52 Personal Truths From 2016

52-surprising-lessons

I’ve learned a lot about myself, business and the world. Here are 52 things that I discovered in 2016. One for every week of the year. Be inspired in 2017.

  1. Be comfortable with not being perfect
  2. Hard work will pay off
  3. You’ve always been good enough
  4. Life has a memory and it usually remembers in your favour
  5. Your true friends see you for who you really are, and stay
  6. You can do anything if you are passionate, focused and stubborn as hell
  7. Your children watch how you react in stressful times, ensure they learn to cope with lives troughs
  8. Your children watch how you celebrate successes, let them see it’s OK to pat yourself on the back and have a good time
  9. There is a wealth of support out there but sometimes, you are “in there” and can’t see what’s out there – come out
  10. Avoid speaking ill of others because you never know their circumstance, who’s listening and you probably seem just as outrageous to them anyway
  11. If someone speaks about someone else, they probably speak to someone else about you
  12. When you get one good idea, watch out! You’ve opened the flood gates, for you will never be short of ideas again!
  13. Listening is a skill that very few people have. You think you listen but you really don’t
  14. The closer you get to someone, the more you see their flaws instead of what makes them beautiful. Be the person who loves unconditionally
  15. People don’t always say what they really think. In fact, being straight-talking is a character trait as rare as unicorns
  16. Don’t underestimate how easy it is to be manipulated – take care of your mind
  17. You don’t have to be friends with everybody but you can still care about everybody so that our world is a caring place
  18. When you hear gossip, let it stop with you – don’t pass it on!
  19. Starting a business is one of the hardest things a person can do
  20. Being a perfectionist is bad for business
  21. Find a challenge you have, and you may have found a new business idea
  22. Sometimes we try really hard and it still doesn’t work – and that’s OK
  23. Love fully and completely – remember life’s memory…
  24. Some friends are not always there but when they are, they light up your day
  25. Be willing to be wrong about the big things and the little things
  26. In reality, you know very little about the world. You’re probably in for a surprise at the end of it all
  27. If you never take a risk, nothing will ever change
  28. You can’t help everybody but you can pray for everybody
  29. Persistence is cumulative. One day, that wall will come tumbling down – keep going!
  30. It’s OK to feel frustrated and exhausted. Just don’t remain frustrated and exhausted
  31. Have at least one person in your life who is straight-talking. It’s like having a unicorn in your garden 🙂
  32. Be passionate in whatever to do. You never know who you’re inspiring
  33. Aspire to be the best You possible. Forget being someone else
  34. You can’t please everyone, and you should never try
  35. There are few things as rejuvenating as an hour of pure thinking time
  36. Hanging out with certain people could be all the inspiration you need
  37. Hanging out with certain people could be all the frustration you need
  38. Most people want to connect with you on a deeper level. If they can’t, they won’t stick around no matter how brilliant, attractive or rich you are
  39. It’s not clear what the future holds but try everyday, to show up that future. It could be amazing!
  40. People who treat you with contempt don’t know your future, just one of their many blind spots
  41. Don’t believe everything you hear. Find things out for yourself
  42. You have instincts for a reason, don’t ignore them
  43. Record the good things that happen to you because it comes in handy when you’re having a bad day
  44. It’s possible to trust someone you’ve never met
  45. It’s possible to mistrust someone you often meet
  46. Take care of your body. It’s the one place you’ll need to live in till you’re gone
  47. The human race is not about who gets there first. It’s about becoming a better person as a result of the journey
  48. You never know your own strength until a situation puts you to the test
  49. Don’t underestimate the power of good habits, they build good character
  50. Be the person that people can confide in. People will respect you for your discretion
  51. Show passion, smile, be the good vibe that people want to be around
  52. Negative people will be negative about every and any thing. Ignore them and get on with being happy
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Tell me your dreams

‘What do you want to do?’

I’ve sat across several managers and HR folks in my career who asked me this question. It took me until recently to begin to design my ideal career,  in fact my ideal LIFE. Because when you’re passionate about what you do, it is your life.

