The 8 most important lessons I've learned about 'doing things you love'

1. Art is rarely original. In fact, never. There, the pressure's off. We have so much pressure to perform, to 'amaze the whole room' to be stunning the first time. But really, there are only seven stories, the 'pros' failed the first hundred times, and your genius won't come to light if you don't give it a chance.

2. Keep the 'OMG, I'm a year older' birthday thought in the front of your mind.

Yes, you will be a year older in a year, and every year that goes past will be a reminder that you have or haven't done the things you want with your life. This can be counteracted by starting now.

3. If you want to sing, do it every day.

If you love drawing, painting, clowning around, catching fish, looking after small children, inventing moisturiser, emptying dustbins, find a way to do it every day. Even for 10 minutes. It may not mean a career move, but it will give your heart something to beat about.

4. Surround yourself with those who've gone before you.

If you have neglected doing the things you love, and going back or forward to those joys seem like a colossal task, whether it's being prevented by time, money or confusion, look at those people who have trod the path before you. Those who teach you time management techniques, stepping out in fear, or small business advice. Seek out your fellow lovers.

5. When you're resistant to doing what you love, identify the problem. Then go to your passion loving friends who can advise or reassure. The first hundred times might not be any good. But keep at it and you may create something amazing.

6. You're definitely not going to be the best if you don't start now.

Who knows - you could be the exception. I remember reading that Matthew Bourne became a choreographer aged 24,  with a distinct lack of dance experience. You may not be a dance critic, but I'm betting you've glimpsed his version of Swan Lake, shown on TV every Christmas. It's not too late until you're dead. [sorry, morbid]

7. However much you do for other people, make sure you prioritise sometime for you.

Otherwise you are not living, you are a doormat. This goes for people who have demanding jobs, elderly parents, and screaming children. How much more excited will they be to see you are exhilarated having spent 30 minutes on your latest sketch?

8. Don't hide your knitted jumpers in a corner.

If you have a deep down love, bring it to the world's 'Show and Tell' in your own time, but give yourself a deadline and keep to it ruthlessly. Commitment is valued, not least by your own sense of self.

So Start. Now. Email me with all your worries, fears and pains. And then forget it all and go.

Selina Barker (@SelinaBarker) was on a teleclass call I was on last night, and she said this:

"Committment to me is like the fire that burns through all of those fears and all of those  you have. Well over a year ago, I used to look at pictures of the West Coast of Scotland, and I was thinking - OMG - that is the kind of place I want to explore, and where I want to be. And before this call, I went down to the beach and was thinking about the message I wanted to give. And suddenly I'm like 'Wow, I'm not looking at this picture anymore, I'm IN it. and the reason I'm in it was because I committed and I wouldn't budge'. And  I was so proud of myself, because I honoured that commitment."

 

7 people who changed the way I think

Today's post is a series of links, to the websites/blogs of people I've been inspired by, who have influenced me most and who I keep coming back to for interesting ideas, thought leadership and the best approach. I have written a few words with each link but check them out for yourself. 1. Chris Guillebeau: The Art of Non-Conformity

I still haven't figured out how to pronounce his surname, but I was hooked, the first time I read anything that Chris wrote. His honest approach is beguiling in its appeal, and he walks his talk. Or I guess he talks his walk. Prepare to be surprised and wanting more.

2. Seth Godin

I have several of Seth's books and his is the first blog I go to when I want something to read. Seth's insights into how marketing works, the new biz, why people do stuff and using words like tribes are great. If you haven't heard of him already, go to.

3. Gretchin Rubin: The Happiness Project

I started reading Gretchen's posts because they 1) varied in length (!)  2) because they were full of ideas which she carried out, common sense approaches to family and work life, and 3)were all about being happy. I especially loved the fact she likes children's literature (relinquishing my own guilt complex!) and her interviews were not videos but transcribed in blog posts.

4. John Williams: Screw Work Let's Play

John was the first person I came across who talked about 'playing' instead of 'working'  - we should do the things we loved to earn money, not just settling for the fact that 'work' equally inevitable drudgery. In fact, he published a book call 'Screw Work Let's Play'. I attended John's scanner school and some of his scanners' nights in London and I have the book. Big Fan.

5. Pam Slim: Escape from Cubicle Nation.

I loved the title of Pam's blog, and her posts are full of experience, knowledge and collaborations with interesting people. I remember that one of the first blog posts I read, she describes how she was doing some consutling work with  corporate execs and she was faced with lots of crossed arms and glares (the same as she got from teenage gang members she encountered in her work in the City). She faced up to their hostility by saying: "Wow you look like the gang members I work with - what's up?" There was a moment's tension and then laughter. I thought, if Pam Slim has been in cubicle nation and come out of it like that, she is someone to know.

6. Marianne Cantwell: Free Range Humans.

Marianne works a lot with John Williams (see above) and it has been her emails/videos/teleclasses general wow look at me I have a fun life approach which makes it all seem real with the doing the work you love thing. Her clients stories are what kept me going (the shoes ones is good - see here) when I had no job and no idea of what to do.

7. Sarah Cooper: Cows from my window

Sarah is a careers coach, and I quit a rubbish job (rubbish for me!) right before my first session with her. The reason I chose Sarah as a coach is because she had trained as a solicitor (a path I'd nearly gone down) and I identified with that. So early in the days of my changing careers, but crucial ones and she was really challenging and taught me how to ask the right questions of myself, and start to get thinking to take action (most crucial thing in a career change). Sarah lived (until recently) in China with her young daughter, another startling discovery. I thought to myself, really, these people do surprising things!

 

 

 

Art vs Design in Networking

So I was at this networking evening, and someone asked me what the difference between art and design was. Off the top of my head, and rather flippantly, I said: "Design is art with an obvious purpose. Art is what you can call it when it doesn't make sense." * Thankfully the recipient of this profound uttering considered me to have made an interesting contribution to the conversation. Thinking of what I'd said later, it struck me that although it didn't cover All of art (thank goodness) and is actually a bit of an insult, it was interesting to think of it in a networking context.

