You’ve Got Talent Part 1

Okay, I admit it, I am a massive Britain’s Got Talent fan. And the reason is very simple. Despite all the dross, the time-wasters, unattractive strippers and a whole variety of other acts that I could happily live without ever seeing; I absolutely adore those moments – and there are usually at least one or two in every series – where a somewhat nervous, even trembling figure takes to the stage in the midst of uncertainty, sometimes even downright cynical, premature disapproval from the audience and then… whoa!

What a moment of utter surprise and joy when that person opens up their lungs and bellows out an incredibly divine singing voice, or a dance that leaves you completely mesmerised, or the magician who leaves you gasping for any clue as to how he or she did what they just did.

Arguably, the most famous example of this came in 2009, when a rather eccentric, middle-aged lady from somewhere in Scotland walked on to the stage and announced her name. Susan Boyle defied the vast majority of the total venue and TV audience (including yes, that poor, somewhat foolish, young woman who appeared to visibly sneer before a single note had been sung) and delivered the finest and undoubtedly most surprising audition ever heard, anywhere. I don’t need an excuse to remember that magical moment but in case you do, here’s the link. And look out for Ant’s wonderful remark to the camera after those glorious first few notes.

I believe we all have talent. You have talent. I have talent. The problem is often how to unearth it and then an even bigger problem is how to nurture and develop it. In Part 2, I will elaborate on why it is crucial to focus on your strengths but for now, here are some questions for you to consider:

What makes you come alive?
If you didn’t need to get paid, what would you absolutely love to do for a job or have as a business?
Who do you respect and admire in the marketplace the most and why?
What would you most like to achieve as a result of your ideal work?
What is stopping you from pursuing the thing you’d most like to do?

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.
Erica Jong

Change is Here to Stay

Change

I recently coached a group of corporate executives on the subject of developing resilience when going through change. During my preparation, I was reminded of just how much choice we have when it comes to the nature of change. We can choose to embrace it. Or we can choose to fight it. The problem with the latter approach is it achieves nothing more than the illusion of defiance. Change happens whether we embrace it or not. And if we don’t, we simply get left behind, wondering where on earth our long lost “Land of Nostalgia” has been transported to.

That is not to say that all change is good. In recent years, I have had to deal with and adjust to massive change that many would argue has not been a good thing at all. But therein lies the secret of change…

…Change is a constant, both positive and negative. Like the sun rising and setting, it waits for no one. Our circumstances may not change the way we want them to and almost invariably, not as fast as we would like either but I’m not really thinking about that kind of change right now. I’m thinking about the kind of change that we didn’t choose. The kind of change that is going to massively affect our work place, or our personal space, the place where you are most comfortable and are very or at least pretty happy with thank you very much. The place where you have hung that oft-quoted adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The trouble with that thought however, is that no one said it was broke in the first place. It was simply time to change, even if no one in particular planned that change.

Speaking of which or rather, whom. Who decides this stuff anyway? Some may point to the Creator of the Universe, or some great architect of constant change; others may claim it is all in the karma that surrounds us; still others, it’s all random acts of kindness as well as plenty of not-so-kind stuff going on. Either way, assuming by now, that you don’t really want to be one of those people who are stubbornly digging in their heels, desperately seeking solace away from the change that is relentlessly looming over you, here are some ideas that might help you in your transition – however unattractive the prospect of change may currently feel.

  1. Don’t let what you do know stop you from discovering what you don’t yet know. Even if you do really know that the status quo in any part of your life is actually really, really good; never, ever take it for granted. From there, never stop building, investing, exploring and discovering stuff you didn’t know before.

  2. Visualise what you want rather than worrying about what you fear. This is huge. I heard someone say recently that he could never be a hipster, so instead, he had decided to become a hopester. I think that is genius. Choose to be a person who is always hopeful. Obviously, we can all hope for whatever we want but if we don’t actually do anything about it, the hope will eventually expire and we will simply end up hopeless. Which is why the act of visualising is so important too. However you choose to process your dreams, without goals, they will always be just that – dreams.

  3. Be confident in your ability to ride out the change; especially if no one expects it to be a pleasant journey. Think bereavement, separation, divorce, bankruptcy. It is difficult indeed, to even consider embracing stuff like that but this is where the power of change can be demonstrated most powerfully. Think about it. Your life, however insignificant it may feel to you, is still a part of history. That is, the story of time and space and all that has ever taken place. So make it your goal, your driving ambition with every last ounce of all that you have within you to finish your story well. I don’t have space here to elaborate but in today’s world it takes a couple of clicks and you can spend hours being inspired by endless stories of the good and the great, as well as the lesser known and almost anonymous heroes who have all somehow, against seemingly overwhelming odds made it through in the end.

