you? Exactly. Nothing.

The harder you work for something, the more you will appreciate it when you get it. You appreciate a new coat much more if you’ve had to work harder than ever to be able to afford it. Your new business feels a lot more special if you built it from nothing. Getting a loan of 1 million dollars from your Dad to get started in business, like Donald Trump, takes the shine away from your achievement. More importantly, though, striving for a goal is an experience in itself. You learn more about yourself, learn from your mistakes and grow into a better version of yourself.

So, if you want the pleasurable outcome, put the work in and suffer for it. Sometimes it’s the journey itself which is the best bit, and the end result just an added bonus.

 

Baby Steps

Being patient is not easy, because it goes against our natural impulses. When we decide that we want something, and set our sights on it, we don’t want to wait. We want it now. This is partly because we have been conditioned to believe that we can have what we want, when we want it. Fast food, fast fashion, same day delivery from Amazon…the list goes on. This is, however, a cause of much confusion.

Those things listed above which can be had so quickly and easily are material objects. If you have the money, of course you can have it now. Even if you don’t have the money, easy access to credit cards and loans means that you could borrow the money and still get it.

The problem here, is that an awful lot of people assume that the same applies to their life goals. They want immediate results, and waiting is not an option. They start strongly, and then progress slows down or stalls. At this point, you need to put more work in. Hard work. Reflect honestly on your progress so far and what you have learned from things that have or haven’t gone well. You apply this knowledge and get back to work on your goals. Simple. Tough but simple.

Hard work scares people because it takes time, and time is not an option because they want immediate results. This is where self-help books and programmes come in. People buy into the myth that a cleverly marketed book by someone like Tony Robbins might contain a secret formula which could help them get back on track. Some of these books can be excellent, while others tell a great story but lack any substance. Most of the information which they  share can be found for free online anyway.

What does this all actually mean? It means that big goals are being set and people are starting strongly, only to burn out or become disheartened and give up when they take longer than expected. This is why taking baby steps is so important. If you’ve ever seen a baby learn to walk, they never manage it in one go. They stand, fall, stand up again and keep picking themselves back up until they are able to stand by themselves. Then they start putting one foot in front of the other. 1, 2 steps and then they fall. Next time they manage 5. So it continues until they are able to walk. They keep trying, never giving up, and before long they are walking.

The same is applicable to the pursuit of our goals. Chasing a big and ambitious goal without a plan of action can be daunting. Breaking it down into small steps isn’t. You take it one step at a time, focusing only on doing what it takes to get to the next stage. You enjoy the experience, learning and growing along the way until you reach your target, almost without noticing how far you have come.

Instant success is a myth. Success without hard work is ridiculous. Those who have seemingly sprung up out of nowhere and made a name for themselves have done so after months and years of hard work and effort, experiencing failures and setbacks a number of times along the way. But they kept going and never gave up.

Don’t crave immediate results. That would be counterproductive, even if it was possible. Yes, you get what you want, but what would you learn in the process?! The whole beauty of setting goals and chasing them is that we embark on a journey of discovery. We learn more about ourselves and who we are, we develop better behaviours and at then end, we get the reward we set out for.

This is only possible by setting big goals, and then breaking them down into smaller steps which you work on every day. Every day, you take a step closer to your goals and before long, you have made your dreams a reality, and benefited so much more in the process. Is this not sweeter than simply having everything handed to you on a plate?!

If you want to get rich quick, take your chances with a lottery ticket. If you want to learn, grow and achieve great things, be prepared to put the work in and take small steps towards your goals every day. Your choice.

Stop Being Afraid Of Life

You have to die a few times before you actually live

Charles Bukowski

Life can be short, so it must be lived. Nobody knows how long they have, so why do anything other than forge a life which makes you happy and which you can enjoy?! There are experiences and challenges, both good and bad, to be had and lessons to be learned. We love, we lose, we win, we fail, we rise and we fall. This is what makes life so beautiful. We learn and we grow.

So, why don’t we live our lives as we should and could? In a word, fear.

We fear failure, but this makes no sense. Of course, failure hurts and it can have serious consequences and repercussions, but it can also be a beautiful thing. Failure is life’s greatest teacher. Once the shock and upset has worn off, pick yourself up and look for the lessons to be learned from the experience before bouncing back. If I was to say that this is easy, I would be lying. Far from it. What is easy is for negativity to take hold and one bad experience to turn into a bad week, month year or life. Once you fail and then bounce back stronger, though, you no longer fear failure and this gives you a new lease on life. Bouncing back is hard.  Very hard. I know because I hit rock bottom last year and lost everything. Everything apart from my family and friends. Yet, I have bounced back stronger than I could ever have dreamed and things are now better than ever. I bounced back because I forced myself into a positive mindset. I did this by, even in my darkest days, forcing myself to do something I love. At my lowest point, I journalled, rode my bike and headed to the gym. And it actually worked. It took my mind off my troubles and I felt good. This positivity helped me to review my failures with a more critical eye, which helped me to identify lessons to be learned and opportunities which I missed but could still be resurrected.

