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Pursue passions

11 Military Productivity Hacks For Entrepreneurs

How many times have you said “there aren’t enough hours in the day?”

Frankly, I’d be surprised if I found out everyone hadn’t said this at some stage. Most people have an ever-replenishing to-do list – and that’s before life away from your desk.
Applying your unique combination of skill, experience and knowledge isn’t something that you can outsource – and that reason makes time an entrepreneur’s most valuable asset.
The good news is, you’re not making the most of your time.
I can say this with confidence because 99.9% of people are in exactly the same boat – and this is the very reason 99.9% of people aren’t living the life they dream about.

What do I know?

Being a business mentor doesn’t automatically make me understand the intricacies of productivity – but I’m lucky enough to have worked with some extremely talented individuals who do – many of whom are armed forces veterans.
Here’s the thing:
Productivity isn’t something you’re born with; it’s an art that must be practiced, a muscle that needs to be exercised.
The instilled discipline and drilled efficiency that the armed forces inspire in people is unmatched in virtually any other walk of life. Working with veterans opens your eyes to new levels of productivity and can teach anyone an important lesson:
There are enough hours in the day; you’ve just got to know how to access them.
The following 11 hacks will help you to run your business and your life with a military level of productivity…

#1: NET (no extra time)

We do hundreds of things every day on auto-pilot.
Walking, driving, shaving, making the bed, running, cooking dinner – to name just a few.
We’re unconsciously competent at these tasks; we change gear without thinking and boil pasta without reading the instructions.
Since our brain isn’t engaged while we take part in these tasks, it gives us an opportunity to engage our thoughts elsewhere, hence ‘no extra time’ is added to your day – and what better place to use this untapped time than for learning?
Audio books are ideal for this, what’s more, you can adjust the playback rate on most apps so that you can take them in at 1.5/2.0x the speed they’re read at. The average commute is 25 minutes, cooking dinner probably takes another 20. Turn this into learning time and you’ll consume 20 or more books and the knowledge within every year – choose those books wisely and your entrepreneurial skillset will expand rapidly…

#2: Get your sleep right

Everyone’s sleep requirements are slightly different, but generally 7-8 hours each night sees us at our peak mental performance the following day.
The perfect combination of sleep and productivity comes when you understand exactly what’s right for you. Evenings can be enormous blackholes for time – with a little TV and some social media interaction it’s 11pm before you know it - and 12am before you’re asleep.
If you can, there’s a huge amount of productivity to be had if you adjust your bedtime backwards and start the next day earlier.
Try to avoid screens for 2 hours before you sleep. Our phone’s apps are designed to stimulate your brain and keep you engaged – not ideal for winding down. Reading, prepping tomorrow’s food, tidying and planning are all good alternatives that come with their own benefits.
Waking up early is no mean feat though, so I recommend the following:
Understand your natural sleep pattern.
Using an app like Sleep Cycle can help you to understand what’s happening when you’re in asleep and has an extremely effective alarm function that will wake you when your sleep is at its lightest point – helping you to feel switched on and alert right through the day.

#3: Harness the morning

If you can master your sleep and get up 2 hours earlier than you ordinarily would every working day you effectively give yourself an extra day each week.
What’s more, because you’re making that ‘extra day’ anywhere between 5am-9am (depending on your sleep requirements and chosen bedtime) that becomes one of those magical days where no one calls and interrupts, no one urgently emails and there are fewer notifications stealing your attention.
The maths is actually jaw dropping:
Add 2 productive hours to every working day and you add 520 hours to your year. Even with a hefty 50 hour work week that’s the equivalent of over 10 extra weeks of productivity every year – a sure fire way to get a lot more done, or at least feel a lot less guilty about taking a week or two absorbing some sunshine on a foreign beach.

#4: Make your own energy

It’s no coincidence that extremely high levels of productivity in military personal follows physical training each morning.
The good news is – science tells us this doesn’t have to mean running a marathon every day, in fact, a minimum of 12 minutes at an elevated heart rate is enough to produce hormones that increase awareness and mental agility for the rest of the day.
The great news is, it’s not just how switched on we are that’s bolstered when we exercise in the morning; our body’s ‘feel good’ hormones are kick-started too, leading to a more positive mood through the day.
Not only will exercise help tweak your brain’s performance every morning – it’ll also keep you healthy too, supporting your immune system to fight off illness. Want to turbo-charge your results? Get a double hit of those awareness and feel good hormones by jumping in a cold shower after you’re done, boosting circulation even further.
As productivity hacks go, engaging in some physical exercise is one that will have the greatest impact most quickly – there really is no downside.

#5: Take regular breaks

Our brains aren’t designed for being focused on just one task permanently – so if you want to maximise the time you’re spending with your mind at full throttle it makes a lot of sense to rest it frequently.
If you’re at your desk all day, get up, go and get some fresh air, stimulate the visual parts of your brain in different ways.
If possible, find somewhere you can be completely free of thought, even just for a few minutes.
Some people refer to this as ‘meditation’ – other call it ‘mindfulness’, whereas some prefer just ‘clearing your head’. Whatever you choose to call it, thinking of nothing, or focusing just on your breathing can help to slow your thoughts and internal monologue – and a slower thought process general leads to more rational and considered decisions.

#6: Use the right fuel

We can all occasionally lose sight of the fact that our bodies are biological machines, with the right fuel required to see a positive energy output.
Our brain is very much part of that machine – and it’s extremely sensitive to the conditions food creates in our body. Heavy lunches that comprise of sugar and simple carbohydrates require a lot of energy to digest – and can also cause our blood sugar levels to spike, leading to drowsiness and lack of focus in the mid-afternoon.
Just as making use of hidden hours can add up in our favour, losing hours to drowsiness and low energy can see that time disappear again.
If possible, try to avoid the following lunch time usual suspects:
White bread
White rice
White pasta
Crisps
Refined sugar (chocolate, sweets, hidden sugar in sauces/dressings, etc)
Instead, try to create lunches around:
Lean protein (beef, chicken, turkey, salmon, mackerel, etc)
Pulses and beans
Salad leaves and vegetables
Good fats (olive oil, avocados, unsalted nuts and nut butters)
These things might need a little prep the night before – and might not have the same immediate appeal as something sugary or salty, but let me assure you, your workload will thank you for it while others around you are yawning at 2:30pm…

#7: Don’t multi-task

This next hack is a simple one – but can take some adjusting to for those of us with short attention spans.
Don’t multi-task.
You might think that doing three things at once is smart use of your time – but actually, you’re far more likely to make mistakes and elongate the time needed to finish each job.
Where possible, minimise your email inbox, switch your phone to silent and dedicate your focus to the task at hand. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you work when your blinkers are on.

#8: Focus on what you’re good at

If you wake up every morning knowing you’ve got a day of your least favourite task ahead of you it can be very difficult to get started.
On the other hand, knowing you’re got a day of something you love lined up is likely to have you out of bed and in the shower ahead of your alarm. Don’t underestimate the power that your brain has on your desire to be productive – and as such, try to create days that you want to meet head on.
Consider making a list of everything your day will entail – run a highlighter through the things you like the least.
Now consider outsourcing those tasks.
There’s someone online who will do these for you – check sites like UpWork, Fiverr and PeoplePerHour and you’ll find everything from general assistants and book keeping support to advanced programmers and social media experts.
If funds are tight, consider exchanging skills, money isn’t the only way to pay.

#9: Prioritise and execute

Plenty of people will tell you to make a to-do list – fewer people will tell you how to use one properly.
As you approach your day you’ll be aware of one, two or more priority tasks. For most people, a priority represents a task that is vital to the next part of the business process – whether that’s establishing a key part of infrastructure, honing your service, creating a sales proposal – or so forth.
Understand what’s needed in the day to drive your business forward – these become your priorities.
Now decide which order these priorities should be tackled. Mark number 1 and number 2 on your list. Now focus on number 1 until it’s complete. Don’t be tempted to jump to number 2 or get distracted by something that’s a much lower priority.
Every time you flit to another less-important task, you create a transition – a small period of time is consumed, your focus drops and you lose productivity. Be methodical – and if required, ignore everything else going on around you.
Now, we all know your to-do list grows through the day – so when tasks 1 and 2 are complete, reassess and mark your next two most important tasks – then watch your productivity go through the roof as your tick them off.

