[My daughter's picture from the Eden Project]
We set ourselves up for failure.
Our work is never finished.
There is always more to be done than we have time for, and even though, as we grow older, we may aspire for smaller gains, it is rare for a day to pass where we feel fully satisfied.
Stop and focus.
It is important in true Covey matrix style to work out the important from the urgent. For me, this means taking time away from the coal face, clearing my head and looking at the wall in front of me and working out the most advantageous route. Previously, I would just have gone for it but, nowadays, I tend to more thoughtful and pick my line.
It is important that you take time to think as, otherwise, you will be forever overwhelmed by your ever expanding list(s).
There are many systems on the market geared for productivity gains, but what you will find is that they will give you an expectation that you can achieve more. Some may well do so, but after a while, through slow creep, you will feel just as overwhelmed as before.
Perhaps the best idea is to focus on much, much less.
Less talk and more action;
We always seem to have too much on our mind. Those open loops that keep bugging the hell out of us. But ask yourself, how many of those things actually have to be done? What would happen, worst case scenario, if you simply didn't do them?
Rather than constantly looking for more, settle back and keep reminding yourself how much you have achieved. If you were to undertake an informal daily audit, you would be amazed how much you had crammed into the day.
Does doing lots of things make you happier?
I often find that I am much happier when I have excelled at something, than having crossed just another thing off my list.
I am not advocating that you change your sleeping habits (I have read far too many blogs recently where people talk about getting up at 4am; I would be much more impressed if they got up at 8am like most people). You need to do what works for you but I am firmly of the view, despite my tendency to go without enough sleep, that getting more sleep two or three times a week pays huge dividends. It makes you think much more clearly, and achieve more.
Whatever age you are, it is good to take stock of those things that might go into a bucket list. Have you spent time just working without enough focus on the more important things? If so, they will provide you with the balance that you need to make a difference in your life.
As we all know, life is what we make it. But don't let your incessant need for doing stuff, lead to your mental, spiritual and emotional burn out. No one likes to talk about these things but once in while it is good idea to unplug and just take time to do nothing. That could be the most productive thing you ever do.
There is not enough attention paid to first impressions.
Growing up I was always taught the importance of clean shoes, and brushing my hair. It was no different to saying "please" and "thank you".
In these hyper-connected times, we seem to have lost the connection that comes from meeting people for the first time. It seems we have already made up our mind about them from their picture and Twitter/LinkedIn bio.
However, nearly all businesses, save perhaps the likes of Amazon, have to deal with people.
If you need to remind yourself of the importance of first impressions just think about the last time you visited a retail store, restaurant or service provider. If you were anything like me, you were apt to make up your mind based on how smart the place and everyone was. I can think of numerous instances where I have had my worst suspicions confirmed about the (likely) poor standard of expected service, even before that has been delivered.
You can see when people care.
To make a great first impression make sure you have a mirror. Preferably one that is full length. Be objective your appearance. If you think you look a bit shabby chances are your prospective customer etc. will think you look down right scruffy.
Set a realistic budget for personal grooming. I don't mean that you have to spend, in the case of men, stupid sums to get those over the top, nonsense personal grooming products. Just make sure that you don't end up using cheap stuff.
Get in shape. You heard me. Be prepared to exercise. If you think you are overweight then what are you doing about it. And it's not just the weight issue. We all know that physical exercise makes you sharper.
Practice your smile.
Practice your smile.
Practice your smile.
I don't care if you face aches, you have to know what it feels like to keep a permanent grin on your face. I know when I smile people immediately open up to me. I feel happier and hopefully they do as well.
Get some feedback on your opening lines. Practice, drill and rehearse. It doesn't matter the situation, you need to have practised those first few lines. I always make a point of going over in my head, before any meeting, exactly what I am going to say.
Get a coach. That doesn't mean paying through the nose but just someone who can give you some honest feedback.
And finally, your raison detre should be GET BETTER.
No day should be seen as a repetition of the last. Ben Franklin (what a wise soul he was), had a daily wash up of what he had achieved. Even though you may not have time for that you still need to put time aside to reflect on the high spots of the week, and where you could, with further practice, get better.
First impressions count.
Don't let something so straightforward slip through your fingers.
Available as a signed print.
Play is so good for you, especially if you are doing anything creative. We have two kids, so we are constantly reminded of the benefits.
I drew this in my sketchbook, was happy with it, then tried to draw it larger on nicer paper, and it didn't look as good. The magic that comes from the spontaneity of a sketch can sometimes be lost when trying to do a good copy. So I scanned my sketchbook.
I love Marc's work and it's nice to be able to reblog on TypePad. Only wish I could afford this one.
The late Jim Rohn said:
"All leaders are readers."
Frankly, I don't know if that is true but one thing I do know, is that some of the most interesting and stimulating people I have ever met read a lot. And they don't just espouse the prose they live it.