Fear of failure is not the only fear which we experience, though. Fear of rejection causes us to change who we are in order to become accepted by others, in the hope that it might improve our social or professional lives. So, we change ourselves to please others and gain their acceptance, in the process forgetting who we really are. Long term, this is very unhealthy, and it is far better to just be yourself and live the life you want.

The third fear I want to introduce is the fear of disappointing others, mainly family members. Families love to tell us what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. They genuinely care, and only want the best for us, which is why it can be difficult to say no to them. They have experienced plenty, so it’s only natural that they want to share their lessons to help us avoid difficulty. Thing is, it is through adversity that we develop, grow and learn the most about ourselves. If, for example, you don’t want to join the family business or follow your father’s footsteps, then don’t. Listen to what your family members say, be polite and respectful, but also be brave enough to live your own life and not theirs.

Sometimes that which we fear doesn’t actually happen. We take a gamble and it works out so well that we wonder what all the fuss was about. But you will also definitely experience failure. Everybody does. However, if you want to live a fulfilled life rich in positive experiences, you have to take chances and be prepared to fail. Or were you put on this earth to work 9-5 in a job you hate and constantly feel tired, frustrated and desperate for the weekend, when you get 2 days to do nothing? The choice is yours, and so is your life, so choose wisely.

Content is King

Stop waiting for inspiration to strike before posting on your blog or social media account. The perfect time to get started is right now.

We waste far too much time overthinking. What does this achieve? Nothing. I made the same mistake when starting this very blog. I created it in November 2016 but didn’t post my first article until the following April. Months wasted. Why? Because good intentions and planning alone achieve nothing. You need to post something.

The answer, and the only way forward, is to take action and create content. Post that picture on Instagram or your thoughts on your blog. It won’t be perfect but it doesn’t have to be.

As you post more content and interact with your audience, you will learn and grow. You will develop your own style and voice. This, in turn, will lead to better quality content and this is what will grow your audience and influence.

So if you want to grow or develop your social media account or blog, get off google and just post content. Keep posting content. Interact with your audience. Experiment with new formats and styles until you find which one works best. And then post some more.

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.

If You Can’t Measure It, Is It Even Real?

Every January, we convince ourselves that this will be our year. We declare this proudly, and share our goals with the world, along with the determination that nothing will stand in our way. Maybe we even take the first tentative steps towards these big shiny goals and then…silence. Sound familiar?

Setting goals is great. I swear by it. However, setting big goals for the year ahead is not enough. Desire and the best of intentions are not enough either. Neither will all the support and encouragement in the world be of much help. Unless you have a certain magical, mystical failproof key which will bring it all together and lead to massive success. Now, at this point, most online celebrities will ask you to buy into a program or buy a book to get the answer. I hate that, because we don’t need to splash the cash on these unless we absolutely want to. Especially in an age where so much great advice and information is available online for free. We already have the key. It’s within all of us.

The name of this key? Careful planning and determined action. It sounds far from the catchy self-help marketing nonsense we get bombarded with, but that’s ok. It works, and that is all that matters. Alone, it works great but with some of the above it can work even better. The uncomfortable truth is that there are no shortcuts to success. You have to really want it, and really work for it.

While I stated that big goals are not enough, they can be a great place to start. It’s what you do with them next that really makes all the difference. Break these big goals down into smaller goals and milestones, each of which will take you one step closer to the desired end result. Add to this some reflection, through which you become aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and the resources available to you. This will help determine your course of action.

Now, you have a plan of action. You have a good idea of what you are capable of doing and how you can go about it. All that remains is to actually do it. Take those steps towards your small goals. Don’t focus on the end result, but just move forward one step at a time. At regular intervals, stop to review your progress so far. It is important to measure how far you have come, and how far you still have to go, as it helps you to remain focused and identify any potential issues which might affect your efforts.

If all you have is a big goal but no idea of how to achieve it, then it isn’t really a goal at all. It’s just a daydream which is never going to become a reality no matter how much you wish for it.

Without a plan, and some determined action, your goals will just remain a dream. You have a choice to make. Do you want to remain a fantasist living in a dreamworld, or are you prepared to wake up and work for what you want?

Sheeple No More!!

