Archive for November, 2010

The true meaning of prosperity

November 26, 2010

Prosperity comes in many forms

I used to worry about what other people thought of me; I worried about that a lot. I would seek validation from others on virtually every part of my life.  I would be waylaid by naysayers and listen to those that provided advice for their own benefit and those who sought to hold me back. Why did I let their opinion matter? Because lack of confidence made me think they must know better.

Things have changed. I was reminded of that this week while on holiday with my family in Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.  I’d been for an early morning surf with my son and we’d retired to our favorite beachfront café for coffee and hot chocolate.

We’d become morning regulars and the staff greeted us with a smile asking how the surf was? We felt great after a couple of hours in the water. The café has a stylish outdoor layout so we found our favorite table in the sun and relaxed, enjoying the moment.

Unfortunately this was short-lived due to comments made by the four people at the table behind us. They thought it was unacceptable for us to come directly from the ocean to the café, and had no hesitation in voicing this opinion loudly enough for us to hear.

This upset my son, made him feel self conscious. He wanted to go home. We were wearing board shorts but had put on t-shirts and shoes after toweling off. It’s an outdoor beachfront café so I didn’t feel we were out of place.

I told my son not to worry about it and our drinks arrived and he was soon dunking marshmallows in his hot chocolate and all was well with the world. As I drank my coffee I looked over to these people and watched them berate the waitress and complain about everything, from the time it took to get their drinks to the weather.

Dressed in the latest resort gear and talking loudly for all to hear, they were consumed by their self importance. And I felt sorry for them. Why was it necessary to put on such a show just so they could feel good about themselves? And why did it need to be at others’ expense? They may have been wealthy, but I doubt it; the wealthy people I know are generally the most unassuming and caring people.

Rich or poor, it didn’t matter. They certainly weren’t living a happy life and it appeared they had missed the beauty of the day and the tranquility of the moment by being entirely inward focused. At that point it didn’t matter if any of us were a CEO, celebrity, politician or factory worker.

We were just people. I was a father enjoying a pleasant morning with my son. At that moment I felt truly prosperous. Who or what I was in other parts of my life were, at that moment, irrelevant. I had happily swapped Hugo Boss for Ripcurl and a Mercedes for an old Falcon with surfboards on top.

I had nothing to prove. I didn’t care what they thought of me or how I looked. I was happy being there, in that moment and I was free.

The most important thing in life

November 23, 2010

Where do your priorities lie?

What is the most important thing in life? Over 90% of people say family, children and personal relationships. However, when you ask them about their goals they will talk about careers and money, but have a hard time telling you what their family or relationship goals are.

We hear such things as ‘I want to be a good husband and father’ or ‘I want to be a good mother and friend’. How far would you get at work if you said your goal was to be a good manager? What does that mean?  No detail means no clear action and no results.

At work we have mission and value statements, targets, key performance indicators and regular reviews. Goals are carefully planned; time allocated and reviewed. Yet we don’t apply the same diligence to our relationships with our family. We go along assuming ‘everything will work out’.  We say that family and friends come first but we don’t set goals for improving and enhancing these relationships. Do family events go in your diary first or do you find time around your business appointments?

Our values are demonstrated not by what we say but what we do. If you want to know what someone values look at what they focus on. How people spend their time and their money reveals what they value most.

We need to be focused on work but at home are you truly engaged with your family or sitting on the laptop ‘just finishing something’ or thinking about what you have to do the following day?

I found out the hard way when my eldest daughter turned 13 and I realised I was the father of a teenager. It hit me that I had missed out on the last 10 years. I was there physically but not engaged mentally. With all three of my kids I regret the times I said ‘not now I’m working’ or ‘we’ll do that later’. Later never came.

Why did it take me so long to see the folly in this? I feel lucky I woke up to myself and changed my ways before it was too late.

Consider this: a child may stay at home with you for 20 years. Some move away earlier to attend university and others may stay longer; but the point is that the time you have with them is limited.