  4. Let go of the stuff you can no longer control and focus on the stuff you can, namely your attitude and determination to overcome. There is an ancient phrase “more than a conqueror” which rendered in the original Greek, reads hupernikao. I used to tell all three of my kids when they were very young, “You can make it! You are hupernikao!” until one day they said it was simply too embarrassing hearing that in front of all the other kids at the school gates or the sports field! overcoming-obstacles-quotes-1

  5. Don’t shut down your emotional response to change but don’t be controlled by your emotions either. Depending on the level of trauma involved in your change, if you don’t let your emotions out on a regular basis, they are going to come out anyway, invariably when you least expect or want them to. In other words, if you need to do some serious crying, and in you’re in a safe place to do so, don’t let the curse of the stiff upper lip win the day or else you will find the tsunami of tears will  break out one way or the other, on a day of their choosing and you won’t be prepared.

change-is-difficult-not-changing-is-fatal_thumb

Passion Gets the Job!

Rafa Nadal passion

Way back in the early 1990s, there was a superb tourism commercial for Spain. Lots of fast paced music and rapid montages with a single sentence spoken at the end…”Spain; passion for life.”

I have never forgotten that forty second film and it isn’t because I absolutely love Spain. The last three words are what it is all about for me. Passion for Life. Fast forward to just the other day and I was sat at home watching the latest TV instalment for Alex Polizzi fans – this time a search for a Head Chef to take on the demands of a gastropub in the Forest of Dean. The basic format of the show is there are three rounds of interviews – largely comprising cooking some pretty amazing dishes – involving three chefs in each round. So, nine applicants, whittled down to a final three on the last day. The chefs, ranging from experienced men who have been cooking all over the world right through to a few very young men for whom this could represent their opportunity to step up and make their mark in the world.

The owner, a very passionate, animated, even rather cantankerous man of Greek descent, was clearly looking for someone who would share his passion for the rich, local flavours that could be conjured up in such a way that their local customers wouldn’t know what had hit them.

In the end, it came down to two relatively young men with enormously contrasting styles for the owners to choose between. One had worked in restaurants practically his whole life, having been taught by his father, himself a head chef in their own establishment, and had then gone on to work in some fine dining places himself, including running his own restaurant. The other contender was from a small Welsh town, with not many nearby culinary attractions but had been beavering away, developing his skills to the point where he had created enough confidence to even apply for such a role as this. Both were clearly fantastic chefs and both badly wanted the job. But one wanted it more badly than the other, and it was his obvious passion not simply for the food he was preparing but also the opportunity and the prize that awaited him should he win the competition that separated him from the other man. This other man said he wanted the job, and even did his best to convince the owner when the latter asked to speak with him privately – desperate to suck out whatever passion he could see into, despite the ostensible laid back attitude that was on display.

When all was said and done, the dishes had been cooked, the full service evening had been delivered and had been enthusiastically consumed by the invited guests. It was now time for the decision and despite the natural talent of the man who had been cooking his entire life, and the consummate ease with which he appeared to do everything, the job went to the lesser experienced, you could even argue, less naturally talented chef. And the reason was very simple. The owner needed to see at least the same level as passion as he had for his creation in order to trust that he was leaving the all-important food in good hands.

But this young man from Wales who demonstrated passion also did something else which the more naturally gifted chef failed miserably to do. He followed the brief to the letter and this included detailed costings of every dish he had to prepare because he understood that you can have all the talent, skill and yes, even passion in the world but if you haven’t got the numbers right, it aint going to work as a business. The other chef was so ridiculously laid back that he literally guessed the cost of each dish. He may well have been accurate (although his figures were challenged at least once) but it was the lack of diligence that cost him the job, as well as his perceived lack of passion.

Diligent chef

An old proverb says “diligence is man’s most precious possession” and this is arguably true. But hard on the heels of diligence has to be passion because that combination alone can supply you with the tools with which to turn your passion into something truly amazing and beautiful for all the world to see and enjoy.

And for any of those old enough to remember it or even those who would simply love to know why on earth I have never forgotten that film, here is a link below. It could be the best forty seconds you spend today!

 creativity-diligence-means-success-22486821 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYQk_o7EoK8

The Difference Between a Fox and an Email

The other evening, I was out with my youngest son, and our two year old dog, called Molly. Molly is a cross between a Lurcher (who are invariably made up of all sorts in themselves) and a mixed Terrier. That combination of breeds simply means that fundamentally, as a sight hound, she will seek to run like the wind after anything that moves. Anything that is, that looks remotely like a fox, squirrel, and especially a cat. She will bark, growl, whine and/or strain at the lead to such an extent that for a couple of seconds, she is walking down the street on her hind legs only! When it comes to other dogs, she is bizarrely selective. Some dogs can provoke a “Scooby Doo” response where her legs are desperately trying to enable her to take off but are simply paddling the ground; while others will barely generate a second glance.

Fox crossing the road

Well, on this occasion, she saw a fox jogging across the road and pulled so hard on the lead that not only did she almost pull my son over, but her leather collar snapped and she was off to the races! Fortunately, the modern day fox is still very cunning and hid somewhere, and after just a few minutes, Molly very obediently returned to us once she was satisfied the fox was nowhere to be found.