Pai Shih_Crystal Ball_a01rSA (4)

Photo by Pai Shih http://www.facebook.com/SomewhereInLife (‘Crystal Ball’)

Part of making your dreams come true is to design what your life will look like in the new state. You cannot isolate it. You need to decide what days you’ll work,  how much vacation you’d like and whether you want to have time to volunteer at a charity for instance.

 

If you are thinking about your dream career, allow me challenge you. What does your dream life look like?  Draw it.  Tabulate it.  Scribble it on a napkin.

 

On a personal note, 2015 has been a surprise. I wrote my first business book,  which is out in the new year, something that a year ago,  I hadn’t expected  to achieve just yet. I’ve received incredible support,  I am completely overwhelmed.

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My book cover – out in print and kindle in Jan 2016

There have been many other wins,  big and small.  I planned my ideal life and it finally looks possible. Through great coaching by the amazing Clare McNamara at Move Ahead Global,  I understand the things that stand in my way. I also know that it’s all in my head. Like thinking that I need to have all the right answers to be an expert. I realise now that what I’m great at is asking the right questions.

Here are some considerations
for anyone hoping to make changes in 2016,  be it a dream to break away from a loveless career or to turn your passion into a venture.

You have something in you that when identified and nurtured,  will make you unstoppable. Unbeatable. Everyone has this. Sometimes it’s obvious. An incredible singing voice. An ability to draw or paint like Van Gogh. Other times, it’s less obvious. An eye for beautiful design. An ability to mediate in high conflict situations. What is in you?

You can do anything you set your mind to. The issue isn’t that you can’t make your dreams come true. It’s that you think you need to do it in a particular way. There’s no prescribed way to become an entrepreneur or a writer or an artist. Do it your way. Aside from working, what’s your ideal life:  School runs, coffee with friends, mid-week football, the local community hall meeting? Why not? It’s YOUR schedule! What do you need to be able to do to achieve your dreams?

Now it’s your turn to change things in 2016:

‘What do you want to do?’

 

You Must Believe In Yourself

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Conversations with my 6-year-old daughter, Titi are almost always amazing and inspiring.

Every morning, she starts her day with something like,

“Mummy, I had the strangest dream!” I encourage her to go on. “I dreamt that I built an amusement park called ‘Titi HappyLand’ and all my friends came there….”

She goes on. “They paid 10 pence to get on a ride and they were all happy!”

My 10-year-old son interjects at this point,

“Titi, 10 pence is not enough to charge people!” I smile, grateful that it isn’t me breaking the news to her. He continues to give her executive advice, “Titi HappyLand will close down very quickly at that price, Titi.”

Titi frowns, clearly confused.

“Ok…eh..”

She makes a funny face and a thinking sound as she drums her fingers on her lips. Her eyes are staring up at the ceiling.

“Ten POUNDS then, ” she announces, finger now up in the air emphasizing the eureka moment with the word “pounds”.

As I listen to this and other inspiring ideas my children often throw around, I wonder at what point their belief and confidence will become cornered by the world. When will society tell them it is too hard to build an amusement park and call it ‘Titi HappyLand’?

When is it that we start to doubt our capabilities and believe in our incompetence more than we believe in our capabilities? I wonder.

The truth is, confidence wanes when we allow people or society tell us what we can and cannot do. We have people in our lives that laugh at our dreams and undermine any changes we try to make.

We become cynical about real change and progress, betting that “it won’t last” or “it won’t work”. Many times, we are afraid that we will fail or that we will not be accepted as we are. The discouraging words we accept into our hearts stops us dead on the track leading to our dreams. Before long, we become people who say negative words to others, doubting anyone can do that amazing thing they want to try.

I fell into the same trap of doubt but in the last few months, I have revisited my dreams. I can do stuff! I just needed to stay still and listen to myself. I was afraid and uneasy with the uncertainty but now I have a glimpse of what could be. I haven’t gained any new knowledge or skill. I have simply peered into the world of my dreams and I now have the nerve to believe I can make my dreams come true. It doesn’t mean I will evade failure. I may fail at first but you can bet that I will keep trying to succeed.

What would you do if you had nothing to fear? Would you follow your dreams?