I have come across two main ways to approach networking: the art and the by design.

1. That which is planned. Networking 'by design'. Think 'target list', people I would like to meet, people you 'need to know'. While this is effective in focusing on where we are going, and promoting efficiency with time, as soon as a whiff of 'target people' gets out, the word 'use' floats around like a stink bomb. People don't like to be used, especially if it's to get to someone else who will be disappointed that they betrayed their trust. Those who are the movers and shakers set up all sorts of protection to prevent this sort of person, because they appear fake. Protection like PAs.

And with too much focus, you let the good ones slip away. I rile against targeting people as a rule, as I believe genuine relationships with lots of different types of people is astonshingly good for us, even when we are 'very important'. By separating the list from the non list, you are separating wheat and chaff, sheep and goats, when actually you just need to adjust your conversation topics. And when you need a plumber, I would rather call someone I know, than use the guy down the road because he is cheaper.

2. That which is art: Networking without a design or purpose. Design is very effective when it is good, it works and it makes people happy. But going to a meeting, an event, where you know no one, you entertain art, you allow a spontenaity which can lead to unrivalled beauty. Going without expectation, you have nothing to lose. Yes, perhaps there won't be anyone that will be able to get you to where you want to go. But you might help someone else, and I guarantee you'll meet a few friends along the way. Anything can happen.

I found that you can hold the important people in your head and yet be free and easy with people because the list hasn't become a 'driving' agenda. Because you're not on a 'do or die' mission to tick off everyone on the list. The list is simply there for reference. I was at my first tweet up (Twitter offline meetup) event and asked to be introduced to someone  - someone who became a close colleague and friend, because her boss was on my 'list'. I treated her the same as if she hadn't got that boss. Otherwise it just won't work.

So you see what I've just written proves to any artists still reading that I don't mean to slag off art. Quite the contrary, it brings beauty and with beauty sense. A combination of knowing the best people to talk to, but allowing yourself an 'anything can happen' mentality, your networking could take some unexpected turns.

*It may not have come out of my mouth as smoothly as that.

 

PS. Emilie Wapnick over at Puttylike has written a great post called: How to Break Through Small Talk and Talk to Strangers if it takes your fancy.

Stepping out

The more we get good at something, the more comfortable we feel, the easier it is. If it's been an uphill struggle to get somewhere, enjoy the mountain view. But don't just sit there. I've recently been challenged by Marianne Cantwell, of Free Range Humans (check out her site here) who in a recent newsletter (subscribe for free on her website) describes how she is taking her love of travel to another level. Marianne has, in the time I've received her newsletters has gone on several trips abroad, working remotely in far flung places (San Fran, Bali, Laos, Cambodia) for months at a time. But she has always had her little bolthole in London to come back to.

Now, she has packed up, let her flat and has set off on another adventure, without the comfort blanket of having a base to come back to. Just thinking about that makes me begin the mental worry list. Her newsletter ends with a challenge to us all to take away our comfort blankets (whether they be a 9-5, a relationship, or a flat).

Ok, wait for my example which I'm warning you, is pathetically unworthy. But there is a smidgen of comparison so please forgive me.

I stepped out of my comfort zone to:

Bake a cake.

I know. I warned you. But I haven't baked a cake in a long time (and very rarely by hand - and today I have no choice but to make it by hand) and I would usually just chicken out and buy one.

In fact, it was a great chance to analyse what is going on in my head. Let's set the scene. I'm new in a job and still in the 'want to impress' stage. My team are lovely and probably would eat a cake which is inedible just so I didn't feel bad.Or make it up to me. But anyway there's something to lose. What else?

1. Pride - I want people to like me and what I do (and bake)

2. Performance - I need everything I do to be right first time.

3. Irritability - When I realised my super duper used-them-once scales had run out of battery.

4. Perfectionism - When the egg curdled (sigh) and I felt like giving up.

5. Impatience - When I committed the cardinal sin and OPENED THE OVEN door as I wanted to check how it was doing.

Whew, what a lot to work on! It gave me a buzz, and a desire to do better next time. Meanwhile, I Think it's edible, and I shall ship it tomorrow.

 

 

What people want

I read an article in the Evening Standard this evening about products we want. It's here if you want to read it (scroll down to you get to the part which starts 'Skint?..'. If you don't want to read it, this two line summary is for you:

All the electronics manufacturers, those who got us through the 90s, filling the Argos catalogue with their shiny toys are suffering in the downturn. But it's just about people having less money to spend. We still bought a LOT of Apple's products: iPhone, Mac, iTunes downloads.

The article finishes by urging the kettle, dishwasher and toaster makers to invest in designing products that people want. Washing machines are no longer counted as luxury items. The idea departments need to jump in and start creating gadgets.

It led me to wonder how the equipment we use daily could be improved. Here are my thoughts:

  •  a microwave that scans the bar code, and cooks the meal based on information contained within it. (how many times have I thrown away the packet with the instructions only to have to fish around in the rubbish to find it again
  • a vacuum cleaner that does not weigh a ton and fall off the stairs when you're trying to hoover them
  • a combination toaster, coffee and tea making machine with fridge compartment for milk and built in butter dish. With timer, obviously. Or a remote sensor linked to a button on your phone.
  • a digital clock timer for the oven which doesn't require the manual to set it and which can set different parts of the oven to different temperatures. Rather like heated car seats and different sides of the car.
  • a washing machine with hand washing capabilities.

People love shiny gadgets that do what they want. Apple are doing this well. I would love to see some of our much loved brands streak ahead because they dared to have a bit of imagination and find the wishes and desires of their target market. Sir James Dyson is a great example.

Would love to hear your bright ideas, so please submit by email or via the comments.

*Image used is of a Smeg fridge see their website for further details: http://www.smeguk.com/

 

Revisiting and Revitalising

These are intertwined. One results in the other. When you're moving at a pace, everything moment being planned out, and there is hardly room to breathe, you need to book a diary appointment to do some revisiting.