#10: Have a quick decision making process

A quick decision making process is an absolute must for those who have served in the armed forces. Whether or not you are ever deployed in an active war zone, training acknowledges that an enemy will never ease off to give you time to create a ‘pros and cons list’ as you take cover behind a wall or vehicle.
For entrepreneurs, every decision you make has an ‘energy tax’ – the longer you spend mulling it over, the more time and energy is sapped away.
That said, rash decisions aren’t always reliable – so where possible, quickly consider the facts relating to the situation along with the risks that you foresee; then move swiftly based on this.
The likelihood of your swift decision being correct is boosted enormously here if you’re in the habit of following hack number 5 on this list – as the more cool and collected your thoughts are under pressure, the more you’ll be able to tune out the ‘noise’ and focus on what matters.

#11: Understand the ‘Pareto’ principle

Productivity and efficiency are closely related – but until you put both under the microscope you can’t be sure that you’re honing either skill.
A Pareto analysis is an ideal way of considering if you’re being productive and efficient as an entrepreneur. The principle suggests that 80% of a person or business’s success comes from 20% of the action input. Therefore 80% of the action is incredibly low yield – offering just 20% of the result.
To ascertain where your energy is going, you’ll need to start recording what your days look like. A simple way to begin is setting a chime for every 30 minutes on your phone or watch. When you hear that chime, make a record in your diary or notepad what that 30 minutes has comprised of – even if it’s just a simple tally chart.
Don’t worry – this isn’t something you’ll keep up forever, it’s just to give you an accurate picture of what your day looks like. It’s important to be honest with your recording – it’s the only way you’re going to be able to make the absolute most of your day.
When you’ve created a picture of an average day (perhaps after a week or so of recording) you can start to consider the time you take on each task alongside the money that you or the business brings in as a result.
You’ll start to see patterns, perhaps in your own work, perhaps in the time invested in employees, clients or particular tasks. Your business is unique – so I’m not going to make suggestions that are specific to you here – just ask yourself if your effort is commensurate with your reward – and ask yourself if you could do more of the high yield tasks if you dropped a few that ate up your time for little reward.
It’s one thing to work hard – it’s quite another to work smart. When the way that you work so directly relates to your ability to achieve your goal and stay alive in the process, it’s no surprise that veterans aren’t just productive – but extremely efficient in their actions too.

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Productivity - Side Hustle

Side Hustling And The Importance of Productivity

 

Trying to juggle a business and full time job all at once? Productivity is key to maximising your time, energy and money.

My pal Nic Woodhams is a man with a rich background in the field of productivity. With one of his previous businesses pitching successfully on Dragon's Den, plus a career in the military under his belt, Nic is well placed to provide tips on how best to make the most of your time under stressful situations.

Join us whilst we wade through puddles and wander through fields in Cornwall discussing the perils of spreading yourself thinly and the benefits of focused, deep-work.

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Find my purpose

Untamed Interview 5 – Purpose with Mark Boyns

Do you have a clear purpose? Are you striving towards a particular goal or mission?

In this Untamed Interview, I discuss this topic of purpose with Founder and Co-Director of the unique and brilliant 'Opening Up Cricket', Mark Boyns.

Despite a drunk cameraman and some wet dogs Mark shares some fascinating insights into what drives his social enterprise and the positive effect this mission has has had on his life!

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Transition Mentoring

Untamed Interview 4 – Plan The Perfect Military Transition with Neil Marshall

Neil Marshall spent 30+ years in the UK Army, ultimately leaving having reached the enviable rank of Major General. With a thought out plan in place, he then performed a seamless transition from the military into entrepreneurship.

During his service, he led with passion and purpose never wavering from his mission of helping others thrive.

By applying a highly effective process, Neil has been able to leverage the lessons he learned in the military to maximum effect in his new business.  He has a clear plan and lives a highly fulfilled life doing what he loves. 

It is this process that we uncover in this video, hopefully helping you achieve the same levels of success, whatever rank or industry you're in.

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Veteran Podcast

My Interview – The Veteran’s Network Podcast

I am a big fan of UK based Veteran's Network.  They go great work supporting vets during their transition into civi street and promote veteran owned businesses all over the country.

I was therefore delighted when co-founder Jamie Kennedy asked me to feature as a guest on his podcast.

During this 30 minute chat we cover:

- THE MOST influential factor in transitioning into entrepreneurship

- The steps you should take on the journey to starting your own business

- Qualities that link military personnel with Untamed Entrepreneurs 🙂

...and loads more.

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military leavers

Untamed Interview – Veteran Entrepreneur Nic Woodhams

British Army veteran, social entrepreneur and Rick Astley look-a-like Nic Woodhams talks me through the challenges and opportunities of applying military skills in civi street.

We stroll through the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh and discuss how well the military breeds and then prepares leavers for life as entrepreneurs.

How do you plan on leveraging your unique skills to reach your potential?

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Start a small business

Untamed Interview – Art Green

Join me as I chat to Arthur Green: entrepreneur, adventure-lover, athlete, celebrity and all round good bloke.  We chinwag whilst kayaking the waters of the Southern Pacific Ocean in New Zealand.

We discuss the importance of pursuing your passions; how to align your life with your goals; the best wrist watch on the market and many other riveting things...

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The Perfect Transition For Military Leavers

Where It All Started

Despite never serving, I have always had a deep affinity to people who serve in the military. 

This feeling started when my brother joined the Royal Marines when I was 17 and developed throughout my University years whilst living with two reservists -both of whom went on to join the forces proper.

Partly due to this multitude of connections and partly due to my healthy appetite for ‘socialising’ between the ages of 17 and 26, I was mixing with one group or another, seemingly on a weekly basis. 

As I have mentioned before,  if you really want to get to know someone, go to the pub with them. 

With this theory in mind, I got to know a whole host of Marine and Army personnel extremely well during my formative years.

If You're Going To Do A Job…

Aside from the robust banter and iron-clad trust that exists between military folk, their default setting of approaching EVERYTHING they do at 100%, is what I admire and relate to most.

Whether playing a game of ‘see who can spend the most time at the bar naked before being thrown out’ or deliberately skiing into each other, the games were a notch or two above what everyone else played…and I loved it!

As I have said many times, if you're going to do something, damn well do it properly.  Well, this is a sentiment wholeheartedly shared by all those who serve.

Why I Am I Writing This?

But this is not a Ramble extolling the virtues of those in uniform. 

That introduction was merely designed to provide some background as to my current business relationship with those in the armed forces and to illustrate the deep foundations that shaped it.

Let’s cut to the chase shall we?  I believe many military personnel are tailor made for a life as Untamed Entrepreneurs and the following words will explain why.

Definition

For those who haven’t read my last Ramble, it is probably wise to start off by defining the term ‘Untamed Entrepreneur’.

‘Untamed Entrepreneur’: Noun, often referred to as ‘UE’

“A person possessing an entrepreneurial mindset who engages in both life and work activities in an unconventional manner.  They are distinguishable by their gregarious nature, disregard for half measures and insatiable appetite for adventure, fun and challenge.”

Untamed Entrepreneurs prioritise the following in no particular order (excluding family):

  • Running their business
  • Outdoor activities
  • Extreme sports
  • Adventure/travel

Now we understand the fundamentals of what makes a UE unique, let’s look at why I believe military personnel are so well suited to this lifestyle.

To keep this analysis simple, I shall cover the two aspects that most clearly define the life of a UE: work and play.

Work Time - Why Do People In The Military Make Good Entrepreneurs?

It is a well-worn theory that military leavers make good entrepreneurs.  Indeed, a study at Syracuse University in the USA established that a staggering “49% of WWII veterans went on to own or operate their own businesses.”¹

Amongst other things, these theories typically cite hard work, problem-solving and resilience as key factors in a successful cross-over - and they are all correct.

To make a successful Untamed Entrepreneur however, a few additional ingredients need to be in the mix - most notably, a willingness to not only embrace the unknown but actively seek it. 

For the Untamed, unchartered territory is where the juices really start flowing.  The thrill of not knowing what’s around the corner or even how to get to the corner, is the business equivalent of kayaking off an unknown waterfall.

The moment the learning curve slows and the comfort zone expands, boredom sets in.  On to the next challenge.

This eagerness to potentially bite off more than one can chew and then chew like crazy, is one shared by many military folk. 

For soldiers and officers alike, the base level of excitement required to offset boredom is far higher than in most of us.   After all,  adrenaline rushes -whether through combat or competition- are one of the main reasons most of them signed up in the first place.

So what is a leaver to do once the the uniform is handed back and civvy street beckons?  What possible work exists that could even come close to the thrill served up by the armed forces?

In reality, aside from doing the same type of work in the private sector, I imagine nothing comes close and it is this step-down in pace that causes many leavers problems as they make the transition.  But it doesn't have to be so…

Keep Up The Pace

Enter stage left Untamed Entrepreneurialness…ness.  A perilous blend of unpredictability, risk, excitement and reward.

