Archive for the ‘Success from adversary’ Category

Today is the day

September 4, 2015


Finding your personal starting line

Finding your personal starting line











Today is your starting point.

Yes, now. Today it all begins; right now.

Past failures, indiscretions, mistakes or false starts are not important.

They’re a learning curve, life experience and the foundation that allows you to be better now.

This is not a ‘living in the moment’ speech, it’s reality. If you can’t change the past, then you need to make peace with it. Very few people wake up brilliant, super fit, a business genius and have all the answers day one. I haven’t met any!

The people who do succeed are the ones that try and fail, and try again, each time getting better than the last.

Sometimes you can feel like a monumental failure, the sort of person that you wouldn’t entrust to have any success in a new project. So it’s easy not to start. But you can also think better than that.

Because giving up is no fun. It certainly doesn’t allow you to reach your potential, live the life you want or enjoy the satisfaction of breaking old habits and being successful.

And how sweet would that be?

However, don’t set your bar too high. Do what’s right, today, for you. It doesn’t matter what others think or have achieved, or how long it has taken them. They don’t care; most people are too wrapped up in their own ‘stuff’ to give your experiences a second thought. Or even a first one.

Forget about them, and forget about your own ‘stuff’ (those past failures and indiscretions) too. You have a free pass to the future. You know what you do well, so focus on that.

Give yourself another chance, learn from what has gone before and make a start today.



My belief is stronger than your doubt

July 2, 2014
Breaking free of self doubt

Breaking free of self doubt

I had a very interesting weekend away recently. A friend, who I suspected was going through a difficult time, spent almost the entire two days putting me down. Enthusiastically, aggressively, relentlessly, maniacally: finding the correct description of the gusto he brought to the task is difficult.

The putdowns started with my recent modest weight gain. I admit that I’m somewhat touchy about it; it’s the chink in my armour. My friend pounced. All good-natured ribbing? Not really. After more than a hundred references to it (yes, really!) my wife uncharacteristically told him to drop it. He didn’t. His wife told him to stop it. He didn’t. So another description: obsessive.

At first I laughed, then I got annoyed, became weary and finally just felt sorry for him.

We love to think that what others say or think about us doesn’t matter. We say that it’s their problem, not ours. But it’s not true. I did care. Why? Because it questioned my self-belief and my carefully crafted perception of myself.

It made me doubt myself. And that was depressing.

The paradox is, the more we say it doesn’t matter, the more it does. We’ve all questioned our self-worth. That’s normal. So how do we maintain our self-belief in the face of sometimes relentless and overwhelming criticism? By understanding who we are and what we’ve achieved. Accept that we will, at times, have a bad day. Bounce back. Believe in yourself, overcome doubt and carry on.

Eudaimonia (happiness)

April 14, 2013

Is happiness on the other side of your door?

Is happiness on the other side of your door?

In previous posts I’ve discussed how society accepts average, focuses on the negative and the consequences of this on our lives and happiness. It seems counterintuitive, but we can feel guilty if we’re happy.

For as long as we can remember we’ve been told that happiness follows success and there’s many years of hard work and sacrifice to get there. If we work hard enough, we’ll be successful and only when we’re successful will we be happy.

The reality is that the opposite is true. When we’re happy, and our mindset is positive, we’re more motivated and more resilient, with enhanced problem-solving skills and more functional work oupput. So, of course, we’re more successful.

However, despite evidence to the contrary, we’re told that if we work hard now and make sacrifices now we’ll get a promotion, a better job, pay off our homes quicker and be able to provide for our family. Work hard now and we’ll be successful and therefore happier, in some distant future.

Much of this thinking is a hangover from generations past, where life was a struggle, you accepted ‘your lot’ and deferred happiness was the name of the game. Happiness was a luxury, or the reward of a lifetime of hard work. Perhaps by retirement we may be able to relax and enjoy life.

The most successful people, the ones that enjoy the journey, don’t look at happiness as some distant goal; they capitalise on the positive and enjoy the rewards at every turn. Happiness is the joy we feel in striving to reach our potential. If you have twenty positive interactions in a day and two negative ones, which do you focus on?