Revisiting is looking back over the notes you made and the aims you had and evaluating. Here are some questions to help with exactly what you're looking for:

1. What were your aims then? If you don't write them down, you won't be able to do this. 2. What is going well with the aims? Force yourself to vocalise this as if you're reporting to someone. If nothing, write 'Nothing is going well with this aim'. 3. What is the problem with going further, better, more? If it's ticking along, that's great- and still a good answer. If there is a problem, be brutally honest. For example: My partner and I are arguing about my time' 4. Is there an immediate way to see round the obstacle? If it's a time issue, set a diary time which you can stick to. 5. Give yourself a pat on the back. If you've got lots of aims and you've managed to get one going, brilliant.

Revitalising

For any 'scanners' like me out there: for us, time is warped. Sometimes we think we have so much time, endless days to achieve whatever we want. Sometimes, however, the pressure gets to us - we cannot cope with having too much to do and not enought time to do it. Relax. Dream again. Keep making the things you want a priority, don't cut things for the sake of it. Allow yourself to remember that you can achieve things as not everything takes as long as you think, and often we can work it out (google is helpful for this!) How long will it take me to learn how to swim? A course of swimming lessons is a matter of weeks.

I've been trying to cram everything in recently, and have allowed a growing feeling to get to me - that I'm not achieving anything. In fact, I've been achieving a lot! I just had to look at it, in the context of what I'm trying to do. Look, be inspired and play on.

When business isn't happy

Shit happens, if you'll pardon the expression. Deadlines loom, we fail, we get stuck. Things aren't mailed, or not on time, a signature is forgotten, the wrong version is sent, people get sick, people die. It's what happens next. It's the difference between moping, sulking, cursing, blaming, swearing and generally wasting time before the new person is awakened. There's a natural time of pain, of course - we react, we take stock, we wallow.

But we must look ahead.

There are moments like this, when business is momentarily unsettled, like indigestion, or a little rock of the boat. But there are also great stretches of difficulty, where every day is a fight, where the beast gets the better of you.

I don't believe this is to do with the size of the business. You may consider that it's more important in a small business, because there is no one else to pick up where you're not. But yet, in a larger business, one person's mistake, attitude, pain or belief can create a ripple effect and push its way into the most sturdy of relationships.

We need community, but we also need variety. A balanced view. People we don't work with. Support without conditions. Change, inspiration.

A day off. A new hobby. Changing your desk around. A fresh perspective. Hell, even a walk around the block.

Yet, if the circumstances of unhappiness have sculpted you into a different person altogether, don't settle for a new look - a coat of paint. Model from the inside. Look at your priorities again.

Reshape your life as if it were your own... because it is. Reshape your business to reflect who you are.

Don't be afraid of changing. Assess the risk, of course, but if you're becoming different, don't leave your business behind.

Try things. Remember, it's an investment if it pays off, and a successful experiment if it is not right.

Question, investigate, be upfront. Honesty does wonders for the soul.

A tight spot

The first year I lived away from home, in a shared house was brilliant. However, it could be tough at times. Dealing with landlords by myself, on behalf of other people, sleeping in a bed leaning against a damp wall, being mocked by friends for the shabbiness of the house (it wasn’t That Bad.). I remember calling my mum several times because I didn’t know what to do next. But I got through it and learnt a lot.Surprisingly though, it was a simple mistake which made me think – I’ve failed. My housemates were away and I took the rubbish out without my keys or phone, or shoes as it happened. The door slammed in the wind behind me and I realised I was stuck outside. It was really a kicking myself moment, as I really like to be organised in order to avoid this kind of mistake. Thinking ahead is something I like to do to ensure things go well, and there was no reason for me to have been distracted.

After feeling cross with myself, a slight panic began to set in. My housemates were away for a least another three days. It was the end of term and very few of my university friends were around. My parents could come and get me, but I would have to hang around for at least three hours without any shoes on, and that’s assuming they were in when I phoned. And then it struck me that I didn’t have any money to phone anyone.

I think I probably began to panic a bit more at this stage, but it wasn’t for long. I had a revelation and got creative. And the first person I thought of was Holly Valance.

Why did I think of Holly Valance? Well, at the time, Holly Valance starred in an advert…with a memorable jingle… for reverse phone charges. I set off at once to the nearest phone box. Even though my parents didn’t have spare keys to my house I could at least get some support and ideas.

I always wondered how I would react in a difficult situation. I wasn’t in any danger particularly, and thinking back, I know I would have had lots of options had I been homeless. But I was pleased I could think through a tight spot, a frustrating problem, and alone. Rather than sit down and cry for a while (although sometimes that has to be the first step), I was determined to look for a solution. The best laid plans can fail, we can fail, and yet, with optimism and creativity, there are options available to us which we just have to tap into. In the face of a dilemma, it is interesting to see how we react.

And what happened to me?

My parents offered to come and get me, which was good of them. But I ended up remembering friends who were in a house not too far away, and who might just be in. I found two of them, who were more than willing to come with me to see if they could break in. Thankfully, we didn’t need to – one of my friends was skinny enough to fit through the kitchen window and open the door from the inside for the rest of us. They were happy enough to accept a pint in return for their help.

A fish out of water

You're not stupid. You're not dim. You're not 'crazy'. You're just in the wrong place.

As I have been pondering this, I've realised that when you are most down at heart, when gloom seems to face you every day, it's not because there is something wrong with you.

There is something wrong with 'it'.

'It' can be the things you are doing. 'It' can be the types of people you're working with. 'It' can be the place, the culture, the attitude, the environment, the city or the room.

Did you know that I used to think it was always me who wasn't flexible enough, didn't adjust quickly enough, wasn't patient enough, didn't practice hard enough. Sometimes it definitely was those things. But sometimes it's because we aren't in the space, or community, or environment in which we get to show our natural joy.