Entrepreneurship is a tough gig.  It’s a fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world where only the fittest survive.  Harsh lessons come thick and fast and there is no hiding place for the weak.

Sound familiar?  It should do.  It bares much resemblance to military life.

As I know it, military folk thrive in a ruthlessly competitive environment where the correlation between hard work and success is direct and progress is measurable…Don’t put the work in and suffer the consequences - simple.

Whilst the consequences of failure in the business world are far less extreme than in the military, a couple of poor decisions can still make or break ones entire livelihood.

Such a high risk/reward ratio is what provides military leavers the spark that is so devoid in other careers.

What Does An Untamed Business Look Like?

There are no set criteria governing the type of businesses a UE can create and it doesn’t have to be inherently dangerous -hell, my business is one on one mentoring…hardly bomb-disposal work!

What the business does have to do though, is be adaptable enough to allow the Untamed lifestyle to flourish and align exactly with the passions and interests of the founder.  This melding of work and play into a synchronized unit is a key component and helps distinguish an Untamed lifestyle from many others.

By defining what Untamed Entrepreneurs' businesses may be by their suitability to a lifestyle, rather than a specific industry or sector, the door is open to military leavers from a wide range of skill sets, interests and talents.

Play Time

So now we understand the entrepreneurial piece of the Untamed jigsaw, let’s look at the other aspect…play time!

This is where the fun really starts.  The jumping off point for the tamed.

Let’s cut to it…spending time outdoors, adventuring, taking part in extreme sports, travelling and putting ones body on the line in the name of entertainment are all things held dear by Untamed Entrepreneurs and military personnel alike.

Whether through extra-curricular or on-the-job activities, these aspects are tightly woven into both the military and UE lifestyle.

In the same way that real soldiers differ from those who call themselves Bravo Two Zero and run around mock battlefields wearing second hand cammo uniforms; Untamed Entrepreneurs take their love of the outdoors, sports and travel one step further than the average weekend warrior.

In a nutshell, one set of people love it, the other set live it.

It stands to reason therefore that upon exiting the forces, becoming an Untamed Entrepreneur would be the best way to maintain this high intensity curriculum and keep those juices flowing.

Have Your Cake and Eat It

And that’s ultimately what it comes down to - a smooth transition; a way of living that is both very similar to the military and completely different at the same time.

Filling the void left by a career as impactful, intense and unique as the military is no mean feat.

As a minimum, the replacement must provide adequate stimulation through healthy doses of competition, risk and the unknown in order to keep the boredom at bay.  Yet it must also be different enough to represent a fresh challenge and provide the individual the opportunity to add significant value by other means.

Thankfully the world of Untamed Entrepreneurship does just that.  It offers all the high octane thrills and spills of military life with added freedom for spontaneity should one desire. 

I can see no other more suitable lifestyle for the adventure-loving, purpose-driven military leaver to get their kicks!


GET YOUR FREE E-BOOK

If a life of extreme sports and entrepreneurship is right up your street and you want to learn the best places in the world to live such a lifestyle, then check out my latest e-book.  Download it here and take the first step to living like an Untamed Entrepreneur!

References   

¹: https://www.forbes.com/sites/marklrockefeller/2016/08/03/why-the-military-is-the-best-entrepreneurship-training-program-in-america/#76d188bb3d60

 

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Leverage Strengths

8 Mis-Perceived Weaknesses of an Untamed Entrepreneur and How They Should be Leveraged

Untamed Entrepreneurs - A Not Quite Oxford Dictionary Definition

‘Untamed Entrepreneur’ - Noun
a person possessing an entrepreneurial mindset who engages in both life and work activities in an unconventional manner. They are distinguishable by their gregarious nature, disregard for half measures (in any form) and insatiable appetite for adventure, fun and self-development.
“It’s easy to spot an Untamed Entrepreneur. They will first to the top of the mountain and first in the bar"
synonyms: N/A

Why I Am Writing This Ramble

Finding ones purpose, pursuing ones dreams, and living a life on ones own terms, are three of the narratives I champion with the most vigour.

Ever since my own self-analysis led me to major life-changing realisations -and the opportunity to achieve all three- I have been on a mission to help others do the same.

My default setting is to help anyone who asks for it -and many who don’t. My business mentor on the other hand, fights a constant battle to keep me focused on my niche.

In homage to him and his discipline I shall therefore focus this Ramble on said niche. My favourite audience. The people to whom I can most relate and thus provide the most effective help.

I am speaking of course about the Untamed Entrepreneurs of this world.

During the last 10 years of my life, I have lived two extremes. Five years ruining my body, liver and wallet in Whistler, followed by five years of career focus, fiscal responsibility and a diligent approach to health when living in Australia (I told you we don't do half measures).

Whilst ultimately, neither lifestyle was sustainable, one was true to my natural personality and one was not.

Whilst living in Whistler, whether I was ski instructing, plumbing or partying, I was surrounded by like-minded people and encouraged to be myself. Retreating within my shell would have served no purpose.

At the time I took it for granted but after five years in Perth working in a proper job and taking life more seriously, I soon realized I had been on a pretty good wicket back in BC.

Upon reflecting on my time in Perth, I have learned some pretty valuable lessons. It is these lessons I wish to share with you fellow Untamed Entrepreneurs.

In doing so I hope to shorten your route to finding your purpose, passions and a life on your own terms.

Re-Framing Weaknesses and The Importance of Self-Awareness

Perhaps the single biggest turning point in my path to self-discovery was when I realized I had spent years perceiving some of my biggest strengths, as weaknesses.

Whilst a lack of self awareness ultimately allows these types of misunderstandings to prevail: society, and the manner in which it consistently misconceives strengths and weaknesses must cop a lot of the blame.

In Australia -whilst I value every minute of my time spent with the company- I was ultimately working in the wrong industry, in the wrong role, serving the wrong people.

To make it more relatable and hopefully more useful I will quickly breakdown all three aspects and explain their misalignment.

Firstly, lets look at my role. I was managing a small business. This meant paying attention to small details and getting bogged down by day to day operations. Neither of which I enjoy.

Secondly, the industry -mining. A large, antiquated industry reluctant to embrace change and more concerned with risk mitigation than innovation. Not ideal stomping ground for the young and hungry looking to try new things.

Lastly, the people I served. When one works in an industry with the characteristics described above, two things can happen. You either stay true to your beliefs and spend everyday frustrated, or you give up, fit in and become part of the fabric.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the old timers I dealt with were in the latter camp. They were tired, unmotivated and spent most of their time in meetings, finding ways to avoid risk and complicate the system in an attempt to justify their own existence.

It is not hard to see how my personality was at odds with my situation. I would spend meetings ‘playing the game’, pretending I cared about the latest iron ore price, rather than taking the piss out the hair of the old git I was talking to.

Occasionally I would misread the situation and go all in with a joke or two. They rarely went down well. It got even worse when beers were involved!

The Best Time Is Now

I tell you all this because I want to help those who find themselves in similar situations.

It took me five years to realise the problem was not with me, but my environment. I was convinced that this was all part of growing up and working in a proper job.

Gone were the carefree days of Whistler and turning up for work still shit faced to unblock someones drain. This is what working life looked like for adults.

My conscience was convinced this was the reality and my environment supported it.

Thank fully, I realized my situation and got myself out. The longer I had stayed in, the harder this change would have been - there is every chance I could have ended up like my embittered peers in the industry.

And now, I want to do the same for you.

The Most Commonly Misperceived Strengths

So, as someone with a larger-than-life personality and adventurous nature; what perceived weaknesses do you possess and how can they be turned into a strength?

Here is a list of what I believe to be the 8 biggest misunderstandings of an Untamed Entrepreneur.

The Most Commonly Misperceived Strengths of the Untamed

Perceived Weakness Actual Strength
Can’t focus on one task or project until completion Best at getting new projects up and running
Moves too quickly, others can’t keep up Has energy others can’t match
Speaks mind too much. Quick with opinions Always trusted to give honest answer. People know where they stand
Not serious enough at work, always attempting to entertain Best motivators. Great at engaging people and creating an enjoyable atmosphere
Talks too much Best communicators/salesmen/advocates
Lacks attention to detail. Often misses small things Great at seeing the bigger picture whilst not getting bogged down in details
Divides opinion. Either liked or loathed Doesn’t waste time and energy appealing to everyone. Friendships created are long lasting
Requires specific environment to thrive Can outperform all others in correct environment

Do any of those resonate with you?

How have you -and others around you- labelled these characteristics?

Have you ever re-framed them in this way before?