And what, you may well be asking, is the point of this little anecdote which, if you are not a dog lover, carries precious few, relevant lessons. Well I beg to differ. Because the next day, I decided to perform a brief experiment on Molly. (No animal was harmed during the course of this experiment of course!)

I was walking along the street with her alone this time. Instead of reassuring her that there were no foxes behind the bush, or cats, or squirrels for that matter; I decided to try something different. I have to confess that if I’m a tiny bit bored, I will occasionally tease her by saying, “Where’s the fox/cat/squirrels?” Upon hearing anything like that kind of question, Molly begins whining and performing her now highly amusing hind leg-walking, circus act. But this time was much more interesting. Instead of mentioning foxes, cats or squirrels, I said, “Where’s the blog?” Followed by, “Where’s the email?” And finally, “Where’s the hookoo?” Her reaction to all three of these words (and yes, hookoo is a brand new word I have just made up) was identical to her now normal reaction.

What does this prove you may ask? Well apart from the obvious lesson that a dog can’t tell the difference between a fox and an email, it does of course prove that it has nothing to do with the actual word but rather the tone of voice used to communicate that word. If I had simply been talking to myself (which I am known to do from time to time, especially if I’m really bored) and happened to mention out loud, “Where’s the email then?” referring to some long-awaited email that still hadn’t shown up in my inbox, would Molly have started walking on her hind legs? I don’t think so.

What can we humans learn then, from the hopeless ignorance and overreaction of many of our canine friends? I would like to suggest at least five things in no particular order:
1. It’s all in the tone – I have spent a lifetime trying to learn this and it just may be that a dog has finally given me the revelation of how significant this can be in every aspect of life. The way you say anything is so much more important than even the words that come out of your mouth.
2. Assuming most people are able to distinguish between certain words better than most dogs, it is always worth taking a breath before reacting to what you think you heard. You never know, it may be that the tone wasn’t wonderful but the actual word the other person used wasn’t meant to be as offensive as it sounded. After all, you don’t really want to lose your lead or rather, your rag, and tear off down some dark alley do you?
3. It’s out of your control anyway – the vast majority of the time that Molly wants to chase down another creature, she is not able to because of the lead and the weight holding on to that lead. The irony is, when she is let off, out in some field or on the beach, she simply runs over to play and either spends a few minutes chasing around, or being chased, or simply returns from an indifferent encounter. So recognise when you have no control and don’t give in to an overreaction that will serve no one except the pharmaceutical companies when you are forced to take medication due to the cumulative effects of stress.
4. Enjoy the walk – wherever you happen to be and whether you have certain constraints on your movements (time, financial, physical, emotional etc.) or not, take time to enjoy the walk and become one of those people who genuinely “Walks their Talk”. Eventually, you won’t have the lead holding you back and guess what, you won’t want to waste the time you have by barking after any individual who happens to be annoying you. You can learn to appreciate others (warts and all) and simply have fun chasing, even sniffing (but not in the way that dogs do!) or rather, learning about other people.
5. Invest your energy in the good stuff – I love watching Molly racing up and down the beach, trying to catch those tiny birds that skim along the surface of the breaking waves. By the time we get home she’s ready for a good, long nap, having poured out all her energy on something that she certainly enjoyed but was never going to come away with anything except her own contentment.
Learn to invest in things that will profit your life properly, not synthetically. What I mean is this: look for opportunities that will generate a potentially rewarding return on your emotional intelligence, not necessarily your material possession. Take time out with someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with forever. Enjoy rather than endure some things you have to do, simply because you realise it’s going to feel better during and especially after it’s finished. Most of all, understand that the best things in life are not things at all.

hmmwhere-shall-i-run-now-so-much-paul-hatcher

17 Ways to Live a Win/Win Lifestyle

Everyone loves the idea of Win/Win don’t they? But in order for a genuine Win/Win to take place, certain other things need to come into the equation. Things like: Win Win image

  • compromise

  • negotiation

  • trust

  • mutual respect

  • long term perspective

A brief look at each of these factors helps to provide some understanding when it comes to Living a Win/Win Lifestyle.

Compromise

Be careful not to compromise what you want most for what you want now.” Zig Ziglar

Compromise is the perceived enemy of many who closely guard their principles and values, and so it should be if it means that to compromise is to surrender the very essence of who you are and all that you stand for. But we are not talking about that kind of compromise here. What we are talking about here is the ability to judge when a bit of short term pain is necessary to achieve long term gain.

If you want to bring an end to long-standing conflict, you have to be prepared to compromise.” Aung San Suu Kyi

Negotiation

Everyone has to negotiate in order to navigate a successful course through whatever situation they find themselves in. Negotiation and compromise are long-standing partners when it comes to securing that deal and it is no less so when it comes to deciding you really do want to Live a Win/Win Lifestyle. As we shall see, negotiation in this particular context is simply learning when to say “No” and discovering that very often, it really is true that ‘less is more’.

