Will failure define you or propel you?

The Internet is full of people talking about failure. Whereas some use the term fail often or even fail more, others seem to resent the term failure as some kind of weakness or a sign people accept that it is okay to fail.

Now although I understand where both sides are coming from I feel the focus is in the wrong area. I have personally experienced both sides of this coin first hand when working around the world.

In my career, I worked for American companies on global teams and handled the Middle East region where the thinking around failure was simply a learning process, a stepping stone if, and this is the main point; if you acquired experience or bounced back from failure stronger. People admired this or celebrated your achievement and strength. In the UK however, things are very different.

In the UK people get very nervous if you say you had any failure in your career. Whether this was a business or a position you may have held, it is shunned and brushed under the carpet as if that experience defines you as a person, as in you are a failure! This is regardless of what you achieved after that experience.

I have, like everyone, had very dark moments in my personal and professional life and although they were frightening and even life-threatening at times I can tell you the person I came out the other side of each one of these moments is a stronger, more knowledgeable and experienced individual. These moments are not something you can learn on a course or in a book you have to go through them to gain experience that you have to use in the next part of your life. Failure is a single moment, something that is temporary if you have the right attitude or defeat if you allow it.

And this really is the key for me regarding failure, it is not whether a failure is something that should be shunned, hidden or even celebrated. It is the action that follows failure that is what defines us, it is what we do with that experience, hurt and even pain after a failure that is where the whole discussion should be focused. Because after failure, you have a choice to either believe you have a limit of what you can achieve in this life, or you learn from the experience and use it to propel yourself to greatness!

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Dreams don’t work unless you do

Every single one of us has dreams we want to achieve. Some are big and some are small but inside us we crave to that success or break to get ahead. People often look at successful people and think they are lucky or have had a break to get where they are but the truth couldn’t be further from that as anyone who is successful has put in the work, driven by their dreams to get those opportunities and I guarantee it was not a straight road they took.

Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to work with very talented people, some a lot more talented than me. The most frustrating thing I saw though is when this talent was not matched with the effort to take these individuals where they could go in their career.

Personally I never looked at the individuals in my office or the country I was working in at the time, but rather I would look at the very best in my industry and aimed to be as good as them. Knowing that these people were world class creative or strategist I knew I had to work twice as hard to get anywhere near them in my career. So that is what I have always done.

So whatever dreams you have in your career or life it’s time to stop waiting for it to happen and start putting the effort in that will carry you through the a better life. Don’t get caught up in the small things that happen in your home, your office or with your friends. Don’t even be put off if things don’t go the direction you want either. Sometimes your road will lead you to a better place where more opportunities lay ahead.

You are the only person that can create change in your life and if you want it enough you will have to put that extra effort in to get it. Try thinking and visualizing of that moment when you have achieved a dream and then ask yourself, ‘what am I willing to do to make this happen, to have this feeling and to experience that incredible joy of achieving your dream.’ It’s okay to daydream about these moments; in fact I recommend it as it helps build that drive.

No matter where you are in life, no matter how many things have not gone your way, you can still start on that journey today to achieving your dreams. I have had more than my fair share of bad luck, wrong choices and missed opportunities along my journey but this hasn’t dulled my ambition one single bit, in fact I’m just getting started…And so should you!

 

Grip that steering wheel of life, put on your seat belt and push down the accelerator pedal, hard!

Have you ever had the feeling that your life could be compared to sitting in a car driving at top speed going round bends, over bumps and squeezing between other cars yet you don’t feel you even have control of the steering wheel?

This is a feeling that I think we all go through at times. Sometimes the drive is exhilarating, enjoyable and fun, a roof down, and wind in your hair dream drive. Other times, it can be terrifying, painful and you are just waiting for a mighty thump of everything to come crashing down around you.

Almost every person I meet seems to have this look that they are hanging on by their fingernails and if just one thing would work out everything would be okay, it would give them a pause to breath, to possibly enjoy the ride.

The journey we all take is never a single straight road and can be compared to a long distance journey filled with country lanes, motorways and busy city streets. Not forgetting that along this journey there are always bumps in the road, bends that are hard to navigate and more than once you will end up going down a dead end street and have to turn back and start a section all over again.