That‘s about a quarter of your life and then they’re gone. You will still have your job or business, your investments and your golf but you won’t have the day to day interaction with your kids.

Even if you don’t have children, you do have relationships with your family, with your friends, with your colleagues and so the same applies.  As important as career and financial success are they must be seen as the means to the end of a happy family and meaningful relationships. Financial support for your children is important but so too is emotional and physical support. Kids may enjoy receiving a few hundred dollars to buy the latest computer game or iPod but what they value is the time and attention you can give them.

Your motivation for doing well in business and financial areas are often your family. When you prioritise your personal relationships you actually get better at the other parts of your life. In other words, the relationships motivate the achievements.

Leave the house every day fortified with the strength of your family relationship and knowing that you have a purpose in everything you do. This alone will make an immeasurable difference to your success.

Less is more

November 18, 2010

Doing less can give you more

 

After 20 years of driving myself to succeed, climbing the corporate ladder and continually recalibrating my goals for more, I finally stopped, took stock and was shocked with the results.

I started my career with boundless energy and a passion to make a name for myself in business. I achieved that but at what cost? The goals I’d carefully crafted to provide success, happiness and contentment fell well short.

I was stressed, unfit and depressed. I felt guilty that I had been ‘too busy’ to enjoy my children’s early years and I put work before family. I was working 12 hour days, coming home and then doing another couple of hours. I didn’t have time for my kids. Ten years flew by and my children were growing into teenagers.

When they were young I was travelling and leaving my wife to it. I was contributing financially and thought I was doing my bit; I just didn’t see what I was missing. And I’m one of the lucky ones. I woke up before it was too late, and changed my ways.

I now enjoy a fabulous relationship with my kids. I still work hard and put in the hours but now when I’m home I’m actually there; mentally as well as physically. Spending time with my wife and kids and having control over my life rather than reacting to the never ending flow of work. I’ve set new goals no longer confined to only work and financial achievement. 

And a strange thing has happened. I’m working less, I’m not stressed, my health has improved and I’m achieving more at work than ever. I’ve even found the time to go to the gym at lunchtime twice a week and leave work most days by 6.30pm. We’ve purchased a beach house and spend weekends together walking on the beach with the dogs and enjoying coffee in our favourite cafe.

I’ve achieved balance in my life that has allowed me to be more efficient, focus on the important rather than the urgent and create mental space to see the way to achieving my goals.  I realised that I didn’t have to choose. It’s not a ‘work or life’ proposition. I found that I can have both, and that leads to better performance and a happier life.

 

A purposeful life

November 14, 2010

Anything's possible when you jump into life

A purposeful life. That’s a promising topic for a blog post on success.

The source of this statement makes for an interesting story. Last night my wife and I attended a presentation from the teaching staff at our son’s new secondary school. He’s making the transition from primary (junior) school for the next stage of his schooling life.

When we arrived, the statement ‘A purposeful life’ was up on the board, the first slide of what turned out to be a far more interesting evening than I was expecting. It struck me what a fantastic objective this statement is. And one equally relevant to us older folk who have left school far behind but still yearn for purpose in our lives.

Most 12-year-olds have such a wonderful optimism about life. Anything’s possible. They can be an inventor, race car driver, astronaut or paleontologist. Why? Because no one has told them they can’t.

Children are engaged by life. There’s so much to discover and be excited about. It’s easy for us adults to forget that life can be a discovery, with mortgages, school fees and high pressure jobs weighing on our minds. Perhaps it’s time to take a lesson from the kids.

The principal talked to us about the philosophy of the college:

Their purpose: ‘To enrich the cultural, intellectual and spiritual capabilities of young people to live purposefully in the community’.

She went on to explain the college’s approach for preparing children for the world:

– Every child matters every day

– Know yourself; be yourself

– Build learning through a breadth of experience

– Focus on innovation and creativity

– A strong sense of community

– Have fun

– An exciting journey filled with exploration and opportunities.