Trust

At the cornerstone of all successful achievements – in relationships, business or changing the course of your life for the good – lies trust. The ability to trust anyone or anything can be more difficult for some than it is for others, depending on your life experience thus far. One thing is for sure however, without trust there is no solid foundation upon which to build whatever it is we are moving towards.

Mutual Respect

Having a healthy respect for the other person who you are dealing with is always a good thing. Without respect, complacency creeps in and always undermines your natural ability to handle the situation properly and wisely. And what’s more, if you demonstrate respect for the other person, unless they are a very nasty kind of person, they will reciprocate and show you the same level of respect. This then leads to a much easier road to securing a Win/Win outcome, because out of respect, flow things like generosity, kindness and even favour towards each other – all in the name of desiring a positive result.

Long Term Perspective

We all know deep down that long term thinking is always a wiser course of action than short term satisfaction. Also known as ‘delayed gratification’, this mindset is extremely powerful when it comes to securing a Win/Win in any situation. In fact, all of the afore-mentioned attributes point towards this final and crucial aspect. When we allow ourselves to think long-term, the decisions we make will echo wisdom from the rooftops. When we choose to delay our own gratification, either in favour of the other person, or simply because it will benefit us more over time, a deep sense of achievement begins to bubble up from within and if we make this mindset a habit, it can only reinforce our sense of self worth, confidence and skill in making good decisions, however complex the situation may initially be.

Many people are familiar with these attributes and seek to apply them to the typical business scenarios that occur all the time, all over the world. But what many people do not consider, and therefore do not do, is to apply them to their own busy lives of desperately trying to balance work with family, work versus pleasure, that never-ending pursuit of a so-called “Healthy Work/Life Balance.”

What you are about to learn right now, is that if you decide to apply these very same attributes in your sincere attempt to Live a Win/Win Life, it will be immeasurably easier than merely scrambling around trying to please everyone from your boss to your partner and everyone in between – invariably failing at most, if not all the hurdles that life loves to hurl at us!

So, in no particular order, here are the seventeen prerequisites that you need to practise until they become integral to the very fabric of who you are and why you do what you do. don’t be put off by the number – just try to practise one and go from there.

1. Work to Live or Live to Work?

I spent many years on the road as a salesman, travelling up and down the country often, with the occasional, sometimes more regular than I would’ve liked, overnight stay. There in the hotel bar would be a wide variety of people – most of whom would be there for the exact same reason. Whenever I spoke to the people there (mostly men I have to say) about the inconvenience of having to stay away from home several nights a week, many would simply say, “I’m doing it for my family. So my wife doesn’t have to work and my kids can enjoy the things they want.”

These same people would not only often sleep in hotels most of the week but would many times find themselves leaving their family home on a Sunday afternoon, in order to drive to the first destination of the week, or at least be within striking distance of it, come the morning rush hour on Monday. You can always spot these people, because they typically drive a relatively new saloon or estate car and the rear passenger window behind the driving seat is almost completely covered with freshly ironed shirts for the rest of the working week.

I perfectly understand the pressures and stresses of modern working practises and the need to be seen to be going the extra mile or rather, miles – literally in these cases – but this does not necessarily make it right or even very healthy in the long term. And remember, all of this report is concerned with gaining a long term perspective. I myself, had to comply for a season, with this kind of work routine. Thankfully however, the most I ever had to commit myself to was one or two nights away from home and this was thankfully, not even every week.

The real problem comes when the person concerned – male or female – becomes so entrenched in their work, so utterly committed to it, that all other relationships, including those who are supposed to be closest to them, come a very poor second to the demands of the job. So returning to the scene in the hotel bar; many of these people who tell themselves and others that they are doing it for their family are deceived. It makes them feel better if they say this. It certainly helps reduce the guilt of being absent so often from the people who need them to be there a lot more than they are.

But the harsh truth is this: they are doing it for themselves because it gives them a sense of achievement and self-worth that they struggle to find in anything else.

For those at the very peak of their powers in the worlds of law, finance, entertainment – any industry in fact, that offers immense rewards and endless accolades to those who rise to the top, the situation is even worse. Rare indeed, is the person who successfully climbs these mountains of cultural identity and manages to maintain a Win/Win Lifestyle.

In other words, it is a rare marriage that doesn’t get compromised by affairs with people who spend much more time with the person in question than their spouse. It is a rare family where children don’t grow up knowing their best friend’s parents far more than they ever get to know their own regularly absent parents.

2. Focus a Bit Less on Do and a Lot More on Be

We tend to forget that we are called to be human beings not human doings. In order to truly realise this, you must take time out to simply be. The constant challenge of daily juggling work deadlines with all the other things vying for our focus and attention means that we mostly feel like we have no choice but to run around doing stuff. being-and-doing

But the truth is, we do have a choice. How about simply choosing to stop – even for five minutes – and meditate? Yes, meditate. All this really means is taking a few minutes to slow right down, observe your breathing, and listen to the relative silence. You will be amazed how much more energised and relaxed you feel afterwards.