All these mishaps and challenges often feel like the end of the world or that you feel the road is just doing everything it can to make the journey as difficult as possible. But once we get past those various obstacles we realise there is a difference in how we approach the next challenge, and the next and so on. Looking back down the road we usually tell stories about the bumps in the road and the near misses as anecdotal snippets amongst friends.

Most of the time they will bring a smile to your face as you realise how much you’ve grown, learned and developed. Not always, but sometimes! So take heart where you are on this journey and see how much you’ve travelled as a person. One way or another you have grown so much and no matter what life hurled at you, you just kept moving forward.

So grip that steering wheel of life, put on your seat belt and push down the accelerator pedal, hard! Take on the next challenge with confidence and give it everything you’ve got. Nothing has stopped you, no matter what you have faced, you are here right now in life a better person, so fear nothing, and look down the road to a better, happier you because great things could be waiting just around the corner.

 

 

How much time do you waste worrying about nothing?

Maybe I am different, maybe it’s just the way my mind works or maybe everyone is like me but they manage to hide it better. In my career as a Regional Creative Director and other management positions much of my time has been spent helping individuals through the process of their daily challenges with a particular project or task. Often the work related issues we started with seemed to always drift away from the project and I found myself delving into the minds of people, with the strange feeling of my role becoming one of a psychiatrist.

A lack of confidence, problems not even related to the job at hand like bills to pay or trouble at home or even insecurities from people that exuded self-confidence on the outside, but seemed to be an outer shell as fragile as an egg. I always enjoyed encouraging, helping or offering advice but one of the topics I have heard myself say more than most others is ‘what is the point of worrying about it now?’

Every time I said this statement I could almost hear the person inside me screaming, ‘If only you would listen to yourself!’ because I have and still do spend a lot of time worrying about the next presentation, the next bill, the thought there will be a crowd at the restaurant, museum or bar we are visiting. In fact my mind seems to go into overdrive about everything regardless of the size of the task that lies ahead of me.

I know I overthink pretty much everything; this is just the person I am, and that is half the battle. I over analyse every conversation and can spend days after a discussion that I have had with one person, going over every word and trying to understand if there were more meaning that I had misinterpreted or there was a hidden message in what that person said. Don’t get me started about the complexity of thoughts that happen when reviewing emails! Emails are so often misunderstood due to the lack of awareness you have about the tone of the individual writing and also the current mood you are in when receiving the email.

I know I am not alone in this, as I have seen this so often throughout my career with people who were incredibly talented and seemed to be in total control. But how many times have you spent worrying about a presentation, meeting, task, project or whatever only to get to the point of it happening and it not being such a big deal? The amount of stress and worry that we put ourselves under is amazing and clearly not healthy.

The only way I have found to deal with worrying about every little detail is to push myself into more challenging positions well as adding as much work to my schedule as I can possibly handle, so my mind stays focused on the next task at hand and doesn’t go walk about in Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole of nightmarish thoughts about what could go wrong!

I know how destructive this can be as well as how this manifests into all areas of my life. Worrying about something doesn’t make it easier and certainly doesn’t help you think clearly about what lies ahead of you, it really is just a waste of time. I’ll try to keep that in mind!

Always do the things you are afraid to do

When I first started work I was extremely shy and the thought of speaking in front of people scared the living daylights out of me. When I was forced to present a few times I turned into a sweaty mess. In fact one time I got so nervous that I ended up having a coughing fit in the middle of a presentation forcing the client to leave the room in order to get me a glass of water. Once I had stopped coughing and choking all over the client I stood red-faced, sweat coming through not only my shirt but also my suit jacket! I could see my boss and colleagues sat wide-eyed wondering if I was going to keel over or finish the presentation.

I looked at the client and just said, ‘See, you have to hire us because we are even prepared to die to get your business!’ The client laughed, nervously, and we eventually won the business.

The only thing I could do at that stage was make a joke out of this surreal experience. But this taught me very quickly that if I can recover from what I was always in fear of experiencing, why did I get myself into this mess?

