Be you, be awesome

Do what is right for you.
Follow your heart.
You can do it!

These are a few examples of those crappy standard clichés that we have been told all our lives. Quotes that we’ve seen on motivational posters on the walls of the manager’s office, a doctor’s waiting room, or more recently, sprawled all over the web from your friends and other strangers.

They all sound nice. We share them with our friends, or post them on Twitter (I am completely guilty of this). But until we live these quotes, we won’t truly understand them.

You are fake. I am fake. We live our fake ways to please other people. We don’t need to live this way. You can be you, I can be me, and we can be awesome together.

We go through our lives living for someone else. Our bosses, our clients, our spouse, our children. We are pulled in every direction trying to attend to their whims. At the end of the day, when you lie in your bed at night, you don’t feel you have achieved anything for you. You feel used, trodden on, and ‘fake’.

Being likeable

I used to be a people pleaser, keeping everyone happy, always smiling, never showed that I was vulnerable, or even had a strong opinion. I used to feel stretched before. I would change who I was based on who I was talking to, just to be likeable and nice.

My wife called me out on that a while back, and it caused me to be more aware of who I was and where I was going. I discovered and followed my own values. I began to interact with people in a more consistent manner, a more personal manner. I would voice more of my opinion, schedule more ‘me time’, and simply be me.

Discovering value

The weirdest thing started to happen. People still spoke to me (Shock! Horror!). If anything, people started to trust me, and talk with me more. The more I opened up, the more others would open up to me. The relationships became more meaningful.

When I entered the working world, I was always told you have to look professional, be business-like, and don’t show your personality. Personality is for artists and weirdos.

So I did that. I put on this professional, bulletproof face while at the office, and was a different person when outside of it. It didn’t feel right, but it was what everybody else did, so it must be true.

It took me 10 long years to discover that living like that is not healthy at all. Twofaced, bi-polar, fake – no wonder we all hate going into the office. When we are there we are not ourselves.

Over the years, I slipped the façade a few times. My personality filtered through. It didn’t go down well with the big wigs at the company. A discerning eye, or fend off of the subject would be the order of the day. So, I would patch myself up again and hide who I was.

Be human

As I got older, I became more comfortable with myself, and started to not really give a crap about what other people thought. I showed my weaknesses at the office, I stood up for what I thought was right or wrong, I voiced my opinion. And people started listening.

I am ‘me’ at the office now. I follow my values and stay true to myself. I am still only a lowly team leader in the business world, but I lead my team with me as the leader – not some head honcho uber-manager, but a person. A person with flaws, who makes mistakes, and is simply trying to make this world a better place. I am consistent in who I am between the office, my wife, social media, and this blog.

I am nervous when I post these thoughts to the web, or when I try and help my team members. Sometimes, I even feel like a fraud – like I have no right to give people advice. But, I remain true to myself, and try to genuinely help that person, whatever that advice may be.

Be you

I am writing this story for you, to show you that it is possible. Possible to be yourself and still get where you want to go. You must live and breathe who you are. Your values should get in the way of the company you work for, or the friends you hang out with. You are you, and nobody should stand in your way.

[Featured image: Elias Carlsson]

What World of Warcraft Taught Me About Life

I wasted many years of my life playing role-playing games (RPG’s) like World of Warcraft, Rappelz, or Baldurs Gate. I spent days upon days of my time trying to level up my characters by doing quests, dungeon raids, gathering resources to level up some or other skill or craft.

The wasted hours running from one end of the map to the other, completing quests, or waiting for other people. The wasted hours having to deal with immature people with overrated opinions on how the game should work. The number of wasted hours…were not really wasted.

Now that I’m older and wiser (I hope), I realise that these games can offer a lot to us, and our youth. I learnt a lot from these games, although my focus should not have been on the games, but real life.

First person shooter games can teach us about quick reflexes and co-ordination, while RPG’s teach us about strategy, planning, and working towards a long term goal. Let me elaborate.

You have to work to get what you want

To get anywhere in RPG’s, it takes a lot of time and effort. To reach the next level you have to complete a number of quests. To attain some gold, you need to gather resources to sell. To attain a new skill, you need to gain further experience.

It can get monotonous and boring rather quickly. A quest usually comprises of ‘go kill some monsters and you will get some gold and gear when you get back’. Over many quests, your character gains experience, gold, and skills that allow him to kill larger monsters and craft more intricate gear.

This sounds awfully familiar to our day-to-day lives. We go into work every day, do the same thing, get some money at the end of it. Over time we gain more experience, more money, and more skills. These skills allow us to perform our work better, take on more responsibility, and gain promotions.

There are no easy achievements

When you start a new character, the achievements come thick and fast. Your first kill, your first quest, your first level up. As you progress, though, the quests become longer, with more experience needed to attain the next level.

Somehow you don’t notice it, but all you’re looking at is the next level. It is par for the course that more experience is needed for the next level. You’re bigger, stronger, smarter – it should damn well be harder.

Bringing that back to life. When we start off in a new venture, the achievements come quick – the first piece of code written, the first product made, or the first sale. As you become more proficient, your sights are set further, and you don’t see the small achievements anymore, only the next challenge.