I know someone who's natural joy erupts when a computer does what he wants it to. He is a tech guy and he spends quite a lot of the time in the company of computers. He freely admits that he also spends a lot of time frustated with computers, but every time he solves a problem he punches the air and you get a big grin (and sometimes a high-five).

It may be that you're so out of sync with your natural joy, that big things have to change. But from now, integrate as many changes as you can to allow as much of your natural joy to have opportunity to show itself.

Can you change something? It might be something dramatic, but it doesn't have to be. Start small. Is coffee one of your priorities but your Hate the coffee at work? Can you adjust your budget so you can afford it? Can you route your walk to work via a place that sells great coffee? Can you get up 3 minutes earlier so you're not late for work? If it means you start your day well and happy, do it.

More ideas...

1) Spending 10 minutes of your lunchtime drawing 2) Buying a sewing machine and some material and Making that Dress 3) Working with your most inspirational music 4) Checking out the career-changing course 5) Making every other Saturday 'gardening Saturday' 6) Book yourself in for some networking evenings

It's all about the joy. Want more ideas? Send me an email claire[at]clairemeredith.co.uk

The challenge of authenticity

To be truly authentic is to make your claim and follow through. To be able to follow through, you must apply, be, appear to be and been seen to be.

To make your claim you must know yourself, and see your vision, set your goals, and step towards them.

And yet, how many of us do not yet know who we are, or at least enough to make that first claim? Constantly, shifting, amending, adjusting, we cannot be absolute in our claim.

And we forget that within this impossible perfectionism is a forgiving side to authenticity. It is allowing us to be wrong, and admitting it. It's enhancing, softening of ourselves. It becomes part of being authentic, embracing honesty.

And it's what happens 'beneath', that is, in dark corners or computer files, moments of stress and panic, and split seconds when habits are formed or brushed away. THAT is where authenticity is decided.

Deadline Stress

How do you deal with stress in the workplace? Here are my top 5 tips for keeping life sane. Eat, sleep and rest Stress is dealt with best when 'normally ' you are healthy. You cope with long days or all-nighters because your body is fighting fit. It can cope with the extra burden of sleep deprivation or not eating at regular intervals . If you are constantly overstretching yourself you will burn out. I've seen it and I've done it. Either circumstances force change or your health will stop you in your tracks. I don't recommend getting to that point. Plus you probably look like shit. Sorry! Be kind Even in the most horrendous circumstances of losing money or making mistakes, there is no reason to be nasty or angry with people. Unless they are malicious or deliberately tried to hurt you, and even then, I wouldn't recommend it, how you deal with crises is an insight into character. If you are tempted to throw something because someone messed up, take a few seconds to remember all the mistakes you've made. When you were the youngest or the least experienced, or just off-colour that day. Forgive and be creative in rectifying things. On the other side, stress can be hugely reduced by a prompt confession of a mistake. Take five to sort everything out It's easier to take a minute to reassess if everything is going wrong and delegate a few tasks than to get overwhelmed. If that's already been done give yourself a breather for a couple of minutes- run up the stairs, drink a glass of water or walk around the block. Something away from your desk. Remove yourself from the situation. Eat the frog Do the hard stuff first. Yes, it's tempting to jump right into the creative bits but perhaps have 10 minutes to write down your thoughts and then get the compliance or admin out of the way. Loose ends can make a long to do list. By making the phone call that you are dreading first thing, you attack your fear and the rest of the day will seem like a breeze.

There's always tomorrow Yes, sometimes the deadlines creep up on us, but prioritising will allow us to sort the urgent from the non-urgent. Don't spend time flapping. Prioritise and jump in. It means that you can see when you're not going to make it. It means you can take steps early to change things, and you'll end up looking better overall.

If you're constantly worrying about not making deadlines and it's not because you are giving into a daytime tv temptation, it's time for a reassess. A life trim down. Re-alignment. I'll be writing more in my next post on this subject. Please comment below if you have any more tips to share!

Short accounts

I believe a fundamental principle of making and keeping business happy is to keep short accounts. Keeping short accounts is: not allowing yourself to get into debt, it's saying sorry when you're wrong and doing your best to avoid making enemies. It's bothering to go the extra mile for no discernible benefit, it's being polite to strangers, it's doing the right thing when no one is watching.

It's being respectful to all people and keeping on good terms with your bank. It's promising and delivering. It's sorting things quickly, and without unnecessary fuss. It's being a good businessman and being a good customer.

Short accounts are paid up quickly, they are polite exchanges between people, they are never taking anything for granted. It's not just customer service, it's supplier service, it's other road users service, it's coffee seller service. All those you deal with should be treated as you would treat your best customer.

Why?

It's because there are very few people who don't deserve to be treated with a lot of respect.

It's because one day you might become their supplier or they become your next contact.

It's because their best friend may turn out to be someone you've always wanted to know.

It's because when you're the one doing favours for people, you're in a great position to call some in if your world comes crashing down.

It's because it's an opportunity to be different, to surprise and delight.

It's because you never know.

How to tell people you're changing your life...

If you've read about unconventional living, standing out from the crowd, being different, standing up for something, or even just holding a strong view, you know you'll get people telling you you're wrong. Even shouting at you or saying nasty things. Even dismissing your views as fad-like and unsubstantiated. Even from your closest friends. Even your family.

My advice about telling people your new career plan? Well there are two options.

1) Don't. Don't tell them. That is, until you have a firm idea of what you want to achieve or how you want to change things. If you consider other people's advice as important, you often take it, and you are fearful of arguing a point especially when it's not Quite clear in your head, just hold off for a while. Not forever. Just until you can't go on 'pretending'. This is really only an option for those people who are pretty self-sufficient and aren't jointly responsible for children, a mortgage or another financial committment to which they are tied. This is a 'Don't spill all your ideas too soon kind of an idea'. A little thought can be blown away by a skeptical friend. Don't keep it to yourself without telling anyone. But pick your confidantes carefully for help and advice.