I was inspired. This alone is the basis of many self-help books. Perhaps many of us know it, but it also becomes buried in the noise of daily life. I would love again to see the world through the wonder of a child’s eyes. And this also makes me sad for those children whose circumstances don’t allow these opportunities.

Then we heard from the year level coordinator:

Everyone has a place and role irrespective of their differences. There must be a balance across academic results, sport, music and special interests.

Again, these are objectives which in adulthood we constantly strive to achieve – work, life balance.

The college seeks to create partnerships based on expectations, communication, trust, achievement and support networks. To provide clear instructions on what to do and what is expected.

They start the first day of the new school year with a three-day camp. This allows the teachers to get to know the kids and work out who are best suited to work together. From this camp, the classes are formed. The camp teaches team and relationship building, problem-solving strategies, building on strengths and sharing ideas.

The kids are taught to respect everyone and value the differences that exist between them. What a wonderful lesson for us all.

Perhaps we need to dispense with our high priced corporate strategy consultants and ask a year 7 teacher to spend a couple of days in our businesses and talk to us about life? They would make it fun too.

Failing forward

November 8, 2010

 

Failure as a fast track to success

When life doesn’t turn out how we hoped, is there a way back, or perhaps forward?

In my last few posts I have discussed the acceptance of failure as a learning opportunity and the benefits it provides as a tool for personal growth. This is the principal of failing forward: accepting failure as a stepping stone to success.

Failing forward is about how you accept and use the results to better apply yourself to achieving what you want. It no longer seems possible to avoid failing simply by being conscientious and working hard – the success formula our parents so heavily relied upon.

Failure comes in degrees. The differences between total loss and a minor setback, death and illness, injury and fatigue are distinctions of degree, not kind. You can look at failure differently. Because it will pay off in the form of learning and growth. This is failing forward.

Learning is error-driven. Failure grabs our attention. It has implications for our development as fulfilled and purposeful individuals. It can initiate a search for meaning, a shift from pursuing the kind of happiness that flares briefly, to the kind that endures.

Achievement is the area where we often put ourselves under the most pressure. Understanding what achievement is or what level we are to attain but a certain time can cause feelings of uncertainty and failure. Disproportionately valued and often conflated with material success. But other dimensions actually have a potentially higher payoff. We easily habituate to material things, and they quickly stop making us happy. Other less tangible values can provide the contentment we seek.

And so the once autonomous striver, rowing alone, is forced to throw that old life over the side. A new unifying principle coalesces around some ‘higher purpose’ and the new life feels like an improvement. Failure does lead, in a roundabout way, to happiness.

The paradox of failing

November 3, 2010

Success can be hidden in failure

Everyone gets waylaid by failure sometimes.

However the same set of circumstances that drives one person deeper into the abyss makes another stronger.

Dealing with failure boils down to three things. It’s a matter of controlling our emotions, adjusting our thinking, and recalibrating our beliefs about ourselves and what we can achieve in the world. No, you don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it.

Life’s a game of failure. And at the beginning you’re going to lose a lot. Those who are going to succeed are the ones who learn to accept and deal with losing. In sport, business and life it’s those who try to succeed, again and again, that ultimately win.

When you’re less afraid to fail, you’ll succeed more.

It’s really a sense of perspective. Your present moments are laid out against your past. What you perceive now is compared to what you’ve experienced. Do you have the courage and vision to see a new set of possibilities? Or to set better or best results as a personal high water mark and confront new challenges with optimism and energy?

But the great payoff in failing is that it gives us another chance, a strange sense of pride not just in the potential positive consequences of failure but in the failure itself. If we have failed, we have tried. Action is better than inaction. And one thing is certain: if you never try, you will neither fail nor succeed. Failure drives us out into the world to have another go and actively participate in life.

Embrace the opportunity and freedom this provides you. More than one path leads to success and there is so much to be leaned along the way.