Positively successful

August 7, 2012

Glass half full or half empty?

We create success or failure according to our most prominent thoughts. When thinking about ourselves, our lives and future prospects, which is stronger – success or failure, positive or negative, optimism or pessimism?

Everybody runs the spectrum of positive and negative thoughts. With everything that goes on in our lives and the myriad of external influences over which we have limited or no control, it would seem impossible to maintain a permanent state of happiness and positiveness. We enjoy moments of euphoric joy and excitement and moments of depression and disappointment.

Taking away the extremes, it’s possible to determine whether a person is generally positive or negative in their thoughts, behaviour and composure. Some see the bad side to everything, refuse to try because they will most certainly fail and struggle through each day with the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Others have a positive outlook on life and face the world with enthusiasm and excitement. Each day is an adventure with the probability of moving towards their goal, achieving something significant and learning from their experiences.

If your mind is usually in a negative state, the occasional positive thought isn’t sufficient to attract success. Negativity and scepticism can be a habit that’s hard to break. It appears to be socially unacceptable to many to admit happiness or enjoyment of work and life.

How are you? Not bad (a double negative), alright for a Tuesday I guess, fair to middling, could be better, will be better next week, not real well … and many other similar negative sentiments. Misery enjoys company and if you’re not careful will drag you down into a mire of negativity that kills motivation, creativity and achievement.

This results in feeling sorry for yourself or blaming the world or others for everything that has ever gone wrong in your life. This leaves an undertone of helplessness and hopelessness that precludes taking responsibility for yourself and what happens to you. You become a victim at the whim of circumstance and taken advantage of by others.

We all know people that appear to attract such negative results that just about everything seems to go wrong. They embrace failure with enthusiasm and find great solace in telling others about it and having them feel sorry for them. A self-perpetuating cycle of negativity; the glass isn’t just half empty, it’s smashed on the floor.

Others appear to be ‘blessed’ and everything they touch turns to gold. They’re happy and positive and seek the best from life and usually get it. When things go wrong they see this as a setback, not a failure; there’s a positive correlation between attitude and success.

Taking responsibility for ourselves, our actions, attitudes and results is one of the fundamental keys to success. If it’s to be, it’s up to me.

Why we fail and what to do about it

October 10, 2011

It's always your move

There’s a general belief that people fail because they lack the skills or the ‘special talent’ to succeed. It’s easy to look at others and admire what they‘ve achieved and wonder why we haven’t done it too. Often we see the exploits of celebrity entrepreneurs and think that there’sno way we could ever do that.

Watching world class Tour de France riders on TV doesn’t prevent us from jumping on a mountain bike with the kids on the weekend. Business and life are the same – you don’t have to be perfect or the best to give them a go. We all have to start somewhere,  and a positive attitude and willingness to try is an ideal starting point.

To demystify failure, we can look at its causes and thus give ourselves the best chance of success. The following are 10 key reasons for failure:

1. You base your self-worth on what others think. If you define your sense of worth based on how you assume others see you, you’ll make decisions that you believe will please others rather than yourself. As soon as you stop being true to yourself, success will elude you.

2. You assume that your past defines your future. If you have failed in the past you may find yourself expecting to fail again. Your past results may have been so unpleasant that you try to avoid failure at all costs. As a result you avoid any situations where failure is a risk, and  then you don’t take action at all. As any meaningful outcome usually entails some risk, you rarely, if ever, accomplish anything significant. So you fail by default.

3. You don’t learn from your mistakes. Most people either take past failures to heart and give up or continue on in the same way, pretending they didn’t fail or that things will change. They rarely do.  Unless you’re able to face up to failure and understand how and why you failed, it’s impossible to change your approach and try new ways to succeed.

4. You won’t do what’s necessary to succeed. In most cases people know what needs to be done, and can do it, but simply aren’t willing to take the action or do the work required to make it happen. The best example of this is weight loss – the concept is easy, people know what they need to do, but they find endless excuses why they won’t.