The truth is presenting to a client can be intimidating and sometimes the stakes are high if you do not win the business. I have gone to presentations knowing if we don’t win the business people in the agency will lose their jobs, that’s pressure! But I pushed myself to present at every opportunity because I knew it was a challenge that I had to get over, not because I enjoy talking in front of people but because it was a fear entrenched in my psyche that stemmed from being afraid of making a mistake.

I have had bad presentations since then, not quite like the first one but they didn’t go well. But the more I did it the more I realised there was nothing to be afraid of. In fact I have gone on to present at conferences around the world with thousands of people and I really do enjoy it. I found a passion that allows me to reach and connect with people all over the world, exchanging ideas, helping people with things I have learned or am passionate about.

I found joy in something because I did something that terrified me and I didn’t allow it to beat me. I faced my fear and it was not that I overcame anything, in truth there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place other than what I had built up in my head. Fear can be paralysing and I am not saying it is easy, it’s not. But I guarantee if I can do it, anyone can.

Don’t be a victim of history, Be a master of your destiny.

In life there is no single human being that doesn’t face some kind of negative feelings or incidents that set them back. This is only natural and we know that life cannot always be on one single level, be it good or bad. Otherwise how would we appreciate the good things? 

What we need to do in our lives though is not punishing ourselves because something didn’t go the way we wanted. We have to search for the good side of every situation, no matter how difficult that may be. We cannot live our live by the negative ABC’s, which are Anger, Betrayal and Criticism. If we do we only continue adding to the negativity that a certain incident has brought us.

We know that when we look back on things in our lives we often remember the hard times as the most defining moments we have faced. But we also see where the opportunities arose after the incident that created happiness, joy or love. It is in these moments of personal crises that we actually become the person we are destined to be and act in a way that really benefits us as individuals. Other times we are often so concerned with what another individual or group of people think that our desires and ambitions are left on the back burner. Why?

If there are people around you that are not helping you to reach a happier more fulfilling life then you have to do something to change that situation, no matter how difficult that may be. We cannot live a life full of guilt simply because we want to do the things that make us happy. You need to go to bed feeling grateful for what you have and wake up in the morning inspired and excited about what you are going to be doing.

The worst situation to be living in is when you are not doing what you want because of things that have happened to you in the past. These moments were in your life to teach you a lesson or create a new path of opportunity, not for you to be carrying them around with you for the rest of your life. Look back, learn from what happened and then move forward towards a destiny of wealth, happiness and love that you know you want and what is more important is yours for the taking. Don’t be a victim of your history, be a master of your destiny.

There’s real beauty in being different

Do you know that person inside you? You know the real one, not the one we all pretend to be that fits with every forced stereotype that our world has forced us to chase throughout our lives? The one that is different, quirky, unusual and likes things that you rarely tell anyone about like the song that your friends don’t like or something you have always wanted to do like sing in a choir. You are not alone in the secrecy of hiding things, unfortunately this is how the majority of the world lives, hiding behind masks. So what about the few that don’t?

What is remarkable about the few that don’t conform, that celebrate their uniqueness, that embrace the fact they are different are the people we champion as great. Apple’s Think Different advertising campaign wasn’t only about how they create products. Apple was telling you as an individual to be different, to try things, be creative and have fun. Apple was telling you to be you.

Let’s look at another industry. Let’s take singers. There are millions of people who are technically brilliant when it comes to singing. They can hit a note perfectly every single time and have been doing this for years. But if you looked at the people who become famous for singing it is because there is something different about their voice, often not technically great but they sing with a passion and extenuates that difference. Kurt Cobain, Lead singer of Nirvana fame, was once described by Dave Grohl, Drummer of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame, as singing like he had ‘A pack of gravel in his throat’ and this by the way was Dave paying Kurt the ultimate compliment. He understood the need to be different as this made Nirvana such a stand out band when they started.