3. Don’t wear yourself out to trying to get rich…in the blink of an eye riches disappear.”

I love the paraphrase of this ancient proverb that warns us against focussing on the wrong things. But then another ancient writing has this buried deep within it, “You have been given power to create wealth.” This is a little misleading, because it is in fact, not declaring that we must all go around releasing our power to get riches! In the original language, the word wealth actually means value. In the context of the ancient script, it is actually referring to delivering a service or product that has great value in your community, your world.

In other words, if what you do in your business or job provides excellent value, then you are already creating wealth, and the money will come to you. People will want to do business with you, because of the pleasure that the experience in and of itself brings to them. Pleasure because you consistently demonstrate that you have their best interests at the heart of everything you do for them. You don’t need to inflate the price to increase your profit margin because your clients keep returning and therefore your overall profit is very healthy. You under-promise and over-deliver every time instead of the all too familiar opposite. This wealth, or genuine value, is the difference between a trusted supplier and a typical supplier in the eyes of the customer or client.

On the other hand, if you fail to deliver good value simply because you are forever competing against your competitors on price for example, then you will find yourself cutting corners and the value you try to offer will suffer. You will grow exhausted through the relentless chasing after the money and then as the proverb predicts, finally the riches will disappear and you will be worse off than when you started.

4. Don’t Become a Statistical Reminder of a World that Doesn’t Care

In 1981, an English reggae band called UB40 released their first single, called One in Ten. The last line in the chorus is “A Statistical Reminder of a World that Doesn’t Care”. They were singing about mass unemployment in a country that was becoming rapidly divided along the fault lines of North and South, the haves and the have nots, the rich and the poor. The exhortation we are referring to here however, is not about economic factors that divide and determine so much of our lives. What we are referring to here is about how more and more people are becoming a statistical reminder of a world that doesn’t care… about its own health. Take a look at these frightening statistics and see if any resonate with you and your current situation:

  • More than a third of people say that their job is the most stressful part of their lives

    UB40 One in Ten

  • 60% drink alcohol after work in order to cope, 14% drink during the day for the same reason

  • Job stress makes 7% of adults consider suicide, rising to 10% of people in the 18-24 age group

  • Workers rarely feel they can talk to their bosses so 10% turn to sleeping tablets instead

  • 15% take antidepressants & 28% smoke

  • Almost 20% have thrown a sickie over stress & almost 10% have resigned because of it.

  • Recent government reports on work-related stress calculate the total cost to the UK economy at approximately £3.5 billion.

This of course, is merely the tip of the iceberg. A whole lot more goes on behind closed doors where relationships become strained due to the pressures of work, and the lack of time to invest in our loved ones.

The obvious question then is this: What can you do to avoid becoming a statistical reminder?

5. Control your Calendar Before it Controls You

Taking control of your calendar should be a relatively simple task but as we all know, this is easier said than done. If, as we have looked at, filling your calendar fills you with a sense of achievement and self-worth, then controlling your calendar in order to stop it from controlling you will not be an easy task. You will talk about being busy and how ‘work is crazy’ right now but the reality is often that you are the author of your own craziness! Many people will complain at this suggestion and demand that it is simply not in line with the harsh realities of the relentless world of work and business.

There are times for sure, when things are very busy and perhaps there is a season where it really does seem like ‘work is crazy’ and that is fine, albeit often difficult at the time to manage. I am not talking about these times. What I am talking about is what you allow to become the ‘norm’ in your calendar culture so to speak. And it is as much about what you say to people who make various demands on your time that makes all the difference.

6. Learn to say “No”Say %22No%22

Wherever possible, you simply have to learn to say “No”.

In fact, just the mere decision to say “No” could be the most significant thing you ever do. Say “No” to all non-value items, all things that are not within your immediate sphere of responsibility or influence, anything that simply shows up on your door because the people who leave it there know you will always do it for them. It can require some courage to do it at first but the freedom you will gain from saying this simple two letter word will be genuinely life-changing. 

Now, as with all of the suggestions in this report, they are not designed to be used indiscriminately.

There are times when we choose to say “Yes” when normally we would say “No” simply because it is the right thing to do. But in the main, if you can avoid taking on tasks and responsibilities that are not yours to take on board, you will see a huge difference in the amount of time you have to do the things that are genuinely important and are things that add value to what you do. Simply put, those things that comprise the wealth you are creating every day.

7. Don’t Take Your Work Home with You and Never to Bed with You!

What would your partner or spouse think if every night, you walked in through the front door with someone else who you actually prefer to spend time with? He or she wouldn’t be very impressed would they? Moreover, after that split second thought, they would rightly protest violently and after the first incident, would justifiably march you both out of the house! But this is precisely what many people do with their work. Okay, so you can’t have an affair with your work but you can adore your work, do whatever your work tells you to do, disrupt your family life for your work. This is one of the biggest causes of marital breakdowns because it is so subtle at first.