Don’t Change Yourself, Change Your Environment

The phrase ‘one mans trash is another mans treasure’ springs to mind. The notion that if your energetic personality is viewed as a weakness by those around you, it simply means you’re in the wrong crowd.

Rather than change who you are in order to fit in, change your surroundings. There’s a business or marketplace out there craving someone with your positive outlook, dynamism and ceaseless enthusiasm.

As I mentioned in my last Ramble, when you find this place, magic happens. This where you truly begin to add value and start having fun.

If my story, or the aspects listed in the table above bare a resemblance to your situation, I implore to re-frame what you may view as weaknesses.

I encourage you to view your role in society, and the business world, differently: to realise that every trait you possess can be reframed and used as leverage to add more value.

Look around, find the people and the markets that want what you have and continue to be yourself.

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Find a job that matches your passions

Work Life Alignment – The Reasons Why Your Work Should Be an Extension of You

Is This Ramble For You?

Let me get one thing straight before I even start.  This Ramble is for those who are looking for happiness and fulfilment in all aspects of their lives and who value the role that work plays in achieving this.

If you view work as merely a vehicle via which to makes ends meet and disregard it as a primary source of enjoyment and pleasure, then this is not for you.

What Is Work Life Alignment?  The Simple Version

If I was to boil it down to one sentence, the Work Life Alignment can be described as ‘the proximity between ‘the work you’ and ‘the real you’.

You in your most natural state vs you at work (whoops, that’s two sentences).

What Is Work Life Alignment?  A Little More Detail

The real you is made up of your: passions, purpose, interests, character, strengths, weaknesses, wants and needs.

It is you in your most natural, unfiltered state.

The work you on the other hand, is you in your work state.  The decisions you make; the way you act and the tasks you perform, whilst at work.

I am not breaking any ground when I suggest that being in ones natural state and being happy are inextricably linked.

Factor in that many of us spend over 50% of our waking hours working and it stands to reason that the closer to the real you, you can get whilst at work, the happier you will be?!

Admission Is The First Step

How to become an entrepreneur

The first step is doing something many people never want to do, or even think to do.   Self-analysis.

Grinder profile aside, have you ever actually written down the components of your character?  Have you ever stopped to think what your purpose is, what you’re good at and what you’re truly passionate about?

I’m sure you’ve spent time mentally analysing each in isolation but never produced an exhaustive list, tying them all together?

Similarly, have you ever critically assessed the extent to which these are reflected in your cur

rent work situation and the effect this has on your happiness?

Without honest self-reflection, the path to alignment is a tough one.

How Is My Alignment Measured?

Establishing your alignment in detail is one of the aspects of my mentoring programme.  Done right, it can take time and a fair bit of thought.

Amongst other things it involves taking my ‘Work Like Alignment Review’ test.  Only when you’ve finished reading of course.

For the sake of this Ramble however I have extracted a couple of the key questions and listed them below to provide a quick dry run for you to do now.

Simply answer the following and mark out of 10 how true each statement is (10 being completely true):

  • My work role and the tasks I perform make the most of my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses
  • I am passionate about the work I perform and proud to tell people about my role
  • I am able -and encouraged- to be myself when working and don't have to act like someone I’m not
  • My company/business and I share a similar mission and purpose

Common Misalignments

What was your score for the those 4 questions?  Where did you drop points? 

Here are some common misalignments which may help stimulate some realisations:

  • You are at odds with your company’s purpose 
  • The industry you serve expects a certain type of behaviour which is contrary to how you naturally behave
  • You are amazing with people but spend most of your days working with a laptop behind the scenes 
  • You crave variety but your work life is rigid and monotonous
  • You are someone who comes up with 10 new ideas a day but gets criticized for not focusing on one thing at a time 

These are just a few examples.

My Story

As an example, my own work misalignment stemmed from the disconnect between the way I was expected to act around clients and suppliers of the engineering company I managed, and my default behaviour setting. 

My immature sense of humour, direct approach and a strong desire to not take myself very seriously were in stark contrast to the stuffed shirts I interacted with on a daily basis.    

I was constantly acting within myself and dampening my natural personality.  For me, this was not a sustainable way to live.  I needed to change my environment to one which emphasized these tendencies, rather than suppressed them.

Common Myths

For years however I was unaware this was even a possibility…

‘Surely you’re meant to be serious at work?’…’Isn’t dealing with boring people at work just part of the job?’

These were assumptions I lived by and they held me back from uncovering the true happiness one can derive from work.

The sad truth is that these myths -and the misalignments they produce- are commonplace amongst employees throughout the world.

Do you see similarities in my story? 

If you’re a bit of a dickhead like me, I am here to tell you it’s OK.  There is a place for you to not only survive, but thrive…it’s just a matter of finding the right fit.

Business Mentoring

Removing The Shackles

The problem is that many people generally agree that work can provide joy and satisfaction but are yet to be fully convinced that finding a job exactly matching their skills and personality is actually possible.

Many people who are moderately happy in their work -and aware of this-  are held back by the belief that this is a good as it gets.

I am here to shake this myth; to issue a rallying cry to the doubters and the nay sayers. 

Your work can -and SHOULD- be an extension of you!

When it is…magic happens!

The Dangers of Pursuing Passions

I should make it clear, I am not one of these dreamland residents who believes that simply finding ones passions and blindly pursuing them, is the correct path to follow.

To promote something so simplified is ill-conceived and reckless.   A market needs to exist first.

What I do believe is that for the Untamed out there, creating your own concept and tailoring it around the real you is the most effective way of narrowing your work life alignment and achieving happiness. 

For more on the idea of creating your own concept, check out another Ramble The Modern Way of Working Pt 1 and Part II.

Pursue passions

What Is The Cost of Misalignment?

Unbeknownst to many, living a misaligned life has numerous negative implications, beyond that of ones happiness levels. 

The following symptoms often prevail when a gulf between the work you and the real you exists.  The greater the gulf, the greater the effects.

  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling drained at the end of a work day
  • Lack of clear identity
  • Lack of confidence at work
  • Lack of engagement
  • Lack of productivity
  • Lack of fulfilment
  • Lack of satisfaction
  • Reduced happiness

Any of these sound familiar? 

At the risk of sounding dramatic, a large misalignment is like leading two separate lives.  Barring the odd superhero example, this rarely goes well. 

Come to think of it, even they suffer from the strain.  If Batman struggles to find the energy to maintain two identities, what makes you think you can?

The End Result?

Only by establishing our identity and thoroughly analysing our present situation, can we begin to understand the basic components our dream business needs to possess.

Upon conducting my own review, I soon realized that no job existed that was aligned closely enough with my strengths, passions and interests to bother pursuing…I decided to create my own.

My work is now almost exactly aligned with who I am, and what I am best at.  I work harder now than ever but it neither feels like work, nor drains me of energy. 

I love my daily interactions and rather than hiding from my natural tendencies, my business is shaped by them!

It all started with an honest self assessment about where I stood and what I really wanted. 

I urge you to do the same.

Work Life Alignment Review Test

To take the full test and establish your work life alignment, click here.


Sources

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Escape the rat race

The Modern Way Of Working – Part II

6 Ways To Reduce Work/Life Misalignment

The way I see it, the reason any of us feel dissatisfied, bored, demotivated or unfulfilled in our work is down to a misalignment.  A misalignment between what you’re good at, what you consider enjoyable, worthwhile and purposeful; and what you're actually engaged in/paid to do. 

The bigger the gap between the two, the more dissatisfied you’ll be.

Thank fully, there are many different ways one can make changes in their life to align their work more closely with their strengths and passions.

In fact I have identified 6, listed here in order of risk and reward:

  1. Adjust current role - ‘Job Crafting’
  2. Change roles within current company
  3. Change companies
  4. Become freelance
  5. Start your own company using existing concept
  6. Create a concept

As you can see, of these 6, some are simple requiring only minor tweaks to your existing situation.  As we move down the list however, more and more commitment and effort is required for successful execution.

It is number 6 I will be discussing here.  The riskiest but most rewarding of all: ‘create a concept’.

Wipe the Slate Clean

This idea centres on effectively wiping the slate clean and designing your work-life from based around you.    

Ask any sculptor whether they would rather create a masterpiece out of someone else’s half-finished creation, or a fresh lump of clay and we all know the answer.

Working a role who's job description was written by someone else, alongside colleagues recruited by someone else and for clients amassed by someone else, is the vocational equivalent of being handed a half finished statue and told to ‘work with what you’ve got’.

When working within a system designed by someone else, long before they even met you, what are the chances that it will closely align with your personality and abilities?  Slim.

Even the most flexible of working systems will ignore some of your greatest abilities and demand focus on your weaknesses.