5. You believe that luck or fate or determine success. Some people believe that their success is determined by events outside their control, and put down other people’s success to good luck rather than good management. They don’t take responsibility for their result, and so won’t make changes to their approach. Rarely do they acknowledge skill, determination or persistence as key ingredients for success.  This beliefs keep you focused on what you can’t change (luck) rather than what you can (skill set and effort).

6. Related to point 5 is an attitude of entitlement; a belief that the government, other successful people or the world in general owes you a living. You expect someone else to do the heavy lifting and provide an easy path to your success, while providing nothing in return. It doesn’t work that way.

7. You aren’t willing to try new things. Many people become resistant to learning new approaches or trying different things, especially if they’ve already achieved a certain level of success.  The skill set required to take a business to $1m in sales can be completely different to taking it to $5m. Some people won’t accept that future growth requires a different approach.

8. You ask for advice but fail to listen. If you ask a successful person for advice, be prepared to listen. Many will switch off or even argue if the advice they receive differs from their beliefs. If that’s the case, don’t ask!

9. You fail to realise when enough is enough. Persistence is a great trait of the successful but so too is knowing when something is just not going to work. It’s always hard to go back to square one but sometimes it’s the only sensible option.

10. Your attitude stinks. It always amazes me how many people look at everything with a ‘glass half empty’ attitude. Their negativity pervades everything they do, kills off enthusiasm and repels people who could help. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can expect others to?

It’s not possible to be super positive and run at 100% all day every day. Reality dictates that things won’t always go your way, but success comes from dealing with life and moving on. Many people who fall at the first hurdle fail to get up. Be clear on your objectives and outcomes, work hard, persist, learn from your results, be prepared to try different things, and take advice when warranted. Most of all it’s you who is responsible for your success – remember this: if it’s to be, it’s up to me.

Fame, perfectionism and pain

June 7, 2011

How do you judge yourself?

I have a friend who is talented beyond measure, a gentle soul of great intelligence who attracts and inspires all around him. That is, with one exception; himself. He has met the enemy and found him within.

My friend feels trapped by his dreams; too defiant to give up but reluctant to proceed. He is trapped by his high standards of success and nothing else will do. There are many like him.

When perfectionism and self doubt combine you can be your own worst enemy. By freeing yourself from this nexus you can better use your time to accomplish more with less anxiety. In short, you can get out of your own way.

How do we define perfectionism in this context?

It’s the process of stretching for excellence in areas of your life that you find purposeful. This is very good. However this sword has another edge, which slices deeply.  That’s the process where you hold to incredibly high standards, demand perfect compliance from yourself, and make your worth contingent on meeting almost impossible standards. Depending on your definition, this pursuit of excellence can be an all or nothing proposition.

  A belief that your worth depends on meeting seemingly impossible standards is a breeding ground for debilitating emotions, such as anxiety and depression. If you dread the thought of performing poorly, you may experience anxiety and so may not have the confidence to even try. It’s easy to overanalyse and then get paralysed.

Your fear is based on what you think of yourself compared to your standards. Standards you feel you can’t achieve despite positive self talk and the ideal of an aligned belief system. It sounds great in the self-help books but the real world just doesn’t work that way. Despite the positive spin you can’t lie to yourself or mask your fear that others will also judge you as a failure.

The more important the action is – testing yourself in a music career, opening a business, writing a book – the longer you delay and the more pressure you put on yourself; and then your negative feelings amplify.

From here the pressure builds until you find yourself in an almost impossible stalemate of fear from which to move forward, but with an even greater fear of giving up your dream – a seemingly self perpetuating doom loop. If you don’t give up you still have a valid goal to hang onto.  If you don’t attempt it then you can’t fail so can’t destroy the dream. So you stay right there, right where you are.

You see your future results as successes or failures and this directly impacts your sense of personal worth. You may feel others judge you to this standard when they don’t; rather they just see your inactivity and wonder why, especially when they see your talent and believe your dream is achievable, if only you would try.

In your mind you’re a winner or loser, worthy or worthless, strong or weak or any number of other self destroying emotional labels. No one else can see it but it’s a sizzling brand on your soul.  You expect a level of performance from yourself. Your goals may be reasonable. Your expectations are not. You fall short and feel like a failure.