Follow your own path, no matter what people say

Karl Marx

Sheeple, a combination of the words sheep and people, describes the passive herd behavior of people who are easily controlled and easily led about. It goes without saying, that if you hope to achieve anything in life and have a sense of fulfillment you can’t afford to be one of them.

Controlling influences are all around us. From the media to clever marketing campaigns, we are being told what to think and how to act. We get used to taking instruction from those of a higher standing, professionally or socially, than us and we do it without thinking. One question about this…Of all the countless successful people who we read about every day, how many fall into this category? Not very many, if any at all.

We also find ourselves influenced by close friends and family, but this is different. In this instance, though, there’s no need to be alarmed. These are people who care about you and only want to see you happy. They might try and dissuade you from a project or a course of action simply because they fear the consequences if you are unsuccessful. Listen to them. Understand their views and concerns, but don’t let them hold you back either. Prove them wrong.

When we follow the lead of others, we find ourselves suppressing our true selves in order to fit in. This may give us a sense of belonging to a certain group for a while, but we do this at the expense of our happiness and mental health. In essence, when you hide your true self, you are putting on an act. This can be mentally draining and can lead you on a  downward spiral if left unchecked. Is it any coincidence that those who have broken free from the herd in order to be themselves, and live their lives on their own terms, always describe how happy and liberated they feel. Why do they feel this euphoria? Because they are no longer scared of the opinions of others and trying to follow their examples, but instead just living their lives as they want. After all, we are all individuals, and unique in our own way, so why should we lead someone else’s life? It makes no sense.

This is why I am not a big believer in the business and personal development books which aim to teach us how to be more like Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett. While these books can be interesting, boost our confidence and give us food for thought when well written, they are nothing more than entertainment and bear little relevance to our own journeys towards our goals. What applies to Steve Jobs will not apply to me. The only way that I can hope to achieve success in my life is by striving to become the best version of myself.

Simply reading about the traits and habits of successful people will not help you to replicate their success.Nothing can. Their success is theirs alone. If Mark Zuckerberg had a magic formula which can be found in a certain book, then why aren’t more people reading it and becoming billionaire founders of social media platforms?! The truth is that the only people who do make a lot of money from these books are the authors and publishers. Of course, you might discover some behaviours which you can adopt when you read these books, but ultimately, you make your own way in life.

Instead of reading about successful people and trying to copy them in the hope that you can achieve their level of greatness, why not just focus on yourself? Spend that time reviewing your current circumstances and resources, deciding where you want to get to, and mapping out how you will get there.

Instead of wasting money on books about people who have become successful against all odds, why not strive to become a success in your own right. You don’t need somebody else’s blueprint, you just need the desire to achieve greatly, the perseverance to keep going through good times and bad, and a solid work ethic.

Who knows, the next best-selling self-help book might feature you as their example of achieving greatness against all odds! On a more sober note, though, don’t focus too much on what other people say or do, but have the confidence to live your own life.

Strive for, and achieve, success in life but do it your way and on your own terms.

Invest In Yourself

This is arguably one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received, and something that everybody could and should be doing. We set aside money for clothes, food, bills and entertainment so why shouldn’t we also put some money towards improving our lives? This is an investment of time and money that can offer lifelong benefits.

Before we go on, please allow me to clarify what I mean by investing in yourself. What I am NOT referring to are the seemingly endless supply of motivational books, online programmes or conferences. For me, these do not have a lasting effect, other than to provide a quick motivational boost. A lot of people do find value in them, and I respect that. All  I am saying is that there is something better to invest your time and money in, and the benefits would be much longer lasting.

One shortfall of much of the personal development and motivational material available is its the rose-tinted view of the world which it portrays. They tend to follow a similar pattern. Tell the audience that they have the power within them to achieve anything they desire, and back this up with examples of people who have succeeded against all odds. The recurring message tends to be the power which you have to achieve whatever you want. You can do it. The world is yours. These people have achieved massive success, and so can you. Motivating people is great. We all need a confidence boost at times. Thing is, these books and courses only tell half of the story. They provide the spark or catalyst to take action in the direction of your goals. They fill you with confidence to take those vital first steps. BUT they don’t spend enough time advising how to maintain your motivation once the initial excitement wears off, or how to deal effectively with the setbacks and problems which you encounter. The cynic in me believes that there is a reason for this. It’s good business sense. After all, when someone reads your book and goes after their goals with a vengeance, the moment that their progress slows or they hit a roadblock they will return to your books and material for advice about how to get back on track. After all, it was your material which helped them to get started in the first place.

I’m not saying that the above material should be avoided, because it is a wonderful motivator and confidence builder. All I am sharing here is my belief that your time and money could be put to better use and the benefits would be longer lasting.