Now imagine being given a fresh lump of clay, a nice clean slate, a blank canvas, or any other artistic metaphors you can think of.  Now imagine crafting a role based entirely around you, your gifts, your passions and your interests.

Imagine never having to pretend to be someone you're not.  Imagine realizing that what you thought were your biggest weaknesses, were actually your biggest strengths and that you could become the author of your own narrative? 

Find Your Flow

Think back to times when you were in your element -or ‘the zone’ if you're American -and remember how good that felt.  How quickly the time passed and how energized you felt afterwards.  Now imagine being in this state most of the time.

All this is possible if you take the leap and design your work life around you!  I know because I did it.

From dispassionately managing an engineering company, I wiped the slate clean and started afresh.  I critically analyzed my strengths, interests and passions and, over time, designed a whole new business around them.  A business that would make full use of my unique make-up and allow me to fulfil my potential.

To give you a quick idea of what I’m talking about I have listed these below and described how I am now engaging with them on a daily basis.

Passions and Interests

Current Engagement

Desire to help people

Coaching/mentoring on a daily basis

Love of all things entrepreneurial

Mentoring those who wish to become entrepreneurs

Craving for freedom and variety

Every client, every session and every day is different.

Travelling and working on our own agenda

Love of travel and adventure

Living a nomadic lifetsyle with my partner Kim, moving between the most spectacular places in the world

Love of talking

I now get paid for it

Strengths

Current Engagement

Communicating/interacting with people

My role is based on this

Helping people

My role is based on this

Self awareness

Understanding who I am enables me to know who I am able to help

Seeing the big picture

Analyzing my own journey that led to this point

I could go on but won't for fear of sounding sanctimonious.  I do hope you get my point though.

The point is, my previous role, however much autonomy I thought I had, wasn’t very aligned with the left-hand column above.  The longer this situation continued, the more disengaged, unhappy and unfulfilled I would become.

The same could be happening to you but without taking a long hard look at the situation, it is often hard to see. 

There’s Room For Everyone

The biggest obstacle preventing most of you from turning your current situation on it’s head and designing your own work life is in fact, your limiting beliefs. 

In my experience, these limiting beliefs stem from the idea that there is no value in your story or the skills you bring to the table.  That you are simply one of the herd and no more special than the next person.

Without turning this into a motivational rant, I am here to tell you that this is simply not true and that everyone has the potential to add their unique value to the marketplace.  It’s merely a matter of finding the right place in the market and the best vehicle to deliver it.

This statement has never more been more true than right now.  The world is changing rapidly and it’s dragging the workplace with it.

No Time Like The Present

An aging population, new technologies and environmental crises are all having impacts on the job market.

Industries that didn’t even exist 10 years ago now employ millions of people worldwide. 

App devlepers, driverless car engineers, drone pilots and professional e-sports players are just a few examples of entirely new ways to make money.

This rapid rise in new forms of income is only just beginning.  According to The World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary school now, will ultimately end up working in jobs that are yet to be created!


The trick is to look past the stagnant mainstream labour markets listed on sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn.  If you limit yourself to the mainstream, you’ll end up being mainstream.  Think new and think niche.

For every product that’s invented, macro trend that’s established or industry that’s disrupted, there is a myriad of opportunities created off their back. 

Traditional work sector dividing lines are becoming blurred meaning unique hybrid businesses and skill sets are not just accepted, but welcomed. 

Allied to this, the barriers to entry into this dynamic new market are lower than ever.  New technologies, crowd funding, access to information and availability of valuable resources mean it has never been easier to create, test, market and deliver a new concept.

Last night I chatted to a gentleman who had grown tired of the rigid structure imposed by the ad agency he worked for back in his native Poland.

His previous company had pigeon holed him into repetitive graphic design projects affording him minimal creative license.  He realized that his craving for variety coupled with his strong personal interest in marketing provided a foundation on which a unique concept could be crafted.

He carved his own niche and now spends his life travelling the world designing bespoke branding and complete marketing strategies for businesses.  He engages in both the hands on graphic design work, the strategic thinking and the implementation of his clients marketing concepts. 

A unique work-life design that built entirely around him and his story.

An Open Invite

The fundamental concept behind creating your own concept is to take two  our morepreviously separated sectors and create your own new one, most aligned with your skills and interests.  It’s as simple as that. 

The common mistake most people make is to hear stories about what people like Richard Branson or Elon Musk have done and assume you need to be some sort of modern day superhero to play the game.

Whilst admiring what these amazing people have done and seeking inspiration and guidance from their achievements is a recommended strategy, it often leads to a sense of worthlessness by comparison.

Making these comparisons is dangerous.  It can single handedly quash any dreams you may be cultivating, and is to avoided at all costs.

The fact of the matter is, with a small amount of money; some creative thinking; a dose of confidence in your own abilities and good old fashioned work ethic, the dream of fulfilling your potential and living your passions and purpose is available to many.

Life is too short to pass the time, unfulfilled in a role that doesn’t make full use of our talents.

Look around and realize the opportunities that are out there.  Analyse your situation. 

If your talents are being restricted by a pre-determined structure, designed by someone else and misaligned with your strengths and passions, now is the time to take the first steps to designing your own life and write your own story.

Sources

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Escape 9-5

The Modern Way Of Working – Part I

Part I

Preface:

Before I get into this Ramble I’d like to clarify something. The below theories are generic and applied in wide brush strokes to inherently complex subjects.
Discussions around macro topics such as generational differences will always disregard countless exceptions and no doubt as you read this, you will know of many. I certainly do.
For brevities sake however, I had to take a big picture view and keep the details light on! I hope you enjoy.

Maslow Was Onto Something

The idea of pursuing a life of purpose and meaning is one which has grown some serious legs in recent years. As millennials -us lot born between 1980-2000- begin to dominate the workplace, the old notions of what a ‘J-O-B’ represents, are being ushered out and replaced by a fresh new set of beliefs.

“Works work” and “work is not meant to be fun”, were both central pillars of the Baby boomers and, to a lesser extent Gen X’s thinking for over 50 years.

However, as any psychologist -or parent for that matter- will tell you, the more one gets, the more one wants. 50 years ago, kids were delighted to be given a jam sandwich for Christmas, nowadays an Xbox with only one controller is taken as some kind of punishment.

Spoilt gits aside, the concept of never being satisfied can be applied to anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time.
Let’s look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs to help illustrate my point.

Work with purpose
Image: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Whilst his theory was designed to be applied to human motivations as a whole, employment plays such a significant role in our overall motivations, that it can be taken in isolation and still be a relevant analysis.

The Evolution of Employment

As recently as the 1960’s, a job was generally excepted only to provide the basic human needs of food, water and shelter. If it put bread on the table, it was good enough, regardless of the hours, duties, monotony or health implications.

Fast forward a couple of decades. With those demands met, psychological needs came into the equation. People began turning to the workplace to provide relationships and a sense of belonging. The job title, or description were yet to come into play but people wanted more than just any old job.

Then came the 1980’s and the Yuppies. As the world transitioned from an industrial economy to a information economy, it changed the employment landscape and gave rise to a new breed of worker, hungry for more.

Suddenly it was all about the pursuit of prestige and personal achievement. Flash suits, a company car and a posh title represented success and a job well done. Often, the credibility of the job was as important as the work itself.

Of course this was not the first time humans had expressed a desire to be recognized or feel a sense of accomplishment but it was the first time that it was an achievable goal for the masses.

Our Own Office Is No Longer Enough

And now we find ourselves on the cusp of the next level of Maslow’s human needs, self-actualisation.

A pay cheque, healthy relationships, company laptop and the word ‘manager’ in our title, are no longer enough to satisfy us. We’re now on the hunt for something deeper and more meaningful.

A Little Aside
A desire to seek purpose and fulfilment through work is limited not just to millennials. As Bill Burnett from Stanford University points out, baby boomers all over the world are now searching for what he calls an “encore career” to provide them with the sense of purpose that eluded them throughout their working lives.

Where was I? Ah yes, millennials have been raised on the idea that we can make of ourselves what we want. That the world is our lobster and we need only tap into our talents, to achieve amazing things.

As is hopefully quite apparent from previous Ramblings, I am firmly in this camp. In fact I live by it…literally.

The Search Is Getting Harder

I do however realize the implications this self-confidence and expectation has on our job satisfaction. It has essentially raised the bar of what we consider a ‘good job’ and made our quest for happiness in the workplace that much harder.

Think about it. Back when i-phone was still a verb, any old job was enough. How else can the clamouring for work down the carbon-monoxide-rich mines in 1960’s Britain be explained?