Perfectionism can feel absolute. It’s not enough to just do well; you have to do perfectly well. When attaining perfection becomes a contingency for personal worth, anxiety is the consequence; particularly when you see your actions as representing your place in the world.

So what happens? You expect a great result. You doubt whether you can achieve the results you want. You have an urge to do something less threatening.  So you wait until you can be perfect. This day never comes because you can’t be perfect. Certainly not at the start – 10,000 hours is the standard to reach master status. Can you bring yourself to start with even one hour?

You need to accept yourself as a fallible person and do the best you can without demanding perfection from yourself. You’re not your results, because results change based on so many variables and it’s impossible to anticipate them all. Drop the ball today, kick the goal tomorrow.

If you let go of the past and take the heat out of ‘what it means to me’ and just do it because you enjoy it, then your actions will probably happen naturally. You might even feel what you so often lack: that feeling of being ‘in the flow’. You need to let go of the past, especially when you’re scared of tipping your heart into your commitments again.

Stop looking backwards and start enjoying today. Accept that self worth and results aren’t the same thing; they’re not even linked. If you can you’re on your way to accepting yourself and achieving what you deserve.

In the end it is about inspiring people, and others don’t expect you to be perfect. They just find inspiration where they find it. If you act, maybe they’ll find it in you. Pick something that means a lot to you – and that will you will enjoy – and ‘release’ the rest. Set a goal, a stepping stone, one that you can achieve. Give yourself a break. Don’t run the marathon today, just get around the block. The marathon is for another day. You just need to make a start.

The end of days…beyond zero

February 25, 2011


End of days or something more?

When we look back at mistakes we’ve made in the past they feel like outstanding examples of stupidity, impulsiveness, and poor judgment. We kick ourselves for our lack of foresight; for not slowing and being more cautious, for letting our emotions push our reason into the background.

We hear the inevitable ‘What were you thinking?’ or ‘Where was your commonsense?’ and feel the rush of embarrassment at not having a good answer. Yes, what was I thinking? I don’t have a good answer. I know when I’m doing it but I just can’t stop…

When we add them up, the list of failures can leave us feeling our lives are more half-empty than half-full.

This applies equally to relationships, businesses, our career, sporting endeavours, weight loss plans or that bestselling novel just waiting to get out. The list can be, unfortunately, limitless. And if we’re really trying we can select more than one item from this depressing menu.

Most of us at some point have set a goal we would really like to achieve; a goal that requires time and effort for a great pay off. We set a goal because it’s something different. It involves change, doing things differently and often with great effort. It’s easier not to do it.

We start out with a sense of excitement and passion, with the best of intentions and visions of success, but then we lose sight of where we’re heading. The challenges of our life distract us.

Our vehicle to success begins to veer ever so slightly off the road, so slightly that we scarcely notice. But suddenly one day we find ourselves sitting in a ditch, unable to move. We realise the momentum is gone, the dream has faded and that we’ve failed…again.

Those around us shake their heads, full of hindsight wisdom. They said they knew it was a mistake, and said it wouldn’t work. We’re not back to square one, worse, we’re beyond zero. We are reinforcing our self belief that we ‘can’t do’ or we are a ‘failure’. ‘Why bother, success is obviously not for me. I’m destined to be stuck here forever.’

But the other way of looking at failures is to not see them as failures at all. Yes, the intentions were sound, the judgment good. Yes, there are always mistakes to trip us up; regrets that remain and burn. But the problem was not stupidity or laziness or other labels we readily impose on ourselves. 

Perhaps we can try again. Perhaps we can reassess what we’re chasing. Or perhaps we can look at what we did achieve and see it for the success it was. We can feel good about trying and in doing so create inertia that changes our world, even briefly, for the better.

Life’s not static. Thing change; nothing lasts forever. Perhaps we just came to the end of this particular road. What did we learn, what was the benefit? There can be excitement in the unexpected if we allow ourselves to enjoy the process, savour the journey. Life may serve you up something different to what you expect. It may even be better. Will you allow yourself the peace to see that?

(c) Work Life bank Balance 2011