Archive for May, 2013

The strawberries and cream of life

May 29, 2013
Working for the strawberries and cream of life

Working for the strawberries and cream of life

Have you wondered how top athletes became successful? Is it some form of genetic advantage? Do they just turn up? Are they naturally brilliant?

In the majority of cases the answer is no. They may have a predisposition towards the sport and may have physical characteristics that help, but in this competitive world that’s not enough.

The best way to create spectacular results in any area of your life is determination, commitment and practice. We marvel at sporting successes but we only see the game; we don’t see the daily hours of hard slog training and practice.

A tennis professional may win millions at a single tournament but are they being paid for only that match? No. It’s the years of training, practice, coaching and mental preparation required to get to that level. Top athletes know that practice is how you achieve success.

Similarly, in the business world you don’t just turn up and wander into the CEO’s office and assume the position. Personal and professional success takes work. It’s not reasonable to expect you can achieve all of your goals without having to make some sacrifices along the way and pay the price in terms of dedication and persistence.

Those that are the most vocal on how others ‘had an easy ride’ or ‘had an unfair advantage’ are usually the ones that prefer to take the easy path every time. It’s difficult for them when elite performers make it look easy.

There would be very few successful people who’ve made it without setbacks along the way. The difference is that their dedication and momentum helps them ride over the bumps rather than being derailed. If you want the ‘strawberries and cream’ of life you must be prepared to work for it.

Success doesn’t just show up; you need to create it. Work out what you need to do to move forwards and do it consistently. Set milestones so you have success along the way and keep your eye on the prize.

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Is reality real?

May 24, 2013

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The action of observing an event will change its outcome.

I’ve heard this many times over the years and watched a program recently which described this effect as it relates to quantum mechanics.

It made me think that if outcomes are changed due to being observed, how does that relate to human behaviour? We all act differently at different times, at different events and with different people.

I realised how much our interpretation of reality changes our experience of that reality. This is a psychological, or perhaps behavioural, interpretation of the scientific principal known as the ‘Heisenberg Effect’.

German physicist Werner Heisenberg, founder of quantum mechanics and winner of the 1932 Nobel Prize, maintained that it’s impossible for a scientist to observe any living organism without necessarily changing it; observation alone changes the behaviour of the observed.

Can the Heisenberg Effect also be applied to the way we operate in the world? I think it can.

So ‘reality’ changes depending on whether you are with someone or alone, the importance that person has to you and whether that person is passive or active.All of these factors will change your response and therefore your actions.

This, in turn, affects how we perceive our reality and affects how others see it too. This means that reality is consciously created to meet the expectations of others and how we see our place in the world. Reality as a conscious construct: that poses more questions than answers!

It then follows, in my opinion, that our reality can be influenced by what we focus our attention on. In a day, week, year or life there will be a balance of good and bad, positive and negative. What we choose to focus on will define our outlook and attitude to life. Are you a positive or negative person? Do you engage or repel others?

William James, the American philosopher and psychologist, recognised in 1890 that social relationships inherently promote perpetual impact, stating that a person ‘has as many different social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares; he generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups’.

We see people act quite differently depending on circumstance: when with their boss or with their co-workers; when they’re with their spouse or with their friends. Same person, different persona.

So who are we really? What reality have we created? We often talk about being ‘authentic’ and ‘being true to ourselves’ but society requires us to be many different people. At what point does this game become our reality? When do we lose sight of the difference? If we lose our ‘self’ in life’s charade will we ever be able to find the way back?

As Stephen Covey said: ‘You don’t see the world as it is, you see it according to who you are.’

Who are you really?

Breaking free of average

May 13, 2013
Breaking free of the pack

Breaking free of the pack

I speak to many people about success and its meaning to them. Many feel they just can’t break free to create momentum for real progress. Breaking free of average; when those around us prefer not to challenge the status quo and actively dissuade us from trying.

How do we set our sights higher and repel negativity?

It’s not an easy question and the answers are elusive. That’s what this post is about; being aware of the problem is the first step.

Life’s like a bell curve where the majority of people are happy to fit right on the top of that curve; right there with everyone else in the average zone. For many this is the safe zone, with the majority, hiding in the pack.

There’s always been safety in numbers but in terms of happiness and success what does that middle ground mean? Exactly where is being average taking you?

Well, did you know that depression rates are ten times higher than they were in 1960, the average age of the onset of depression is half what it was 50 years ago, we have teenagers taking antidepressants and job satisfaction is less than 50% with longer hours and less security.

Perhaps you’ve also heard the following:

‘Don’t try too hard because if you become successful you’ll lose your friends … Tall poppy; poke your head up and have it cut off … If you have money you must have taken advantage of others to get it …It’s is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven …The meek shall inherit the earth’.

Society likes average because it’s easy to manage. It provides an excuse for mediocrity. Rather than achieve on our terms we’re told that it’s perfectly acceptable to be average. We have a readymade excuse for not trying.

In other words, does this sound familiar?

‘If everyone else is overweight then it’s okay for me too, I’m not as fat as those people. No one in our office works too hard so it’s okay for me to coast along too. But everyone speeds along here,Officer! Very few adults ever read a book so I really don’t have to either. Everyone is watching the latest reality show so I will too. I want to fit in; I want to be part of the in-crowd…’

Are you prepared to be an outlier or will you allow society to statistically smooth your journey? What happens when average is a failing grade in life? Do you want something better? What are you prepared to do for it? Will you accept society’s excuses and justification for laziness or will you be better than that?

It’s your life and your choice. Will you allow the majority to rule or are you prepared to step outside the average and live your best life?

A balancing act

May 8, 2013
Finding your balance

Finding your balance

My last post discussed the imbalance I’ve experienced in life. I now have a new approach to life and work and a better job that provides more choices and less stress.

I have no problem with those people who dedicate their lives to their career to being the best business person possible. Or people who consciously minimise personal, family and community responsibilities to focus on their work. In society these people tend to be the minority.

What happens is many operate like this, while expecting to have a healthy balanced life with family, friends and a grounded sense of self and community. They want it both ways.

This is delusional, how can they expect to excel at areas of life that receive no effort or focus? They certainly know that this wouldn’t work at the office so why would it at home? They choose to get married, have a family and friends but largely ignore these parts of their lives.

When the inevitable crash comes in their personal lives they act surprised. It’s as if circumstances have overtaken them and they’re victims of unfortunate circumstances beyond their control. This is a trade-off they made, a course they chose, it just didn’t seem like it at the time.

Your work colleagues won’t be there when you’re old and sick, but we hope our spouse will be. Your job doesn’t make Christmas special, your kids do. When you’re feeling depressed and need someone to talk to you turn to your friends.

When we retire and no longer ‘anybody’ in our former industry we’re a ‘somebody’ for our family and a superhero for our grandchildren if we’re lucky enough to have any. We’re quickly forgotten when we leave work, let it not be the same when we leave life. On our death beds we remember our family not our business success.

The point is that you can have it all in life. You can have a fulfilling, interesting and successful professional life. You can have a loving family that you’re an active and supporting part. You can maintain and develop your friendships and enjoy your hobbies and interests.

That’s balance. But you have to be aware of what you want, what you will set as your priorities and make the choices that will lead you there.