2) Tell hand-picked confidantes. Tell them they are hand-picked. And tell them not to shout it around. Your original ideas and thoughts will merge into something different. Even if you've gone around telling people that you're going to be  a dentist and you want a life in suburbia in the South of England, it's ok if you actually want to be a personal stylist to the stars. Or if you decide one day you want to be a fisherman and you have even gone out and bought the books, equipment, stool, hat, and bait, but then realise that actually it's something you might want to keep for the weekends and your ideal work is more suited to writing about the wriggly water creatures you encounter. Or maybe you've told people you are going to be an airhostess, and then deciding you want to be a makeup artist. But be ready for people to challenge you on 'What happened to your other ideas?' 'But you haven't got any experience in that?' and 'What are you going to about [insert money/your mortgage/latest boyfriend here]. It's ok, they just care about you!

I didn't struggle to tell people when I had a plan. Telling someone the plan is not half as hard and coming up with the plan. It's while the plan is still in beta, you're still working it out, your ideas are not yet formed. You know you want change but you're not exactly sure what it is yet.You appear as though your head is in the clouds and you're 'not being practical'.

It's tough when you're friends and family (or school careers coach!) are more traditional thinkers when it comes to careers. Introduce them gently. Hint at some ideas and the steps you are taking to reach the ideas (either investigating them as possibilities or achieving them). If anyone displays anger or cruel criticism, withdraw from the conversation and be strong in shutting your thoughts to that person's words. In most cases, if there is initial resistance to your ideas, if you persevere, the people around you will see you're in this for the long run and will come to be great supporters of your change. But ease them in.

Here's a few lines on the subject:

"I've been thinking about how to push my career forward and I've come up with a few possibilities....I've learned this exercise in how to focus your thoughts by really expanding my thinking to include some unusual ideas..I won't neceessarily use all of them."

"I'm considering doing a course in ....By diversifying my knowledge I hope to add to my experience and offer something further."

"I'm looking into exploring new areas of interest and I'm going for coffee with Ali's friend as he works in that industry."

It's about knowing what you want inside and that knowledge being more important than other people's views. It's about deciding to step out even though you know you'll have to work round your family's skepticism. It's about deciding to do it, because deciding Not to to it is not worth thinking about. Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week, has a few tips on people who are change HATERs. Maybe you have come up with your own ideas of how to deal with criticism of your new direction? If you'd like, add your own tips in the comments below.

This is your life. Yes, it gets more complicated to work out where more and more people are dependent on you. But if inside you, it's what you Have to do, take the plunge and don't just keep it to yourself.

 

A note for Scanners

See what I hid in those examples? If,  like me, you are a scanner, that is, you have many different interests and you think you'll never have a life in which you can cater for them all, the first thing is to allow yourself to get the ideas out there. It's ok to like space exploration and cooking and reading and dissecting insects. Give your talents paper space. Perhaps you don't need to change your whole career, only part of it.  Looking at the first example: perhaps that person likes: dentistry and helping people but wants to include their love of meeting celebrities and love of clothes within their career. And perhaps the airhostess loves being able to 'create a look' each day? And the fisherman who adores writing but only wants to write about fish.

Take the things you love and write them down. And with an ideas hat on, brainstorm your ideas around those things in terms of careers. Or just write down WHAT you love doing around them. Writing/talking/creating videos? Seeing flowers, drawing flowers, smelling flowers? Taking words and making pictures? Find themes, even though it might not seem like there are themes at first.

More scanner links to help you out: Emilie Wapnick, Barbara Sher and her book Refuse to Choose, Scanners Night

 

I am at my best when...

You treat me with courtesy and kindness...however you're feeling. You treat me like an adult all the time, even in the moments when you feel like 'tutting'.

You allow me personality quirks and room for creativity.

You ban the words 'fail' and 'stupid'.

You let ME make the decision when my body/brain/group contribution is exhausted.

You praise people for resting.

You arrange things seasonally.

You explain how you come to your good conclusions; how you practice good judgement.

You don't mind going back over things again and again, and bring to mind those incidents when you took 5 times to 'get' something.

You smile at me.

I am content, encouraged and moving forward. My work is play. I am at my most free.

 

Every little helps (with apologies to Tesco)

I used to collect pennies from one of my friends who thought they weren't worth bothering with. They used to weigh down his pockets. No, he is not a millionaire. I don't expect he ever will be. After all, if you look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. Diligence, committment, self-discipline.

They are horrible words, and some people will just stop reading at this point.

The rest of you - thanks for sticking with me. It pays to keep an open mind.

Discipline is essentially putting your vision and hope above everything else. Momentary pain, feelings of pointlessness, despair and gloom, even self-ridicule and desparagment. Discipline is pushing yourself through a barrier, despite having failed many times before and keeping at it.

The secret is, once you have seen the power of discipline: be it with exercise, losing weight, or getting a project completed for you and you alone, it is only the fading of a memory that will really challenge it.

That first attempt is the most important. Take exercise. I hear it so many times: "I should exercise more". The first question is: Do you want to be fit and healthy? Not the text book answer, not what you SHOULD do, but actually what you want to do. Think through the immediate feelings. If I could wave a magic wand and be slimmer, fitter and feel healthier, would I want that? Or do I like me the way I am? If I get to the end of my life and I've never actually done any proper exercise and I've just been that little bit overweight, will I regret 'not doing something about it' or be pleased I 'didn't bother with all that'? And I believe either answer is valid, if you've really questioned yourself and arrived at your 'real' answer.

If it's the former, and it's something you want to aim for, you need to get Stage 1 out of the way. (be realistic about what you're aiming for- If you're 55 and you want to look 20, it's not going to happen without surgery).

Stage 1 is where you're going through the 'alien' stage. This is where you're doing something that goes against your normal routine and is an easy giving up point. To get through it, focus on the 'feel-good' feelings. For exercise, this maybe feeling refreshed and revitalised, or feeling your muscles ache but sleeping like a baby. It's knowing you have done what you said you would. It's losing some weight and having it commented on.

