helpgrowchange

The effect we have

As I walked through some secondhand cigarette smoke on the way to a train station this morning, the cold air kept the smoke visible for ages after this person had exhaled. I watched as it drifted and floated. How it rolled and swerved as I moved through it.

Normally, cigarette smoke dissipates pretty quickly. This was the first time I could physically see the smoke for any decent length of time. Other than how I feel about secondhand smoke, this got me thinking about how we, as individuals, impact our environment.

We go through our lives not realising the physical effect we impress on this world because we don’t see what happens. We are so self-centered, focused on ourselves and our future that we don’t think there is a problem.

Our trash gets picked up every week, we flush our toilets, we drive our cars, we exhale cigarette smoke. All of these are examples of how we use things, then once we’re done with them, they disappear ‘somewhere’. We don’t see it anymore so it’s not our problem.

I’m guilty of this. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. It’s (mostly) not our fault as we’ve only been doing what we’ve been taught.

Maybe it’s time we started to see and understand the bigger picture. Where does your rubbish end up? What’s happens to all that shit you’re flushing away (pun intended)? What effect is your secondhand smoke having on the people around you, bearing in mind you are one of hundreds of millions of other smokers exhaling their smoke into the air?

Climate Change is a massive problem and humanity has to face it otherwise we’re in big trouble. The issue is too vast to overcome with expansive agreements and contracts. Governments have been trying that for decades – with no success. This isn’t ‘somebody else’s’ problem. It’s your problem and it’s my problem.

Change begins with the smallest step, and that means each of us individually. If you make a change now and influence at least one other person, that is magnificent. Imagine if they influence one other person, and that person influences the next, and so on. Eventually, we will find ourselves in the majority, all helping each other save our planet.

What can we do about this? Well, you can start off by separating your recyclable trash, really think about your power and water usage at home – I mean really think about it. Do you need to leave the T.V. on while you’re on the other side of the house for 2 hours? Do you need to run a hot bath every night? Maybe switch to short showers on alternate days. Switch lights off if you’re not in the room. It makes a difference. Seriously.

If you’re already doing that, then try moving to compost bins for your food waste. Or look into more eco-friendly products (cleaning, hygiene, you name it, it’s out there). Think about packaging. How much of it is recyclable or reusable. It can take a bit of effort, but it’s well worth it. The more people are living environmentally friendly, the more mainstream it will become.

Remember this is our only home, and if we run it into ruin, we are fucked. What are you doing today to help humankind survive?

The useless class has arrived

I read an article recently about how humans are becoming the useless class. Historian, Yuval Noah Harari, reckons we are not too far away from a future in which the technology we've created to assist us will put us out of work.

This isn't a new concept, but the reality of it actually happening has become much more prevalent than before.

The article states the jobs we do are all just algorithms – algorithms that are easy learnt, and in turn easily replaceable with technology (because – think about it – most jobs are pretty straightforward).

However, Harari also states that ancient hunter-gatherers had to perform a shit-ton of skills in order to survive – ranging from tracking and hunting animals, to knowing which berries to eat, and to making fire and cooking said food. Making it a much harder algorithm to figure out.

Today, we're "specialised and professionalised" in one career only, so when the machines learn – we're out in the cold.

Although it's good to specialise in a certain craft, it will be necessary for us to specialise in multiple streams. Don't get me wrong, specialisation is needed (doctors, engineers, psychiatrists), but the majority of jobs in our society are easily replaceable and will efficiently and effectively be done so with technology.

We've heard all this before, yet there was a very interesting point I took out of the article:

"Very soon this traditional model will become utterly obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves repeatedly."

Having undergone a few mini "reinventions" through my own career, I can totally relate to this statement. I've realigned myself, learned new skills, new habits. Learned that there are different ways to solve a problem and that we are just one peg in a big-ass machine.

By reinventing yourself you learn how different areas of business work. You learn how to deal with situations that can't be solved with a hammer and duct tape. You learn new skills that add to your repertoire and can only benefit you when the going gets tough.