Nowadays, it’s a different story of course. For a company to truly appeal to many in the modern workforce it must serve a greater purpose, provide opportunities for personal growth, allow freedom of expression and imbue it’s employees with a sense of self-worth.

And rightly so in my view. We work for around 80,000 hours in our lifetime -a figure that is increasing rapidly as we live longer and save less. That’s way too much time to spend feeling unfulfilled or pretending to be someone you’re not.

Whether you agree with me or not, millions of people do and are finding it increasingly hard to achieve true happiness in their jobs.

You’re Looking In the Wrong Place

The main reason for this? You’re looking in the wrong place!

The way the modern workforce view their working life may be changing fast, but the marketplace as a whole is not.

Pioneering companies like Google, Facebook and Airbnb aside, the majority of organizations simply cannot keep pace with the rapidly evolving expectations of it’s workers.

Institutions, governments and large non-tech corporations are the biggest culprits but they're by no means alone. For now, employers who pay genuine attention to the emotional needs of their staff and put measures in place to ensure they’re addressed, are the exception, not the rule.

With this in mind, if you're conducting your search in such places, you will likely be left bitterly disappointed.

The Solution

Fear not young cohorts, I am here yet again to offer a suggestion.

But first, a caveat if I may.

This suggestion will only provide value to those who:

  • Feel unfulfilled in their current situation
  • Firmly believe they have more to give
  • Want to tailor their work around their passions and strengths
  • Can tolerate a bit if risk
  • Are ready to commit to making drastic changes in order to make it happen

If the above criteria apply to you and you REALLY ARE ready to make the necessary changes in order to pursue your purpose and fulfil your potential, then please read Part II of this Ramble.

Sources

https://www.google.co.th/search?q=maslow%27s+hierarchy+of+needs&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiCmfeC8bnTAhXFp48KHZUBCx8Q_AUIBigB&biw=1440&bih=775#imgrc=YekJpXlxRIRUuM:

About

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road to wealth

The Grass is Actually Greener

Check Your Birth Certificate - You May Have a Problem

Are you under the age of 35 and love travelling? If so, you have likely faced an issue many older folk didn’t even know existed.

How many of you have embarked on long term travel, living it up in some of the worlds most exotic places for six plus months?

How many of you then became clinically fed up when you returned to the real world and went back to work? Back to the daily grind, the office cubicle and the bitter co-workers who couldn’t care less about your vagabonding adventures. Horrible huh?

A quick count please, of those of you who had the misfortune of going through this emotional ordeal, how many of you began planning your next trip 18 seconds after you got home? Furiously creating a daily budget and calculating how long it will take your annual leave balance to build back up…it makes for grim reading doesn’t it?

Then comes the chat with the boss. How long do you have to wait before you can ask them for another huge chunk of time off? A couple of weeks should be enough shouldn’t it? Yeah that seems fair. You’ll work extra hard in that time won’t you?

Shit, is it still only 10am on your first day back? Maybe you can just quit and ask your parents for a loan? Yes, that’s the best course. They’ll understand, they must have gone through something similar? Right?

Modern Times - Modern Problems

But Did They? Not likely. The truth is, back then only the most free spirited or wealthy undertook the kind of adventures we post 1980’ers consider our divine right.

Back then, when everything was brown and hair was enormous, seeing so much of the world was limited to wandering hippies in camper vans and James Bond. In the ‘real world’, it wasn’t feasible.

But why?

Lot’s of reasons. Firstly, job mobility was low. People spent entire lifetimes working for one or two companies. If you had a sizeable gap in your CV, your chances of re-entering the workforce at a decent level were slim.

Secondly, pre TripAdvisor and Google Maps, venturing into unknown lands was sodding hard work and required much bigger balls than now. Every bar, cafe, hotel and tour had not been reviewed 372 times by eager beavers keen to journal their every move.

Added to this, prices were higher, disposable income was lower, accommodation -especially in the developing world- was sparse, the English language wasn’t as widely spoken and there were few people you could ask for advice.

People’s reality was very different back then. I am generalizing of course (it’s easier that way and requires less research), but in the main, you were considered exotic if you spent 2 weeks in Spain.

Spain…Just Wasn't The Same

The silver lining in this brown, travel-less world? That’s easy. Not having to go through the torture of dipping your toe into the life of your dreams, only to return to grim reality when the money runs out.

Any oldies out there…you think you had it tough…? Two weeks in the Costa Del Sol, drinking San Miguel and eating deep fried calamari, was not the same.

It was too short a time to become engrossed in the lifestyle or to get a proper taste of what a life with endless sunshine and no work on Monday was like.

Six months however, is a different kettle of ball games. This is ample time to get used to a life of waking up with mountains on the horizon one day and clear blue waters of a tropical island the next.

For anyone who thinks returning to a 9-5 after two weeks in the Med was tough, imagine the slap in the face after 12 months of this reality escape?

But Seriously

Joking aside, the effect this exposure has on the younger generations is not to be ignored.

Never before have so many people witnessed what life on the other side of the fence is like. Never before have an entire generation had the option of wrestling between prioritizing a career and travelling the world; saving for a flat in the city vs saving for a 6 week yoga retreat in Nepal.

The choice is a tough one and it’s staring many a young traveller in the face.

Without much thought, I could name 5-10 friends who are going through this exact dilemma as I type (the surprise of course, being that I have 5-10 friends). I have seen first hand the dialogue they have with themselves and others.

What makes it harder to contend with, is that nearly all of them are degree qualified. The prospect of a good salary and comfortable living is a realistic one. But so too is working a mid-level job for just long enough to be able to afford the bucket list adventure.

The Untamed Entrepreneur To The Rescue

Fear not, everyone, I have a solution.

First we have to look at the cause. As is so often the case, the issue is caused by a lack of commitment.

I am very much an ‘all or nothing’ type person. One only has to look at the contrasting phases of my adult life (discussed so eloquently in the About Me page of this site), to see this.

The way I see it, if you’re going to do something, damn well do it properly. Half committing to two activities, undermines both.

Take riding the train through the mountains of Japan whilst trying to write a blog as a perfect example. By doing this, not only am I missing the beautiful scenery, but I am writing a shit blog. See my point?

Commit Fully Or Not At All

The same principle can be applied to living the life of your dreams exploring the wonders of the world vs fully focusing on your career and earning a good salary.

Try both and you will likely falter. You will spend half your time feeling guilty for wasting your education and the other half wishing you were wasting your education.

If you love travel that much and spend every waking hour wishing it was a permanent state, then make it happen. Find a way of turning your talents into income and work as you go.

Don’t think you have talents worthy of supporting a life on the road? Bollocks! You do, you just haven’t dug deep enough to find them yet.

Call To Action

I started this Ramble making an entirely different point but ended up getting sidetracked into a little rant. I’m glad I did.

It was supposed to be an insightful article about modern workforces but it morphed into a call to action to anyone with whom this article resonated. If this is a situation you find yourself in, ask yourself honestly: do I want it enough to make it happen? If so, commit fully and you will never regret it.

If by any chance you read this and want to take the leap but aren’t quite sure how, get in contact with me or sign up to my mailing list where I share free tools and resources for finding your inner genius and learning how to monetize it.

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Living around the world

The Pursuit of Happiness – Japanese Style

Strolling the late night streets of Tokyo last week I couldn't help noticing the high volumes of suit-clad local businessmen still out and about and very much in work mode.  Whether busying away in their brightly lit offices, or discussing the days events with their colleagues in a nearby restaurant, work was their primary focus.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.  The Japanese work ethic is no secret and it's not unusual for businessmen and women -although predominantly men- to work 60+ hours a week.

This got me thinking.  Over the past 18 months I have been relentlessly researching what makes people tick.  Not only what gets people out of bed in the morning, but what makes leap out with a smile on their face.

Expand Horizons

My experience however has so far been confined to the countries with which I am most familiar -namely the UK, Australia and North America.  What about other leading nations?  Does the same recipe apply in other countries with cultures very different from our own, such as the quirky island nation of Japan?

Well, I’m here for 6 weeks so what better time to dig deeper into what drives this curious country and learn more of their approach to pursuing happiness.

The Facts

Lets start with some context.  Japan is the world's 3rd largest economy.  Its population of 127m has the world's highest life expectancy, the 3rd lowest infant mortality rate, a bunch of the world's top tech and auto companies and is one of the most educated in the world.

So all rosy then?  Let’s look a little further.

Childhood - The Happiest Times Of Our Lives?

The culture in Japan is both clearly defined and relatively unique.  In a shrinking world characterized by overlapping cultures and a blurring of the geographic lines, Japan remains relatively steadfast in it’s customs and long-standing beliefs.