I work with many people who work from home and so the idea of not bringing your work home with you is a bit of a nonsense. So you have to use common sense. If you can, create a separate work space that is not in the hub of the family home. Even better, use a spare room as an office or better yet, build an office at the bottom of the garden. In the worst case scenario, if your office is the kitchen and your desk is the dining table; then do everything you can to have it all packed up by the time it needs to become what it was designed to be – a place for the family to gather together.

Alternatively, if your hours are very flexible and you need to work some evenings from home, then make sure you take some time out during the day to spend with your family. Do the school run if you’re already at home, help out in the house and contribute wherever you can before you have to switch back into work mode. This mindset alone will transform your closest relationships and help them to give you the grace and space to work when you need to.

8. Take a Helicopter Ride

The Inga Rapids can be found on the mighty Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Africa. They are the largest rapids in the world, generating 1.6 million cubic feet of water per second. They are twice as steep and 100 times the average volume of the rapids found on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Until recently, no exploration had ever conquered them. In fact, the last time a group, led by the famous French TV adventurer, Philippe de Dieuleveult set out to ride the rapids in 1985, the entire team perished without trace.

In 2011, a team led by American kayaking icon, Steve Fisher, finally gained permisCongo-The-Grand-Inga-Project-Helision to try and navigate the notorious rapids. After surviving a near miss himself when he was dragged down to a whirlpool, the team decided to try and get a better perspective. This meant jumping into a helicopter to view the rapids from above. When they returned from this new vantage point, this is what one of the team members said, “What looked impossible from the surface water level, suddenly looked very do-able.”

This is why it is very important to take a helicopter ride at least once a month or even once a quarter. The good news is you don’t actually have to spend any money on hiring a helicopter. You can simply take some time out alone or even better, with someone who is supporting you in your transition towards a Win/Win Lifestyle. From there, you can survey the landscape of your life, with all the elements competing for your precious time. You can easily identify what needs to change, or what needs to be introduced or perhaps even stopped. Who do you need to spend more time with and who needs to be removed from your inner circle?

9. Fast, Cheap or Good? You decide!

Have you ever heard of the ‘Fast, Cheap, Good Triangle’? fastcheapgood-framed

If you imagine the three sides of a triangle, and each one has a word running along the length of it. One says Fast, another says Cheap and the third says Good. The way it works is like this: you can never have all three elements in a business transaction. You can opt for Fast and Cheap but the downside is it won’t be very Good. Or, you can go for Fast and Good but it won’t be Cheap. Thirdly, you could go for Good and Cheap but it won’t be very Fast. This can apply to anything from a fee you have to pay someone for their services right through I suppose, to a car you are considering buying. But it also applies to how we choose to live our life. Or at least the decisions we make every day which directly affect our life, as well as the lives of those we love the most.

10. Relationships Rule

Relationships are fundamental to everything we are and do. Consider this piece of advice I read many years ago, “You will never get the other person to reveal themselves to you unless they trust you. They will never trust you unless you they know you. They will never know you unless you reveal yourself to them.” This I believe, is one of the very best mantras to live by, especially if you really do want to enjoy the wonders of healthy relationships. And healthy relationships means healthy performance – both at home and at work. Think about it for a few seconds even. If you are out of alignment with people – your closest family or the people you work with – life is so much harder and more stressful.

It is not always possible to be in perfect alignment but if you know you are doing and have done all that you can to create a healthy relationship environment, you will at least know that your conscience is clean and it may be that you have to simply move on without that particular person. “As much as it is in your power to do so, try to get on with all people at all times” is another good way of thinking about this potential minefield that we all, at some stage in our lives have to navigate our way through. Entire books are written of course about this most vital of subjects but suffice it to say, relationships require a significant investment of your most precious asset, and that asset is called time.

Rob Parsons wrote a fantastic book many years ago called The Sixty Minute Father – primarily because it only took one hour to read the book from cover to cover. In it, he says that children spell love T.I.M.E and this is absolutely true. I want to suggest however, that in fact, we all spell love this way, because if we feel very little or even no time has been invested in us, we will not feel loved, or perhaps more appropriately in the business world, we will not feel very cared for will we?

11. A Blue Sky is Always Better

Most people love a truly blue sky and there is a very good and pretty obvious reason for that. When we look up and see a blue sky, it immediately speaks to us of anything from “It’s going to be a sunny day” right through to “anything is possible today!” Why is this? I believe it is simply because when there are no clouds in the sky, no rain in the air, we cannot help but feel optimistic. As often as you possibly can – once every three months, even once a month if you can manage it – create some ‘Blue Sky time’.53749_102349429832459_712725_o

Set aside an entire morning or afternoon, and simply go somewhere without distractions and sit and think. Switch your phone off, put your laptop away. All you need is a journal or notebook and a pen. For the first hour or so, you may well be wondering if you can seriously justify this luxury at all. Then remind yourself that whilst it is a luxury in terms of the time you are setting aside, it is much more accurate to consider it an investment. An investment in yourself. By the time you are into hours three and four, some of the ideas you will be getting will be emerging as genuine gold dust.