Stage 2 is the failure. You will fail. Even if you keep it up for a month, you will one day tell yourself, 'Sod this.' And that might go on for a few days and then that little voice in your head will go 'You've really screwed up now - I thought you were going to keep this up? What happened stupid?' And then you won't want to bother anymore.

This is where you SHOW UP.

You show up, and you do it.

You may only do a little bit, write a chapter, run a mile, take 5 photos. But tell yourself you will and do it. It might not feel that great when you've done it; perfectionists will bemoan that they 'only' did a little. But Every Little Helps.

Failing again. But if you listen at the first or second hurdle, and take action then, you path is so much smoother, you create less future pain. And whatever stage you're at, even backward slide number 521, worse than where you started, you're still closer to the goal than you will be tomorrow. Every little helps.

Good little habits create success stories. Cleaning for ten minutes once a week is a little to build on. Making time does not mean carving out hours of your life. It might just be ten minutes in the morning to make your lunch rather than ten minutes checking emails.

I think there is merit in this technique when people begin to find in themselves a re-awakened creativity, a new way of working, a lifestyle choice. There are times, when you work towards that novel way of doing things which fights back for the old and comfortable. But press on, even in this time. It's just a time.

In business, in creativity, the little bits help. I know that creativity spells itself out in long hours of concentration, and 'little bits' is not our scene. But little bits of admin, two phone calls, a document template will aid us overall. Little bits add up to lots done.

And where we listen to ourselves, be tough but gentle, pushing ourselves to limits and yet being easy on our minds when we mess up AGAIN, allows us to value ourselves and create something truly successful.

 

 

 

Changing your mind

Flaky. I don't much like the word, and I dread people thinking it of me. Flaky is someone who is unreliable, easily distracted, can't decide, and forever changing their mind. One of my favourite childhood books is about a little girl who goes to a school she doesn't want to go to. She is determined to be difficult. She tells anyone and everyone that she is going to leave after one term, as she will have 'given it a go' as she promised her father. By the end of term, the other girls at school have shaken the issues out of her, and she is sitting with the quietest one of all discussing her next steps, and expressing aloud her wish to not be such a strong person so that she could change her mind and stay at school. Her friend replies that actually it is not a sign of weakness to change your mind, but a sign of strength.

I think I have sometimes allowed myself to be confused by these two ideas; that is, being the one that 'can't decide' as 'flaky' and being 'strong' to change your mind Yet, when you're determining your ideals for the future, when you're carving out the path, when you're just making choices, things do change. You have to adjust, follow up different avenues of investigation.

Changing your mind for your whole career sometimes feels like you're admitting that you made the 'wrong' choice, and you've had to change to the 'right' one.

If you've read about unconventional living, standing out from the crowd, being different, standing up for something, or even just holding a strong view, you know you'll get people telling you you're wrong. Even shouting at you or saying nasty things. Even dismissing your views as fad-like and unsubstantiated. People will say it won't work, you'll fall on your face.

Even from your closest friends. Even your family.

I would guess mostly the most fervent protesters are merely those who love you but want to protect you, and know that you will ignore them and do it anyway. But they want to have a go, because they want to see if you'll back down. So they can avoid saying 'I told you so' when it looks like you're not going to succeed.

The best way to combat this (yes, it feels like a war) is to collect a few people who have gone ahead, who are with you and support you. New acquaintances become friends very quickly when you're in the same place. Those who are starting their own businesses or changing jobs alongside you can be the people who can pull you through the bad times and then look to you when you are thriving and they need the same support. Even if it doesn't feel like there are many around you, keep looking. A good place to start may be online communities such as Careershifters.org or Escape the City, but make sure you can meet some people offline as well as online.

Tim Ferriss has written an article on the haters - those people who hate what you're doing. I find this very heartening when confronted by people who don't like what you do. You must not give these people head space. Dwelling on what other people have said which is negative will drag you down.

'What other people say' can be one of  the strongest barriers to action. Even if it's what people say in your head. But if you can get past that fear, you'll be surprised at what people actually DO say.

 

The slippery eel of self-motivation

It's that point where you decide to have the rest of the packet of biscuits you were going to make last a week. It's looking at the essay title and feeling that you can't even write 100 words on the subject let alone 3000.

It's getting to your next birthday and remembering the idea for the novel you were going to write...one day.

It's that blog which you started with great enthusiasm and then forgot the password for, having written 4 posts.

It's 'getting round to' sorting out the loft, and then there being the perfect rainy day for that very activity.

It's having the first Saturday off in ages and knowing you have to do cleaning.

It's signing up to that photography class that you KNOW is good, because your neighbour's daughter went and said it was excellent.

It's taking the photographs you promised yourself that you would take after you went to the photography class.

It's 'eating more fruit' ...when everyone else has chocolate cake.

It's getting yourself to actually achieve things, follow things through, quit wasting a good 24 hours procrastinating about something before having to hurridly finish it.

Why do we lack motivation to do things? Why is it that we look at a relatively simple task and see a mountain or a forest? What part of our brain stamps its foot and says 'NO!'? Even worse, we tell ourselves something is boring, or we expect it to be painful, or just depressing. We would rather do anything else. In order to put off the essay, we tidy the house (because it 'needs' it). We mope around hoping something else will come along which is suddenly more 'urgent', and we can say 'I had no choice' to anyone who challenges our choice.

OK.

A step back asks ourselves 'Why don't we want to do this?' Chances are it's short term pain which you have to go through in order to achieve what you want. We go to the dentist and he puts a drill IN OUR MOUTH in order to prevent pain or to stop the current twinge/discomfort/agony. We write the essay, because we want the good mark because we want the degree. The question is really: How much do I want it? Closely linked is 'How much will I regret throwing this opportunity away?' The reason 'youth is wasted on the young' is because they (we!) have had many less 'I'll never be able to do that' moments. The looking back and wondering 'What if?' moments. The 'seeing someone else make a success of the idea I had AGES ago' moments. The 'second chance' of love or life and vowing to never let it go' moment.