From an early age children are taught the values of hard work, pride, loyalty and honour.  Expectations to achieve are high and the associated pressures from family, friends and society are great.  

Clearly defined visions and intense discipline bring benefits and risk in equal measure.  As most of us know, in a natural world, children and structure are seldom found hand-in-hand.  It is commonly accepted in the west that a child’s happiness is achieved through freedom of expression and the acceptance of trial and error as an inevitable aspect of learning.

In the main, both concepts seem to be conspicuous by their absence in Japan and by the time children reach young adulthood, a definitive path for their life has already been paved.  Trial and, more tellingly, it's partner in crime, error, are not part of the narrative.

A stark illustration of the pressures placed on young people here the fact that suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 10-19.  Expand that to include adults and the figures are frightening.  In 2014, 25,000 people took their own lives.  That's 60% above the global average! School and work related pressures were attributed to the majority of cases.

What about Careers?

As was the case with western nations only a generation ago, albeit a less clear-cut version, there is a well known career hierarchy.  Big corporations are still very much the holy grail, followed by a career as a bureaucrat and then teaching. (http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-japan-entrepreneurs-20150329-story.html).

Also, as with the western world in a bygone era, job mobility here is low.  Unless something drastic happens, you have a job for life -in the middle to upper echelons at least.  Loyalty to the company is everything and jumping between roles is neither easy or socially acceptable.

But what if your interests or circumstances change a few years in?  Surely being bound to one company in a role you may no longer enjoy must impact your happiness?

To add insult to injury, if discontent does set it -and let’s face it, in most cases it’s a matter of when, not if- one cannot simply pass the time, taking the path of least resistance until retirement. 

No, company loyalty and pride in ones work are too strong a pulls for this to be allowed.

I must add, this approach does have it’s benefits.  Never before have I been anywhere with such insanely high standards of customer service, cleanliness or quality.  Everything is done with impeccable care and attention and even the act of buying a snack from a convenience store is a lesson in etiquette and service.  It puts the UK to shame on this front.

Back to my point, loyalty in Japan is most commonly demonstrated by working all hours, socialising with colleagues after work and not using up holiday allowances.

For those of you who don’t see anything abnormal in this approach to a job, be aware, you are most likely more driven and proactive than the average Joe.  In Japan however, this approach is the rule, not the exception. 

Entrepreneurship

My particular vehicle for the pursuit of happiness, amongst other things, is through entrepreneurship.  For me, entrepreneurship provides the greatest flexibility to engage ones passions regularly whilst simultaneously leading a life of purpose and riches.

When the figures are assessed, this theory seems to hold water.  Upon comparing the UN’s 2017 World Happiness Report (http://worldhappiness.report/) and Virgin’s 2016 study into the worlds most entrepreneurial countries (https://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/most-entrepreneurial-nations-2016-revealed), the same 6 countries appear in the top 10 on both lists!*

According to the Virgin study, and many similar, one of the key characteristics of a country with high levels of entrepreneurship is freedom of opportunity.

To me, freedom of opportunity demonstrates a power of choice and the ability to pursue a life tailored to you and your interests.  It goes beyond metrics like availability of capital and access to markets, into less tangible social aspects such as societal acceptance, attitudes towards failure and family support that together creates an environment conducive to leading a life on your own terms.

So where does Japan rank on both fronts?  It doesn’t look good I'm afraid.  In 2012 the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor put Japan in last place out of 24 developed nations for entrepreneurial activity. 

Additionally, in the U.S. and Britain, one in ten companies is a start-up; in Japan it's one in twenty (http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-japan-entrepreneurs-20150329-story.html).  These are just two out of many stats painting the same picture. 

And happiness?  It gets worse.  Japan came in a lowly 51st position out of the 155 surveyed.  To put it into context, that’s lower than Kuwait, Uzbekistan and Nicaragua!

I guess I’m not alone in thinking that living by the rules and expectations of others is no way to truly enjoy life?  That by diligently following a pre-determined route, carved out by social norms and family expectations, does not lead to contentment?

Not Environment Again?

There is of course more to life than work.  What about holidays?  If you’re aspiring to reach the top, forget it.  Japan is second only to the USA in it’s stinginess towards holiday allowances (10 days annually).  If you take them all however, you can forget about that promotion.

Silver lining?  They do have 16 public holidays…but none of them are paid.

What about my old favourite -environment?  Family, friends and social interactions are crucial in determinants of happiness. 

According to the co-author of the aforementioned UN study, the common thread linking the happy countries is their sense of community.  That oh-so-important human factor I discussed in a previous blog post

When things aren’t going right on an individual, local, or even national level, having a supportive environment with common interests, is key. 

It appears this is sorely missing in Japan.  A culture of reticence has pervaded Japan for hundreds of years.  Raising issues and bringing problems, such as unhappiness, to light would show weakness and is something to be avoided.

Time To Loosen Up?

So what of the future?  Will the country embrace the increasingly popular western approach towards educational, professional and entrepreneurial freedom?  Will it discard the antiquated career hierarchy that passively, yet powerfully, dictates the course of a persons life?  And will it realize the value in just letting people do what the hell they like and enjoy themselves?  After all, taking risks and breaking the mould is what transformed the country from a small island nation, defeated in WWII, to a world powerhouse in a few short years!

Ultimately I am not here to suggest how an entire nation should approach life, nor am I qualified.  There are people far better placed to pass comment.

No, I just want to learn everything I can about living a fun life, filled with purpose and passion.

Whilst Japan has both taught and humbled me in equal measure, simultaneously displaying incredible generosity and intelligence, I can’t help feeling they could all benefit from loosening up a little. 

By removing the shackles and doing what they really love, not what others think they should do…they might just be happier for it!

*The 6 countries are: Canada, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and Switzerland.

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Live the life of my dreams

Wealth Does Not Equal Happiness – The Benefit of Hindsight

No Shit Sherlock

I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before, I can hear you’re ironic cries from here. 

Please hear me out.  This is not just some re-hashed article about a theory that has been publicized ad-nauseam in self development circles…OK well maybe it is but please read on.  I feel I am better qualified than most to discuss this topic -not that that usually stops me!

One Town - One Enormous Disparity

The handful of people who have read the ‘About Me’ section on my website will know that I used to live in Whistler.   

For those unaware, Whistler is a ski resort in British Columbia, Canada.  It is where I cut my teeth as a properly independent adult once my University ‘studies’ were over.  It is also like few other places on earth…for many reasons.

As usual however, for this Ramble I will discuss only one…the disparity of wealth between the local and the tourist; the helpers and the helped; the risk takers and the Risk Managers.

A financial gap between tourist and local is nothing new -we’ve all been on holiday and seen first hand the contrasting fortunes of the two.  However, in the western world this is a far less common occurrence, not least in such a concentrated way.

I must point out right now, that in no way am I suggesting the difference in overall well-being of a college educated Whistler ski-bum and the tourist they are serving beer to is comparable to that of a local worker in the developing world and the western traveller.

Why Is It So?

I put this gap down to a few reasons:

  1. The proliferation of gap years and world travel for pre or post University graduates means that resort towns everywhere are being inundated by low net worth youths in search of fun and frolics on an epic scale. 
  2. Tourism/service jobs in the main, do not command high pay.  Factor in the high labour supply mentioned above and there’s no reason why employers would pay more than they need to for their staff. 
  3. Whistler is a long way to travel.  Unlike skiing in Europe where over 700m people are a two hour flight away,  anything less than a 10 day trip for those outside North America in unviable.  This rules out many financially conscious travellers.
  4. Whistler is very expensive -for both the tourists and the locals.  This does two things.  It cripples the locals and, as with the point above, leaves only the financially fit tourist in attendance.
  5. Whistler is so much fun, workers don’t give a shit what they get paid and tourists don’t care what they get charged.

This theory is backed up by the fact that visitors to Whistler account for 85% of consumer spending despite only representing 50% of the towns’ population on a given day (https://www.whistler.ca/business/economic-development-whistler).

A Smile and a G’day

OK, I think I’ve made my point.  Whistler is full of poor workers servicing rich visitors. 

It is safe to assume then that the holiday maker on a two week break from funding hedges would be greeted upon arrival with disdain by an embittered millennial with long hair and no money. 

Not true, well not in one aspect at least…in actual fact, the shaggy haired Australian is delighted to see them and welcomes them with a smile and a chipper tone.  Why?  Because he knows that within 12 hours he will be enjoying the best lines of his life...whatever form those lines come in!