You can invest in yourself like this and set out with no agenda whatsoever and see what happens, and that is completely fine. Or, you can take one or two subject matters that you already know require some serious, deep thinking, especially if you are in need of a solution, and I guarantee, by the end of your ‘Blue Sky time’ you will come away with a way forward that you would otherwise have struggled to find at all. Either way, if you carve out some ‘Blue Sky time’ on a regular basis, you will be all the richer for it in every respect of the word.

12. I wish I spent more time at the office.”

I’m sure you will have heard this quote before but what you won’t know is who said it. That is because no one said it! Because the full length version of this quote is “No one ever said, ‘I wish I spent more time at the office’.” Who in their right mind would even dream about saying such a ludicrous thing at any stage of their life, let alone on their death bed, which is the usual context from where this ‘non-quote’ comes from? So if that is true, why do so many people act as if it isn’t and that they wish they could spend more time at the office? I believe it comes back to that self worth issue and people, especially men, it has to be said, finding their identity in their work; and how many hours they can clock up in order to feel like they are good at what they do.

13. Turn off Your Life Support System

I have a client who, when we first began working together, had a serious issue with his mobile phone, which I also refer to as a Life Support System, given the way that so many people feel their lives would be as good as over if they were to lose their phone or accidentally drop it in the toilet, or have it stolen.

His problem was this: every single time an email came in, his Blackberry would issue a flashing red light, and so even if it was the weekend, my client would struggle to resist the urge to check it and see what the message was about, knowing that 95% of his emails would be work-related. At the time it was a classic ‘No Win’ situation because even if by some miracle, he managed to hold out until the Monday morning, he would be having near palpitations on the way to work, worrying about whether he had made the right decision and how many things may have gone wrong simply because he had failed to read the said email at the time it landed in his living room. office-sign-blackberry (1)

Eventually, he arrived at what I considered the only and most obvious option to resolving this issue: Turn off the Life Support System! And guess what? Nobody died that day. Or the next day. Or the day after that. In fact, he didn’t even need to turn off the Blackberry. All he had to do was turn off the flashing red light option and check his emails at appropriate times.

Two years later, my client is a different person. He does not get stressed, even when things are not looking wonderful at work. He doesn’t panic if he hasn’t checked his emails. And guess what? He is a far more effective leader within the large corporation he works for and his team are becoming increasingly more effective also, as they take their lead from him.

14. If Work is All You Ever Do, it’s Time to Discover Something New

This should be the easiest prerequisite but in reality, for those most affected by an unhealthy work/life balance, it will be one of the hardest. The plain truth is that many people do what they love for a living, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, one of my favourite quotes that I often use on another subject about Work is this: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because the world needs people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

I am a complete advocate of people finding out what they love to do, and if possible, earning their living from doing that very thing. The flip side however, is that if your work is so all-consuming that you have no time for anyone or anything else, the pleasure that work brings you will eventually be turned into pain. All kinds of pain. Relational pain. Physical pain. The pain that comes from realising, often a little too late, that there were so many other things you would have loved to have done with your life but you were too busy working.

This is also a powerful tool when it comes to protecting those relationships that need protecting. If your partner or spouse for example, loves nothing more than going for a swim once a week, why not consider joining them, even if you don’t particularly enjoy it? Or perhaps they love visiting a garden centre, or just taking a decent walk in the countryside? This act alone, will send out a wonderfully loving and powerful message that you value the relationship and you are prepared to invest time to demonstrate your commitment to it.

15. When in Rome…Get Your Head in the Game

Focus is a very powerful thing – especially when it is aimed in the direction of what we are supposed to be doing at that particular moment in time. Or to be even more specific, when it is aimed at the person we are supposed to be engaging with at the time. How many times have you found yourself speaking to a friend on the telephone but at the same time, you are checking out your other ‘friends’ on Facebook or as someone I know prefers to call this phenomena, ‘Fakebook’?

So whether you are on the phone to a friend, resolving a situation at work, or nestling a young child on your knee, focus on what is in front of you. Whatever you focus on in your life becomes larger. For example, if you focus on all the negative stuff going on around you, that ‘stuff’ will simply become so large that it will feel overwhelming and completely insurmountable. If however, you choose to acknowledge the presence of the negative (you can’t pretend it’s not there) but focus on the possible solutions, the solutions will get larger and will eventually lift you up out of the situation you are facing.

Likewise, if you truly focus on the aspects of your life that add value to your life – your relationships, your work (when you are there and meant to be engaged in it) then your results will be successful overall. This is not a magic wand strategy, and many times, you will be doing all of the correct things and yet, there is no evidence that it is working. Keep on keeping on and you will get there in the end.