If you want to really do something that makes you happy then you should embrace every quirk, difference and individual aspect of who you are and run with it. Forget the glossy magazine stereotypes, forget what your friends think you are, forget about what people may think about you and start focusing on what you want from this life. You have everything you need to be happy and you have everything you need to be successful. You just have to believe it, understand who you are, what you want and go for it with every ounce of your soul. Part of being a success or being happy remember, is seeing yourself in that place before you set off. You may not make the top of whatever mountain you are aiming for but in life it is about the journey to discover who you are, not the final destination.

Setting smaller goals will help you achieve the big ones

Sometimes when you look at what you achieve in life the distance is so great that it is quite deflating. Many people are put of chasing their dreams purely because the goal they set is so big and so far away that they lose sight of it after a short time. Having a big goal is fantastic and everyone should have goals in their life if they want to live a life regret free. So go ahead set the big goals, but here is an idea that will help your journey be more enjoyable and achievable.

No matter what you big goal may be, a new job, a new life, an adventure getting rid of a debt that is weighing you down like an anchor in the sea, set some smaller goals that will help you focus on what you need to do to achieve the big goal. Think of it this way, if an olympic hurdler set off on a race and only focused on the finish line they may not get over each hurdle the way they have trained to do for years. But if every focus is 100% on the next hurdle they will nail every single hurdle perfectly and before they realizes it will be at the finish line with a great chance of winning. That is how you need to plan your big goals, with smaller and closer hurdles that you can focus on along the way.

The important thing to do when you do reach these smaller, closer goals is to celebrate them. Give yourself a small reward that will motivate you to keep going or start moving towards the next hurdle or goal. It doesn’t need to be big but the acknowledgement that you are getting closer to your bigger goals will do absolute wonders for your self esteem and confidence in what you are trying to achieve.I have found that no matter what your end goal is that you can set smaller goals, write a list or plan of things you need or need to do if you are to reach your goals, it will help you more than you could imagine. Good luck!

I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.

Has anything you have ever achieved in life been easy? Did you have to work, learn and sweat to make it happen? If not you are very lucky and I salute you. But if you are like most of us anything worth doing in life comes with real dedication and passion. Will it be easy, probably not. The path ahead will be full of twists and turns, potholes and dead ends. But once you reach your destination you will realize that every single bump and stumble you faced was all part and parcel of becoming the person you now are, A different person who grew without you even noticing, a person who looks at the world differently and who values the journey now more than the destination.

If you take a look over your shoulder and see the path you have taken until now you will notice many things. Life moments that defined who you are today, walls of which when you were on the other side seemed like mountains that couldn’t be climbed, but you did and you even broke through a few of them once you gained momentum. Every single one of those moments were hard and took every ounce of the person you are to overcome, but the important thing is you did overcome them and that is what you must take with you on the next part of your journey.

A new year spreads out before you. You know how quickly time passes so where do you see yourself this time next year? Do you see a year that you continued to worry about the ‘what if’s?’ Or, was it a year that you took your life by the scruff of the neck and said this will be my year, this will be the year I change my life, this will be the year that even if the destination I want to reach is beyond my current capabilities I will start moving one step at a time, because nothing worth doing is easy and nothing anyone ever accomplished was ever achieved without the decision to try. Happy New Year, I hope it is one you look back on with a smile.

Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try

We’ve all been there. Standing on the edge of a decision that frightens us. Poised to leap into the unknown with fear and responsibility holding you back like an anchor on a ship rooted to the seabed. It’s easy to stay where you are, or even go backwards. But to stay where you are safe. It’s comfortable, warm and the lights are bright around you ensuring you can see everything in your near vicinity. But is that all you want in life?

It takes every effort to move that one-foot forward into the shadows of the unknown. It takes even more to leave the bright lights of certainty behind and forge a new path for others to follow. But if you are stood in that place right now, or you face a decision that is unclear, then you must ask yourself a simple question of who you are and where you see your life in the next one, two or five years. If you are happy where you are then I congratulate you on achieving something very few people have achieved. But if not, you must try.

For every accomplishment that anyone has ever made was not done because the outcome was certain or guaranteed. It was achieved because they tried and tried again if it didn’t work. Nothing in life worth achieving was ever given away free, it was always achieved by someone making a decision to try. Whether that is simply buying a lottery ticket or changing the course of your entire life it still comes down to one thing, you must try.