'I wish I had done that at your age' is the most satisfying thing to hear albeit in a slightly twisted way! Knowing that you still have a chance to act, gives you the opportunity to start now, begin again, get ahead of the game.

The idea that you might be able to look back at the end of your life and be happy with what you've achieved was first introduced to me by Sarah Cooper, a careers coach and lovely lady, in her blog post which challenges us to write an obituary. It came after a set of circumstances forced me to reconsider my whole 'world view'. I knew I didn't want to waste more of my life on things which I no longer held in high esteem because they had come crashing down. I also knew that the only time I had was NOW. I use the Leo Tolstoy quote on my About Me page because it reminds me that it is in the here and now that we choose to act, we choose to take steps towards our future success, and enact the ideas we want to carrry forward. We write our novels and essays and clean our toilets and start our businesses because we say 'Boo' to a goose and we want to be able to say 'I did it'. I wrote the novel I always wanted to.

But the task seems HUGE and we get stuck, I can hear it already. Yes, I know, I've been there. So break it down. Take baby steps. One chapter, one outline, one sentence. Take a look at @thisissethsblog, one of my favourite bloggers. You really think he started with all that content? Of course not. He had to transfer ideas from head to paper (or laptop).  He had to write blog post No. 10. Or No. 25 or No. 243 whichever was the one he got stuck on. He got through the tough times. You can too. It's determination who wins.

I once heard a saying (please comment if you know who it was) that said 'Brick walls are for other people.' Do you get it? If you want to achieve what you want to achieve, you won't be put off by the stuff that puts others off. If you want to get to a point you have only dreamed about you're going to have to get over the pain barrier which is approaching. Think of it as going to the dentist. There is drilling, but it WILL stop sometime. It'll be longer than you hope and you'll be cursing the dentist throughout, but ultimately you're creating the mindset which knows that you have to go through this stage to come out the other side saying 'Good job!'

Self-motivation is a clear skill. It separates the men from the boys. It is not cowed by the lizard brain (see explanation from Seth Godin), which smells danger and runs back into trees. It is looking ahead. I think it's the hardest journey, when you're constantly having been given expectations about what you can achieve, and yet you're doing what you're told because you fear the consequences of what happens if you don't follow that path. Take a step back and decide you're either doing it for you or you're not doing it at all.

10 great things about Twitter or 'what Twitter has taught me about life'

A bench (b&w)1. It's ok to talk to people who are 'famous', just as, you know, people. The most exciting thing about Twitter is that your favourite celebrities/authors/funnymen can 'talk' to you. They might not (@stephenfry has 2,471,366 followers at last count so it would keep him pretty busy) but I've tweeted with successful business people I've learnt a lot from (@pamslim, @jonathanfields, @johnsw) because some of the barriers that prevented us communicating have now been lifted (getting a pen and paper, writing a letter, picking up the phone and negotiating with PAs).

2. I definitely love witty comments which make me laugh.

Which points to my values. Which tells me what I love. Which makes Twitter happy, informal, relaxed and fun.

3. There are good people on Twitter, crazy people on Twitter, stupid people on Twitter. You just have to pick your friends, the same as in face to face meetings.

You should be careful online as you are offline. Careful about sharing your address and tweeting the fact you're not home. Careful about who you interact with and how. Being accountable for what you say and how you say it. Act with integrity, professionally, and with kindness and warmth. But on the other hand be open, and approachable, and friendly.

4. People REALLY don't care what you've had for breakfast. Or how drunk you got last night. Or what your dream was about.

Some things don't change. If you tweet constantly about yourself, about things in your life which aren't interesting, insightful or informative, you'll find you're unfollowed. By contributing to the conversation, we are enchancing the lives of others or making the conversation boring. Choose what you say.

5. If you're the kind of person who loves to help people, you'll find yourself in a group of people who are just as helpful.

I am lucky to be part of a local tweeting community which is engaging, friendly and welcoming. I've met some lovely people through twitter, people who have become real life friends, clients and know that I can have a friendly conversation even amongst people who frankly aren't very like me. It's fabulous, it makes life interesting. You can find your tribe on Twitter, you've just got to look for them.

6. You're probably still going to forget their real name. [Despite being able to remember their Twitter name.]

This has happened to me. It happens offline as well as online. It's not the end of the world. And sometimes quite funny.

7. People like to talk. There is always be someone to talk to.

The internet is always open for business. You can find someone awake in every time zone. I communicate with people from all over the world and I love the variety. Always an opportunity, even if you're an insomniac.

8. Giving is the most important thing. Being nice is another.

Being willing to share what you have, what you know and things you love is crucial in the new biz. By demonstrating your knowledge, your passion, and accessible, useful information, you are creating a valued contribution, just by drawing attention to GOOD STUFF. When people know you tweet links to good articles about topics they like, they will come back. Tweet articles, pictures or helpful hints in your niche, or on a variety of subjects. Keep giving and sharing.

9. You still have to ask for things and make it happen.

It doesn't happen overnight. I took a little while to learn Twitter, to catch on to shortening links via bit.ly or ow.ly, the most popular. You have to invest a bit of learning time. But if you want something, have a go asking for it. You'll be surprised about what comes back.

10. Great things happen when good people get together.

I've been privileged to be part of the team who put together this year's Plymtwest - the local Twestival in the city in which I live in at the moment, Plymouth, UK. Plymtwest raised over £5k for the Chestnut Appeal, a charity which raises awareness of prostate cancer across Devon and Cornwall (@Chestnutappeal) on 24th March 2011. It was an exciting day of events including networking, fitness, lunch for the ladies and a big party in the evening. Everyone donated their time and their skills for free, including contributions to the e-book which is a collection of local businesses and individuals and their stories of how they use Twitter for their business or personal lives. It amazed me how the idea 'Social media for social good' was really displayed through the team's work and the event's success. Fabulous.