16. Don’t be so Single-Minded about Climbing the Ladder that You Forget to Enjoy the View!

We are all guilty of climbing ladders and some get to the top of theirs quicker than others. Some take their time, enjoying the view all the way. Some even rise to the top of their ladder – whether it is achieved in a quick or slow time – only to then realise that they’ve climbed the wrong ladder! Which is worse I wonder? To climb the wrong ladder or to climb any ladder and be in such a rush about it all, or behave so ruthlessly towards others or even yourself, that you fail miserably to take in the spectacular view? At least if you climb the wrong ladder, you should be able to learn from the view and apply the lessons learned to climbing the right one. If however, you never take the time to absorb the view and all that that can teach you, what was the point of any of it?

17. Finally, Practise the Fun Theory Whenever and Wherever You Can

Start how you mean to go on and spend less than two minutes checking out this beautiful example of taking an every day mundane task and turning it into something that brings fun and would even make you more healthy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SByymar3bds]

For a free conversation with Paul about how you too can Live a Win/Win Lifestyle, please contact:

paul@phcoaching.co

or call him on (+44) 7881-582425

www.phcoaching.co

Creating a Healthy Work/Life Balance

How do you create a healthy work/life balance? What is a healthy work/life balance anyway?  I’ll answer the second question and then move on to the first. Firstly, I believe a healthy work/life balance is all about perspective. How do you see yourself? What other interests do you have outside of your work? Most of us are familiar with the “Live to Work or Work to Live” adage but how many of us are really honest about where we stand on that? The major problem we have is this: the lightning paced, technological arena that we live in makes it increasingly difficult to maintain our existing juggling act, let alone look at ways in which we can regain some control, a bit of balance between work, rest and play instead of what many of us experience as work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep. And even then, the work threatens to invade the other two activities. So, What is a healthy work/life balance? It is when you know you have a good balance of work and anything other than work – whatever that may be for you. Time to yourself, with others, time to think (wouldn’t that be a luxury!?), time to plan, time to truly unwind and recharge those batteries and be ready to get up and go again.

I lied about moving on to the How next. Before that, I need to share with you some of the reasons Why it is so very important. Check out these statistics and you will see what I mean:

Work is now the single biggest factor driving people to drink, drugs and depression

More than a third of people now say their job is the most stressful part of their lives

60% of people drink alcohol after work in order to cope; 14% drink during the day for the same reason

Job stress makes 7% of people consider suicide, with this rising to 10% in the 18-24 age group

Workers rarely feel they can talk to their bosses about their stress, so 10% turn to sleeping tablets instead

15% take anti-depressants and 28% smoke in order to cope with stress

Almost 20% have thrown a sickie over stress and 10% have resigned

Recent government reports on work-related stress calculate the total cost to the UK economy at approximately £3.5 billion.

Creating a healthy work/life balance does not have to be difficult; it is simply a case of matching your genuine priorities in life with the time you allocate in your calendar. I have a coaching client who said to me, “I know that what I need to do is make a list of all my ’emotional priorities’ and line them up against my ‘real priorities’ and see what discrepancies there are. That single exercise gave him the true picture of what his life consisted of in terms of time spent and when he truly decided to change it, so that he had time to be present with his family and not merely in the lounge with his laptop open, his life was transformed.

So, here are my Top Ten Tips for creating a healthy work/life balance. Take just one to begin with. Work out what you will need to do in order to see the desired result and then move on to the next one. Or, if you are really serious and you want to see some virtually instant results (because some of us want things to happen fast don’t we?) make a plan to attack all of the tips and see what happens!

1. Take control of your calendar so it can no longer take control of you.

2. Learn to say “No” to all non-essential, non-value items that people will gladly have you do. Don’t be afraid to move things out of your calendar in order to create space for you to focus on what you do best – whatever that may be.

3. Try to avoid taking work home with you, and never to bed with you!

4. Being effective or productive is not the same as simply being busy. What does that mean in your world of work?

5. Switch off your ‘life support machine’ aka mobile smart phone or at least put it down and on silent from time to time. Turn off the auto email collect option and/or flashing lights demanding your instant attention.

6. Focus on whatever is in front of you – the task at work, the friend on the phone, the child on your lap – and forget about trying to constantly ‘multi-task’ which in most cases, simply waters down the true value you bring to the current situation.

7. Don’t be so rigidly focussed on the ‘ladder to success’ that you forget to enjoy the view as well as the people along the way.

8. Healthy relationships are the foundation for everything that is good in your life, so protect and nurture them. Healthy relationships=Increased performance. We all spell love T.I.M.E. so make sure you invest it wisely into the people you care about most. 

9. If work is all you ever do….discover something new.

10. Take time to get what I call a ‘helicopter perspective’ and survey the landscape of your life and see perhaps for the very first time, what is really possible if you make a plan and put your mind to it.