The place is the ultimate playground for the Untamed adventurer.  Passion and energy course through the veins of all who inhabit.  Who cares about sharing a room with four others when the powder is so good? (Snow I mean).   Who cares that the daily wage just about covers a crate of Wild Cat and some pasta and pesto, when awesome parties are on tap every night of the week!

Everyone is living their passion and are damn pleased to do so!

Two Weeks To Unwind 50

And what of the stock broker?  The $300k a year earner who can afford to treat their family to a posh hotel and private ski lessons every day?  Are they as happy as the lifty standing in -10 earning $10/hour? 

In any other world, this wouldn’t even be a question but in the perverse universe that is a ski resort, especially Whistler, the answer generally is no.

Superficially of course they’re delighted to be there.  Delighted to finally enjoy their only holiday of the year.  A break from 15 hour days and the chance to unwind in plush, activity-rich surroundings. 

Dig deeper however and reality is very different.

If You Want To Get To Know Someone, Get Them Pissed

As a ski instructor, I was different from the rest.  Rather than hanging up my boots and spending the night with my peers discussing the best type of ski’s, I preferred the company of the interesting folk I had been teaching all day. 

Once the class was complete I would willingly spend all my wages -and a tiny portion of theirs- in the bar, getting to know them better, sharing stories.

This was the time the truth came out.  3 pitchers of Kokanee in and the tales of stress, overwork and a lack of time off began to surface.  “I wish I had the chance to do what you’re doing” and “it must be great living out here, doing what you love everyday?!” were both common admissions when the lowering of inhibitions allowed it.

Hindsight is 20/20…When You're a Ski Instructor

These daily reminders of the two contrasting life paths served me in two ways.  Firstly it ensured I never took my amazing position for granted: there was not a chance I would leave this lifestyle behind having not made the absolute most of the abundance around me -an abundance that people from all over the world paid thousands to see.

Secondly it provided 20/20 vision as to what might be should I pursue a career based on salary, social status or family pressure. 

Rather than yearning to earn their salaries and be able to afford trips to Whistler two weeks of the year, -as I no doubt would have done in different circumstances- my life was their holiday and I lived it to the fullest, all the while appreciating the relationship between wealth and happiness.

For this I will forever be grateful to the place and all the interesting people I got to meet.

A Viable Life Choice or Merely a Cue?

Hopefully by now you have both realized the theory I am proposing here. 

Whilst living on the ragged edge, both financially and physically, is not sustainable (I lasted five years before the full time shakes set in) there are valuable lessons to be learnt.

Whether you're an entrepreneur relentlessly pursuing growth, or an employee in pursuit of that promotion, think of this tale.  Consider the real reason behind your desires and the possible outcomes.

Will the extra money bring you happiness by affording you more time to engage in your passions?  Will it enable you to spend more time with your family or buy your dream car?  Or will it bring added responsibility, social pressures, stress and workload, taking you further away from genuine happiness than ever before?

There are many drunk holiday makers in Whistler well qualified to answer this one.

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Reaching Your Goals

The Single Biggest Factor In Reaching Your Goals

I have been asked many times, “what is the single most important step I can take in the pursuit of my goals?”.  For me, the answer is always the same: change your environment.

What is ‘My Environment?’

Your environment is the world you inhabit.  It is unique to you.  It is made up of hundreds of aspects of your daily life: things you see, things you hear, things you experience and things you feel.  

Some are obvious and self explanatory, such as your family or partner. Some, such as the Facebook groups you belong to or the radio you listen to, fly under the radar.

In one way or another however, they all combine to create you: your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ultimately your actions.

Here is a snazzy graphic to help you remember the process.   

      THOUGHTS                                     FEELINGS                   ⇒                    BELIEFS                                                 ACTIONS

This Ramble however will focus on only one aspect of our environment.  The aspect I believe to have the single greatest influence on our ability to accomplish our goals!

You’re the Average of the 5 People You Spend The Most Time With

What then -above all else- determines whether we succeed or fail in achieving our goals?  Drum roll please…it is PEOPLE.

Your friends, your colleagues, your clients, your family, your partner, your teammates, your mentor, your favourite singer or even Mrs Jasper from number 23.

These people all have their own sets of beliefs and values and all, to one degree or another will impose them on you. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, ‘you are what you eat’?  I’m sure less of you will have heard its Buddhist counterpart ‘what you think, you become’.

Even the most stubborn amongst us are swayed by the people around us, especially those with whom we spend the most time.  Don’t believe me?  Ask yourself this.

Have you ever:

  • Gone on holiday to a place because friends recommended it?
  • Changed your opinion on someone in line with the views of your peers?
  • Noticed how your usually unfashionable Dad went through a phase of trying to talk or dress more like you and your friends when you were 16 years old?  No?  Just mine then…

Idle Chit Chat or a Deadly Virus?

Whilst the above may be overt and trivial examples, they illustrate the power of our conversations and our instinctive desire to fit in with those who immediately surround us. 

If idle chit chat can influence our opinions on the sports we follow or the shoes we wear, what’s stopping them impact our wider held beliefs on society and our role within it?  What’s stopping them influence our views on wealth; on our career path; or our willingness to stick our neck out and pursue our goals and dreams? 

The answer?  Nothing.  They can and they do…more than most of us ever realise.

The Evidence

Multiple studies have been conducted in recent times that illustrate in a powerful way, the influence people closest to us have on multiple facets of our lives.

Here's a couple of headlines to demonstrate the point:

  • Health - If you have an obese friend your 57% more likely to become obese 
  • Habits - Smokers are more than twice as likely as nonsmokers to have friends or family who smoke 
  • Relationships - If a close acquaintance gets divorced, it increases your likelihood of getting divorced by 75%  

Shocked?  I imagine so.

A Quick Goal Alignment Test

Do you want to have financial freedom and live by your own agenda?  Do you want to spend everyday doing what you love with the people you love, in the places you love?

My guess is, yes.  If so, here’s a quick test -have a think what this goal looks like and share this vision with your 5 closest friends…go on.

What was their response?  If they laughed -and this is going to sound brutal- they are not the friends you should take with you on your path to success and happiness.

Find Those Who Share Your Ambition

The laughter you heard is a reflection of their own limiting beliefs.  They’re own environment has manufactured this belief so consistently it has become their reality.  Why else would such a suggestion be laughable? 

If you REALLY want to make that dream a reality, hang around with those who are on the same path as you.  Who share your enthusiasm for success and are not afraid to think big. 

I'm not expecting you to rush out and immediately make friends with millionaires -although this would be very useful.  No, start simple.  There are plenty of people out there of a similar age, social background and net worth as you who think differently.

Find this lot first.  I guarantee if you had the same conversation with these people, you would get a very different response.  Rather than mockery and derision, you will be greeted with respect, reinforcement and most importantly, support.

How Do I Find Them?

Finding them is easier than you think.  Why?  Because of the very reason this article was written.  They understand the value of their environment and as a result, have sought out each other and created a network that provides support, ideas and accountability.

A little like rats: find one and there will always be 10 more just around the corner.  Unlike rats however, they will be more than happy to introduce you to their network over a beer 🙂

Popular Hunting Grounds

Here are some places most often frequented by such visionaries:

  • Online Entrepreneurs groups
  • Events
  • Seminars/Conferences/Webinars
  • Courses on: leadership, management, finance, sales/marketing
  • Entrepreneurial meet ups
  • Co-working spaces
  • Podcasts, audiobooks and books - e-mail them and ask for a meeting, you’ll be surprised

Now put your money where your mouth is, go out and find them.  Change the inputs and reap the benefits of the outputs, and remember…

       THOUGHTS                                     FEELINGS                   ⇒                    BELIEFS                                                 ACTIONS

BONUS MATERIAL

A Final Tale

I couldn't finish this Ramble without including a story about someone who demonstrates better than anyone, the power of environment.  If my argument so far hasn't been enough to convince you, this will.

My Godfather turns 81 this year.  For as long as he can remember he has hung around with people many years his junior. 

He has done this deliberately.  Why?  He dislikes the thought of being old, finds ‘old people’ boring, believes age to be a state of mind and makes no bones of the fact that he is -as he puts it- ‘growing old disgracefully.’

The results of this life choice?  He ski’s twice a year; works out 4 times a week; is still learning foreign languages; works 3 days a week in a business he still owns shares in; and travels all over the world -he recently visited me in Australia and matched me on an 12 hour drinking session. 

Most staggeringly of all however, he recently featured on UK television where he planked for 25 minutes!!  If you're not familiar with planking, Google it and give it a go.   If you get over 5 minutes first time round, e-mail me!

If this is not the perfect real-life demonstration of the power of your friendship group, I don't know what is!!

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