You can’t do everything

While your character moves up in levels during the game, certain skills can be acquired by selecting them from available skill trees. However, there comes a point when the branch on the skill tree splits. You now need to make a choice. Your character can’t do everything. You have to specialise.

Specialising in a skill tree allows certain advantages and disadvantages in battle. You might be quicker on the draw, but have less armour. Or you have more healing ability, but don’t hit as hard. The choice is important, you and your character need to know what you want to be and specialise in it.

The same goes in life. As we’re questing every day, gaining experience, money, and skills, there comes a point where we are required to specialise. How often do you see a jack-of-all-trades person achieving major success? The successful people know their stuff. They have specialised in fewer skills, rather than learning everything.

Take this with you

Even though I do feel I wasted far too much time on these RPG’s, I still believe there are some important life lessons that were learnt. In order to achieve greatness, you need to identify where you need to go, plan for it, and work your ass off to get there.

[Featured image: Flickr user foeck]

Everything Happens For A Reason

Isn’t it amazing how, sometimes, there is a bit too much coincidence in our lives? How one day, something happens that changes our lives forever. That one moment that offered an opportunity to something else, something better.

Many times in my life, my wife and I have been weirded out (for want of a better phrase) by how freaky some of our major life moments have just ‘fallen into place’. How things worked out over here for certain situations to move forward over there.

It is quite humbling to realise that there might be something else at play, controlling your destiny, guiding you to the point where you are meant to be right now. For example, when we decided to emigrate to New Zealand in 2008, we hit one road block after another. The house wouldn’t sell, certain documentation was a hassle, and no prospective job opportunities were presenting themselves. We decided to leave it for the time being. And what a good decision that turned out to be – the global market crashed the very next year.

Fast forward to 2010, the subject of emigration returned. This time the whole process was different due to the fact that I had been given a job offer. A golden ticket! We hadn’t made any plans for New Zealand (we were actually looking to Australia), but now we had to get everything done in only six weeks!

This is where that uncanny coincidence kicked in. Our house sold almost immediately. All official documentation was sorted with ease. Our cars sold within days of each other. And shipping of household goods was quoted for, packed and ready to go. When I arrived in New Zealand, one thing after another continued to fall into place when we were setting everything up. The rental, the car, the transfer of money.

I believe that there is an end goal for each and every one of us. A destiny made out for you and I. A path already laid out for us to travel upon. No matter what we say to ourselves or the people around us, we are travelling that path. We might deviate from it every now and then. We think we can forge our own paths, but all that happens is our perceived new path is only the long way round to the path already made for us.

I believe that if we listen to the signs presented to us, our lives become a lot easier in the goals we wish to attain. Forcing something that just doesn’t fit right now only brings strife, struggle, and frustration.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to how well we listen to our inner voice. The little voice that whispers in our ear and guides us through those major decisions. The tiny voice that seems to have an intimate connection with the ultimate force that already knows your path and your destination.

No matter how much you fight it, everything happens for a reason.

[Featured image: Paul Jarvis]

What It Really Means To Be Grateful

When reading about happiness, success, and motivation, we see a lot of mention about gratitude. “Being grateful is the first step to being happy”. “Be grateful for the small things you have”. “Happiness is about being grateful”.

But what does it really mean to be grateful?

Feeling or showing an appreciation for something done or received.

According to the official definition, it is a sign of appreciation. Ok, we get that, but this still doesn’t explain what gratefulness is. What does it mean to feel or show appreciation? What do you show your appreciation for? Or how do you even show appreciation?

For me, the answer is the sense of fulfilment you feel when something has made you happy. The feeling of elation you get when you really think about the luxuries in your life.

Try it now – stop what you are doing, and think…

Stop and think about what it means to have a solid roof over your head. Stop and think about how you are able to charge your multiple gadgets in your home at any time you want. Stop and think about the high speed Internet you use to talk to family on the other side of the planet.

Don’t just say you are grateful, you have to feel it. People often say they are grateful for what they have, but their actions show a completely different side to what they ‘said’. They say they are grateful for their house, yet don’t maintain it. They say they are grateful for their electricity, yet excessively waste it.

Others around the world are killing just to eat. They are guarding covered areas in the streets just to get that bit of cover from rain or snow. Some people can’t even afford one mobile phone, let alone multiple phones for their household.

How often do you really think of the luxuries you have? Your smartphone, the biscuits in your pantry, or even the hot water in your shower. Healthy children running and screaming around the house (no matter how irritating they may be).

Being healthy is something I am grateful for every day. I can stand, walk, and pee without worry. I have no disabilities or terminal disease, and can really do what I want.

As my left hand holds my smartphone, and my right works the TV remote, I stop and think of all these things I have. My health, my family’s health, the TV, the Internet, my big safe home. I realise how truly lucky I am to have all of this.

A feeling of wholeness begins to grow in my chest. The more I imagine my life without these luxuries, the more the wholeness fills my chest. Until, ultimately, it bursts out of my face with a smile.

That, to me, is being truly grateful.

Taking enough time to stop, think, and imagine not having whatever it is you are thinking about. Taking enough time to ponder your thoughts until you start to truly feel the wholeness inside you. Taking enough time to let yourself smile with happiness – and gratefulness.

Have you had any sense of true gratitude? How do you know when you are feeling truly grateful?

[Featured image: Charlie Foster]

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