Of all the things which formal education prepares us for, there are some huge gaps. These gaps can be summed up as life skills, and without a good understanding of them they can place a person at a huge disadvantage, potentially sabotaging your success. I strongly believe that more time should be devoted to;

  • Bank Accounts. How to open an account, and understand the different types of bank account and the benefits of one over another.
  • Budgeting. How to develop a habit of organising your finances in order to be able to pay rent, a mortgage or bills while leaving enough money available for food, petrol and entertainment.
  • Loans and Credit Cards. Understanding the interest rates and repayment terms. How to work out how much you will end up repaying.
  • Pensions and Taxation. How to understand the deductions that will be taken from your paycheck and how they might affect you.
  • Savings and Investments. How to make the most of your money, as opposed to leaving it in a low-interest current account, and the risks involved.
  • Effective communication in both your personal and professional life.
  • How to network. Do certain situations have unwritten rules which you are expected to follow? If so, what are they? What if you are naturally shy or an introvert? What strategies could be employed to overcome this?

The above list is by no means definitive, but covers the essentials. They sound far less interesting than some book titles, but without even a basic understanding of them, there is a real risk of missed opportunities, debt accumulation or being taken advantage of by others. I have lost count of the amount of people I have met who have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous loans and credit card companies, or have suffered at the hands of an inept financial advisor. To a certain extent, they could have protected themselves better and avoided much of the misfortune which visited them if they had been more knowledgeable of what they were getting into and its consequences.

The good news is that there is a lot of help and advice available. There are plenty of books on the above subjects, but there are also a number of debt charities who provide free resources, advice and guidance to anybody who takes the time to visit their website or give them a call. Some banks even have trained specialists to guide you through any of the above topics, and it’s free. All you have to do is just book an appointment.

Instead of the latest offering by a self-help guru, why not pick up a book or book a course which can help you to better understand and manage your finances? It’s a less exciting read, but the benefits will be huge. After all, no matter how much you earn, if you don’t have a good grasp on your finances you will always struggle. Furthermore, the more you understand and are able to do yourself, the less you will have to place in the hands of others.

 

 

Life After Failure

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
Colin Powell

Failure is good. Don’t fear failure. Welcome and embrace failure. Failure can catapult you to massive success. I have lost count of the number of times that I have encountered these phrases and many, many more. I wholeheartedly believe that failure can be a powerful force for good in our lives, but we are not always being given the full story or advised on how to capitalise on it.

We are advised that we should see failure in a positive light. There is nothing wrong with  adopting a positive outlook when faced with failure, but the truth is that failure can only be positive if you do something about it. Do nothing, and failure can actually be incredibly destructive. Not only can it destroy your self confidence and halt your progress in its tracks, but it can lead crushing self doubt and negative self-talk. Burdened by these, it’s not hard to see why some people abandon their goals, and settle for a safer, more comfortable life.

I, and countless others, have failed more times than I care to remember. I have failed spectacularly in things both big and small, because I was always taught that you give your all in everything you do. The more you put into something which subsequently fails, the bigger the failure. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I am now massively successful as a result of having failed so many times. The truth is that my progress has been somewhat slower than it should have been, and unspectacular, despite the failures and all of their lessons. Why? Simply put, I have not always taken action following failure.

Failure can only be positive if you do something about it. It won’t be easy, and will hurt, but it is vital. Take action and you will learn and grow from the experience. Do nothing, and you risk not only stagnating, but also failing in the same way again and again. So, what can you actually do following a setback? The list below is by no means definitive, but has worked for me;

  • Reflection. Look back and analyse what happened. It is painful to revisit a bad experience, but also essential. What can you learn from the experience? Can you identify any actions or decisions which led to failure? If you could start again, what would you do differently?
  • Goal Setting. With the new knowledge acquired, and a clear idea of your strengths, weaknesses and the options open to you, revisit your goals. Do any of them need to be amended or replaced?
  • ACTION. It’s all in capital letters for a reason. Taking action after suffering a failure is vital to maintaining your confidence and momentum. It is action, after all, which brings results. Add to that the fact that knowledge without action is useless, and you have a very strong reason to get back up after you’ve been knocked down.

 

Failure is a part of life. For everybody. What separates the successful people from the rest, is how they respond to it. Dwelling on what went wrong is a recipe for disaster, whereas reflecting on the experience and learning from it can catapult you to success. That said, all the knowledge in the world counts for nothing without action. So, don’t let a bump in the road bring your personal development journey to halt. Be prepared to accept failure as part of the process, and when it comes take some time to reflect on it and learn from it before setting out again on your journey.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
Winston Churchill

 

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