Image from flickr.com user: Jennifer 
- Rainy Day Inspiration :: You Must Believe In Yourself

On corporate careers: misconceptions, mistaken identities and other near misses

This is not your typical career post. I’m not going to patronise you by telling you how to make your career the envy of many. Neither am I going to tell you to forget having a corporate career because the corporate world is evil. No, none of that nonsense. I’m going to tell you my greatest misconceptions during my corporate career that spans 10 years. You will see potential identity issues and near misses, which could derail any promising career.

the boss

Choosing a job, not a manager – New challenges are so exciting! It doesn’t matter if I don’t have direct experience in a role, I get excited about finding out what I’m meant to be doing. In fact, if I can already do the job I’m unlikely to be interested. I read the job description, highlighting in green where I have experience, in yellow where I have knowledge but no direct experience and in orange where I have nothing at all. Then I make a plan to fill the gaps. Sounds pretty thorough, right? Well, that’s a misconception right there. I hardly ever ask crucial questions about who’s going to be my manager in the new role. I know their names but I don’t find out what they are like to work for, what their management style is and if I should be bothered to enter into their kingdom. Oftentimes, this is more important than the job itself. It doesn’t matter how smart I am. If I have to regularly combat difficult personalities or succumb to a management style that doesn’t work for me, I’ll lay awake at night. If I could go back in time, I’d ask more questions about management style and values. I might still take the job after finding out that the manager eats human ears for breakfast (my ears are my favourite feature) but at least I’ll know – and I’ll have an approach for managing them…because the job is worth it.

speak no evil hear no evil

Tolerating bad behaviour for far too long – Corporate environments are odd places. Many have open plan spaces where you sit at your desk for hours hitting away at the keyboard connected to your computer. There are times that I’m a few meters away from a colleague(s) and no words are exchanged for the most part of the day. It’s not that we hate each other. We are just really busy, hunched over from 9 to 5, buried in a spreadsheet or a slide presentation or horse manure. Offices are odd places for sure. Then imagine people behaving badly on top of that. Behaving badly could include:

  • sending that saucy email with a lot of comments about things the sender knows nothing about while copying the whole world,
  • shouting at other colleagues because life just feels better after shouting,
  • people not pulling their weight on the job

I use the ‘3-strikes-and-you-are-out’ approach but not everyone is as understanding as that. After all, we are all here to work and to get paid for a hard day’s job. Corporate environments are not charities. Sooner or later, somebody will mercilessly threw slackers under the bus.

Focusing on weaknesses instead of strengths – Ever since I was a child, I have ignored my strengths. Literally. When I get my report sheet, I scan through and notice all the ‘buts’, ‘althoughs’, and ‘could-do-betters’. I almost always need a second opinion on the report sheet, someone to talk me off the ledge. It takes another look for me to notice the ‘she is excellent at this’ and ‘she is a leader in that’. Honestly, I never see it the first time. If someone asked me my weaknesses, those would roll off my tongue quickly but I often have to think about what my strengths are. In fact, I ask my friends what my best traits are quite a lot because I tend to forget.

 

In my corporate career, this is probably the worst misconception – the misconception that I need to improve my weaknesses more than I need to make my strengths even stronger. It causes what I call, ‘mistaken identity’. I could end up presenting myself with my weaknesses at the forefront. Try it. Describe yourself with your weaknesses. For instance, you could say, ‘I’m terrible at numbers and I have no patience for slow learners.’ Then try describing yourself with your strengths. Something like, ‘I’m creative and often come up with innovative ideas. I’m also calm and productive under pressure.’ Well, who would you hire for a job? It’s the same person.  One of my lecturers at business school used to say and still says that people should ignore their weaknesses. ‘Just leave it alone’, he says. ‘Focus on your strengths’, he says. ‘That’s what the company hired you for – to tap your strengths – not to improve your weaknesses,’ he’d often say. I’m not sure I can totally ignore my weaknesses but perhaps if I focus more on my strengths, I’ll have greater impact because I’m more effective. Or so I’m told.

light the boss' cig

Neglecting to feed the ego monsters – I cannot for the life of me massage people’s egos. I’m not dissing it, trust me. It’s a good skill to have and should probably be in the curriculum at any good university. I just can’t do it because I struggle to say things I don’t mean. It’s worse when the ego monster is expecting me to feed them without doing much to deserve it. I think, ‘Huh? Excuse me…I have things to do’. Really bad attitude on my part and a potential near miss as far as corporate careers go. In corporate careers, the ego monsters could be:

  • the boss
  • the boss’ boss
  • that IT guy who can work magic on a fried hard drive
  • a senior manager whose buy-in is needed for the project to go ahead
  • his secretary

I conclude that feeding egos is possibly the most important skill in large organisations with tall hierarchies. Hopefully, it’s backed up with a measure of efficiency on the job. Bosses want to feel good (as do all human beings) and the majority of them don’t mind if you mean it or not. Just do it and it might be the start of a blissful relationship. It feels awkward when I do it. Like Pinocchio, I stand there expecting to be outed as my nose grows… My smile is tense and phony. Certain muscles in my face twitch. It would be easier if I could sit this one out. But I can remember times when my corporate career would have been much easier if I had simply played along…

There they are – I shuffled along with energy, enthusiasm and some mildly worrying misconceptions.

Do any of these resonate with anyone?

Images from flickr users: Pulpoux!!! – the boss; Theen Moy – Speak No Evil, Hear No EvilGiulio Magnifico – Light the cigarette for the boss

I lost my mojo. Then I found it on a plane.

Be yourself, be kind to others and your soul will rejoice

– me

I am on an Aberdeen-Birmingham flight. The plane is small and full. As I sit down on my aisle seat, I do my best to tuck in my limbs so as not to irritate the window-seat passenger. My mindset on flights is that unless the passenger next to me looks particularly friendly and/or initiates a conversation, I’m willing to sit there in silence for the duration of the flight. A little brutal maybe, but it’s the safest option.

reading passenger

I am halfway into a paragraph in my book when I hear the voice of a young lady in the seat across from me. She is talking to the passenger next to her. She laughs a lot. I do not hear the other passenger (a man) speak for the first 15 minutes of the conversation. She talks and talks. I learn that she is 23 and got married about 18 months ago. I learn that her husband is a doctor and a similar age to her. I also gather some information about her 2 siblings – one a brunette and the other blonde (she is a red-head).

Believe me, I try not to listen but I think the whole plane is listening. She isn’t perturbed by the quietness of the passenger she is chatting with. He nods and smiles from time to time. About 30 minutes into the flight, his voice becomes more audible. He laughs. I hear that he has a girlfriend and has been to Aberdeen only a handful of times.

The two talk for the 1-hour flight, with the young lady leading the conversation, asking questions and probing for detailed responses.

I have to be honest. I am half irritated by her. I have a book in my hand and I can’t get through more than a couple of pages due to the distracting conversation. We passengers glare at her periodically, hoping she just ends the conversation. We already know too much.

missing plane

The other half of me greatly admires her. She is bold and confident. At 23, I think she displays tenacity that is uncommon in many young women. I think about my safe option to keep to myself on planes (and in other public places, especially places that ‘move’ e.g. trains).

Then I realise something:

The young lady…that used to be me

I have let the fear of rejection change how I behave in certain situations. Being an extrovert by nature, I have a lot to say, a lot going on in my head that I want to share. But more and more, I don’t. I think it’s not important. Or the slight frown coming across my listener’s forehead becomes my cue to be quiet and withdraw.

As we disembark from the plane, the man thanks the young lady for great company as it helped the time pass quickly. I can’t help smiling. I want to thank her too.

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I’m glad to witness that young lady on the plane. I am on my way to attend a workshop (I wrote about the workshop here). The workshop is an awesome experience in part because of the young lady on the plane. I walk into the venue deciding to be yourself and not to shrink when people don’t take me on as I hope. I smile and talk to complete strangers with no malice even when they appear not to welcome my intrusion. It is liberating and I have fun. My spirit is light. My soul, gratified. I am not holding back.

My extroverted nature has been partially suppressed for years. In fact, I think there are times I lose it. Somehow, I’m finding it and I want to keep it even when I’m gray. I just need to have more faith in who I am. And gentle (and not so gentle) reminders are welcome. Thank you, Red-Headed Young Lady :-).

Images from flickr users: Dreemreeper – reading passenger on plane; Eole Wind – Missing plane; Paula Bailey – Paula Bailey

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