Bucket lists

So the bucket list. A list of all those things you would love to do before you die. A list of dreams. A phrase which has buzzed around more since the film of the same name (starring Morgan Freeman) brought it into our heads again. An idea which appeals to our desiring nature, and our dreaming hearts. A bucket list for a business is a place to put ideals. I know not everyone likes to work with their head in the clouds, but hear me out. Write down all the things you want to do in life. Seriously, as if you could wave a wand. I worked hard through school and university, got myself the 'proper job' and then woke up one morning and thought: 'Hang on, I've been focusing all my efforts on getting here that I forgot to ask what I want out of life'. It turned out it wasn't that. Have dreams. Don't be worried if you think it's a long list. Worry if it's a very short list. That will require more of the hard work. Digging yourself out of years of a mindset takes time. You need Tama Kieves or Chris Guillebeau or John Williams or Emilie Wapnick to help you realise you can be different, if that's what you want.

A bucket list is useful because you can see how honest you are with yourself. Read back over the list you have created. Do you really want to do these things? Tweak them, to be really specific. You want to go sailing? Where? Along the Hamble? Across the Atlantic? With whom? A crew? Your mum? Richard Branson? Carry on.

A bucket list requires you to define your direction. You can walk away but you little pen to paper has given the dreams a little more space in your head, a few more heartbeats. Knowing what you want out of life is the first step towards action.

So how does it relate to business? And how does it make business happy?

Seth Godin has written here about the levels of doing business can make or break you. Seth has fingers on pulses and he writes solidly. However, that does not preclude you having a vision, an ideal. By creating the image of how your business looks 'perfected' is a good way to focus your next steps and try out some new ideas. It might include your perfect administrative system or your social media attention.

By creating the ideal, we can clarify our mission and standpoint. But the illusion of perfection holds us back. Who are you trying to be perfect for? If you don't know, why is it important? Question yourself to shatter this illusion. It will hold you back.

Knowing who you are, what you want and what you stand for can give you strength where before you have been weak. You can't do everything, and knowing what you don't want is very important. It means that you can say 'no' to those things. It means that you strip out what is wrong, and savour what is right.

Am I too young to make these kinds of demands, you ask? What about bosses who make me work all night, put me down in front of my co-workers, do not reward initiative? So game plan. Move sideways, hop companies. Look for what you want. If you work hard, do good work and can show you learn from your mistakes, you are a good worker. Know that's what you are. Separate out the emotion of office politics and up your game. Work as though you're self-employed. Then armed with your bucket list, look for those who honour what you value. And live your life to the full.

Cultivating a happiness boosting environment

Note I haven't said 'The way to be happy'. This is a holistic approach. The human body has amazing resilience; it has powers to self-heal, react with adrenaline or merely rejuvenate. But you must allow it, you must fuel it properly and you must be flexible. You must learn to listen to yourself.

Those people who are successful look after themselves. They know by spreading themselves too thinly, bad decisions are made, deadlines are broken and illness creates havoc.

Eat well. Healthily. You know what this means I expect, deep down. Save your indulgences for every other night out. I restrict my intake of desserts at home to enjoy them all the more for when I'm out for dinner. I won't drink alcohol during the week, unless it's at a specific event. I watch my portion sizes and how much red meat I'm consuming in a week. These might seem like strict rules, but actually, if I break them it doesn't matter, as long as I keep to them for the most part. I know that, with unhealthy foods and habits, (other more female specific ones being wearing high heels for a long day and not taking off make up before bed) probably once in a while you let yourself off, but being disciplined means that when you DO allow yourself to indulge, it seems like an extra treat.

Exercise is also crucial. There is not really a way around this. If you can commit to regular exercise where before you've been lazy, you will certainly notice a difference. Particularly if you're coupling exercise with eating properly. Sure you'll be tired for the first few weeks but you body will adjust. It's sticking with it that's hard. Again, keep at it 9 times out of 10 and your body will thank you for it. Though you might see it as taking up time, it's likely that you will spend at least half an hour a day procrastinating, re-reading emails or just checking social media/the weather/the football scores, and exercise will get you results.

Rest. Lots of sleep, and sleep which is deep. Tiring yourself out physically is the best way to sleep if you've got a lot on your mind. Switch off computers at least an hour before you go to bed and wind down. Don't feel guilty, make a to do list of the things you would be doing and do them in the morning. You'll get through them quicker. During sleep our bodies recuperate, but so do brains, and dreaming will sort thoughts out. And there is no shame in going to bed before 10pm.

General good health is something I know I take for granted. But by making an effort to treat your body well can push you on in leaps and bounds. By drawing the line and saying 'I must make time for these things', gives you the right kind of control over your working habits. I am appalled at the pressure some employees are under to put in a 12 hour day and this being a weekly or daily norm. Are employers the new slave owners? Today is a 24/7 world but let's not kill our best workers or miss our best work by pushing them or ourselves until we crack. Perhaps we can reap the benefits for our businesses by letting us put our lives in proportion to looking after themselves.

So how will changing your habits change your business?

Your brain will be clearer even just by having a walk around the block every day. Particularly if it's sunny. A little Vitamin D,  your lungs full of a bit of fresh air and you will look a whole lot less pale after a couple of months of daily walking. I find that I need to shake off things that are bothering me and walking or running often help. Mostly because I'm focusing on something else. Distracting yourself can help you reassess in a different way.

Your creativity will be boosted. When you feel energised and alive you are at your most creative, and become your most energised and alive. But if your body is struggling, you will not get to that 'top of the world' feeling. Concentrating for long period of time or being 'in flow' often need rest and exercise to counter negative consequences (even if it's merely RPI or dry eyes).

You'll be easier to work with. Tired, unfit people are grumpy and slouchy. They shout and moan even when they don't mean to. Feeling well means you're less likely to forget things and get it wrong. You have the capacity to help others, and you have the makings of a positive contribution to the environment. Smiling people usually get a better response whatever the task. It's your contribution which will add to the mix.

Can you share any other ways that you can cultivate a happiness boosting environment?