Every time I pick up a book, I think about the supreme effort, joy (and sorrow?) and passion that went into creating it. In many ways it reminds of a great artist or song writer. It is easy to dismiss some writers and trash their works but what have you done to produce a book, blog or article?
I read a lot. And I like to have a lot on the go. But nowadays, I try to take something useful from each of the books and apply it in my life. It doesn't have to be anything huge.
If you don't like reading or struggle to maintain concentration, try audio books. They are great. I use Audible. It is a really good service.
When you read try to give yourself a set time in the day and commit to at least 30 minutes. Try not to let your mind wonder, and if you don't mind marking the book, jot any thoughts down as you go along. Alternatively, get a little journal to record things. Whatever you do don't skim read. In my experience it is pointless.
At the moment I have at least three books on the go. I don't know why I do it this way but it keeps me from giving up on books after the first few chapters. You may like to focus on one book. Fine but once you start it you have to finish it.
Reading should be a fundamental part of everyone's life. We don't do it nearly enough. The TV has seen to that.
For me it is not just a question of how much I can get through (in numbers) but what I take out of each book and apply in real life. I see each book adding to my education.
One final point: have fun. If you are bored then go find something that inpsires or moves you. A comic, a novel, a design book or old classic. The choice is infinite.
The world is replete with books, blogs and multi-media extolling the virtue of change in our lives.
I am no cynic, and I am sure people wish to inspire, but I sometimes wonder how much of what is produced would happen absent material gain.
How many real movements have been started on the back of a book or blog?
People move people.
I am inspired by action.
To see the real deal.
Those people that are happy with life and with what they have - and I mean happy in the face of the darkest of moments: they have the ability to keep shining a light for all of us.
We should be inspired to do more, and not just for material gain.
Look around you.
Nature provides the bedrock around which you can find inspiration. Even the smallest of things can bring about a moment of reflection enough to make a major change in our lives.
Think about each breath and how precious it is.
The breath is constant and unyielding.
It is an oft stated truism that if we don't know where we are going, don't be surprised where we end up.
And that's just it.
WE HAVEN'T SAT DOWN AND ASKED THE SERIOUSLY TOUGH QUESTION OF OUR SELF:
One of the problems we all face, is that each day is unpredictable. You set out on a course of ACTION but it doesn't take much to blow you to the four winds. And it is the small-est of things that can blow you off course:
I remember as a kid my parents continually asking me: "OK what do you want to do when you grow up." My answer was always the same: "I don't know." This left them frustrated but not as much as me. It would have been better if I had blagged it.
Having gone through various jobs from a mechanical engineer to a recruitment consultant and eventually as a lawyer, a common theme emerged; namely what I enjoy most is helping others get what they want: a better job and the resolution of often difficult and unpleasant cases. There is one other burning desire: to help everyone become the most of anything. I fervently believe that every person has the ability to be great at something. Most people that I have met either through fear or lack of confidence have given up dreaming about their Best Self.
One of the best book titles that encapsulates this point is Anthony Robins' book Awaken the Giant Within. If only we could unlock those massive reserves of (latent) potential how different the World would be.
And there you have it. For me it is about helping others. I have even gone so far as to stick a label on my computer that says: "How can I help you today?" to remind myself. My kids laughed when they saw it but isn't that what we all do, even if we don't like to admit it?
There are many wonderful books on goal setting, positive reinforcement, prosperity consciousness and working through adversity, but ultimately you have to have a purpose or a deep passion for something. If you can find that - and find it in abundance until it almost consumes every waking minute - then all the other things will more easily find their place.
One other thing: make time to think. Take time to reflect. Start assembling your wish list by all means but keep coming back to those moments that truly inspired you or left you fantastically exhausted.
If you never make time to think then you will simply end up repeating in your mind the same (negative) issues over and over and over.
My apologies for the use of the word elderly. I think it is pejorative, but I couldn't think what else to say.
For me, the elderly are a forgotten class.
We should be ashamed of the way we have constructed our temples of consumerism, which has succeeded in further marginalising them.
What we can learn from our Grandparents
I had the great privilege to grow up in my early years with all of my great-grandparents and grandparents alive. I have some wonderful memories, and my only regret is that I didn't get to spend more time with them.
But looking back it is amazing how many of the things that they, out of necessity, had to do, we are now rediscovering:
The other thing that stands out for me is that they rarely moaned and seemed happy with what they had. Whether that was because they had lived through WW1 and 2 I don't know but they were much more phlegmatic about things.
I am looking now at a picture of my grandparents on my father's side. They were called Peter and Lorna. You can see in my grandfather's eyes that he loved, truly loved, my gran. He tragically died at aged 70 from a heart attack. She found him on the floor at their holiday get away; but being blind and deaf, I am not sure you really knew what was going on, and it was all too late come the end to save him. He had looked after her all their married lives.
I still remember going to their house when I was a little boy and being amazed by how they eeked out an existence from their garden; and how they managed to make so little go such a long way. That said my grandfather was a wonderful cook: his bubble and squeak was the best ever together with his chips.
Over the last year I have had more time than ever to think. Previously my career assumed such a massive part of my life that I had just gone from one week to the next on auto-pilot. It feels now as if the veil has been lifted.
I now realise that the simplest things in life are the most important: food, water, heat, and a few clothes. And of course, and above all else, love.
If you look at your Grandparents, my experience is that we have so much we can learn from them:
Of course, every generation wants to see the next generation do better than the next, but are we really that much better off? I don't feel so. I feel that we have been chasing a false God. Perhaps we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed. Perhaps we have taken the view that it is our right. Whatever the scenario, we need to learn from the experiences of our elders.
Right now, even though things are on hold with the economy, we need to take stock and understand what is important to us. More things will not buy you more happiness, and we need to stop giving into the temptation of wanting more. Likewise, with our children we have to be brave enough to make the tough love decisions so that they do not get seduced into feeling that nothing is wrong. I don't want to remind them every day that we are in the middle of a recession but neither do I want them to carry on with the expectation that everything is fine. If we don't make the changes now, we never will.
I think we can all learn something from our Grandparents.
Less is more.
Patience is a virtue.
Don't chase instant gratification.
Live for today but at the expense of tomorrow.
Yes, they might be hackneyed phrases but they are bang on the money for me.
Blog post by Julian Summerhayes. 945 words.
It is easy to become despondent with the current malaise.
Even for those people who have lived through the previous recessions, this one feels/is different.
I sense a real air of nervousness.
We are precipitously close to the abyss and haven't put enough clear water between the collapse in the market, and where we would hope to be this far out (based on our past experience).
There has been of plethora of material produced dissecting the reasons for the downfall, and I won't rehearse them here. Whether the genesis of the collapse rests with the US housing market it matters not. The thing is that all the banks were over exposed and were prepared to lend against anything that had a pulse.
Many families will be struggling to make sense of it all, especially those employed in the public sector.
The whole situation just feels out of whack with reality.
Less income undoubtedly brings with it great change. The sort of change that leaves scars.
But if we are going to come through this episode with as little collateral damage as possible, then one thing is for sure: we will have to get used to living with less.
Without wishing to offend anyone, I think we (and I include myself) got used to a style of living that was unsustainable. It was that the sort of living that rested on the (false) premise that things can only keep going up and up and up.
We should all have known better.
It is patently clear that which goes upeth does not keep going upeth, and perhaps the difference this time is how quickly the air disappeared out of the bubble.
Our lives became consumed by having more of everything. If it wasn't another holiday, then we thought we should just borrow more to fund a lifestyle that we knew deep down was out of our grasp.
If we want to take something out of this recession, and retain some dignity, then we need to start appreciating the things we have. Of course, you will have tightened your belt and made savings on the household budget but how many things do you still own that you don't use or have a use of? I have spent the last 3 months trying desperately to de-clutter our house. I keep reminding myself that in life it is the striving not the arriving that is important, and never more so than with this process. For my part I have pretty much taken things back to the bare essentials. Yes, I could sell or give away a few of my books but I can't yet bring myself to let go, given how I see them continuing to add to my education of life. My curiosity always gets the better of me. But when it comes to the rest of the house, it is incredibly hard with the 3 children (all girls) and a wife, who by her own admission is a hoarder. But we shall persevere.
The thing is the more we/I pare things to a minimum the more I realise how little we need.
Perhaps the clothes is an easy place to start but what you come to realise is that you have bought things in the past for the sake of having them and not based on any meaningful purpose.
Going forward my raison detre will be quality. I have seen it debated whether being a minimalist means living a life without things per se. I don't believe that to be the case. I think being minimalist means living within your means and taking pleasure from less.
I like to think that having a Superdry T-shirt (yes I have one) doesn't make me a hypocrite. I love it simply because my children love it.
I know that the next few years are going to be testing for my family. All my girls have aspirations for further education - one wants to be a doctor, one a physiotherapist and the other a product designer. This won't come cheap but I know will be worth every penny that we put into their education.
For me I want everyone to think carefully about what we need to get to where we are headed.
The message probably is we have enough. We don't need more.
Look around you. Do you really need to buy something new?
I know that living in a recession it is very difficult not to think about all the things you are doing without, and yearning for more of the good times when the economy recovers its strength, but all I ask is that you think carefully about whether now is the time to make some permanent changes. Don't yet yourself up emotionally for a whole slew of things that are on a wish list - new car, holiday and gadgets. There is nothing wrong with having a sense of purpose and if you need to visualise something to help you along the way then great; but don't let it disturb your equilibrium.
My sense is that quite a lot of people are still clinging on to the past and trying to maintain a sense of their previous reality. But you need to be brave and ask yourself if now is not the time to make those changes in your living style that you know you should have made long before now.
All I ask is that you see the opportunity in the recession and not the hardship. Try to rise above the peer pressure and the feeling of longing.
You might think you can buy yourself to happiness but it is nothing more than temporary.