"But I'm good at what I do!" I hear you say, "Why do I need to change?" Because you become better, stronger, more versatile, and less replaceable by an algorithm.

Yes, it may be outside of your comfort zone to learn a new technology. It's damned stressful when you are now responsible for a group of people. You will feel out of place when you move to a new role in a new team.

There is nothing wrong with feeling any of discomfort.

Just push through, keep plodding, and be open to learning. Before you know it, you will be drawing on your multifaceted previous experiences in order to counteract whatever is in front of you now.

It's a scary world we're heading into, but I truly believe if you are adaptable enough and continue learning and changing, you'll be ok.

On a side note, the study to which the article refers to predicts that archaeology is one of the least likely professions to be replaced by technology (1% chance). Maybe I should follow one of my dreams and become an archaeologist (haha).

Learn a new skill before your time runs out

When was the last time you truly learnt something completely out of your comfort zone? A new skill that wasn't directly related to any of your current skills?

I haven't written anything new for a few weeks. Why? Because I've been creating my own WordPress theme for helpgrowchange.com. It's been a great journey of self-learning and something you could try out (the self-learning, not so much the development).

Maybe you want to understand the human mind better by learning about social psychology. Learn about a popular career choice such as digital marketing? Or maybe you'd like to finally learn a new language.

But if learning is so awesome, why haven't we done it yet? Time. He is not our friend, right?

Well, the truth is, time won't open itself up for you – you have to make the time to learn.

"Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching."

Cast your mind back to a time when you last learnt a new skill? Remember the feeling of satisfaction and triumph in realising you had now gained something new.

Bring back that feeling.

Where can I start?

There are many, many online course websites offering a plethora of courses for free. Most of them are designed to make it easy for you to begin – no confusing entry or special multimedia requirements.

I've mentioned in a previous article about how I personally used Coursera to learn about business strategy and social psychology, and I have a few more courses added to my shortlist to learn soon.

If you're looking to learn development, one of the most popular learning sites is Codecademy. I started on that a while back, but other learning took priority (heh).

No matter what it is you're looking to learn, with a bit of effort you could probably find a beginner course online for free.

I'm too old to learn

Hogwash.

People change careers and jobs all the time. The people in the article are prime examples of the change you can make for yourself if you continue to learn new skills. And they weren't in their twenties either.

Here is a random Google search of 10 people who changed careers when they were over 50 years of age.

You're never too old to learn. What will you learn today?

Being an unlikely source of inspiration

Although I aspire to be an inspiration, try to help people solve their problems and write articles for this blog, it's just weird (and extremely humbling) when I hear how I am looked to for inspiration or guidance.

I'm just a guy trying my best to be the best I can be. I don't expect adoring fans or monetary donations or my name to be tattooed across butt cheeks. I just want to help.

It brings me great joy seeing the smile on someone's face after they've taken up a suggestion I made. It is fantastic to see how they find life just a bit easier, or are making a difference because of a conversation we had.

But it's not just about seeing what I've had a hand in, it's about helping others and how happy they are.

Helping others helps you

There is a TED talk by Michael Norton (watch it here) in which he talks about a study conducted around how you can buy happiness.

The study gave a little money to a number of people and asked them to spend it on themselves or spend it on someone else. After all sorts of measurements, it was found that when the subjects spent the money on someone else, they were 'happier'.

This is how I feel when helping you.

Thank you for having faith in me. Thank you for trusting in me enough to want to improve your life.

Follow your own advice

Every 2nd post I see on Facebook or Twitter is about self-advice. Articles and headlines such as "5 things for a better 2017", "Be kind", "13 things to stop doing to achieve greatness" clutter my newsfeed.

At first, I think Wow, so many people are bettering themselves. And then 2 minutes later they're posting crap again, or carrying on with their lives while not changing a thing.

How is your life going to get any better if you don't change anything?

"Nothing changes if nothing changes."

(Best. Quote. Ever.)

What seems to happen is people read these fanciful quotes and smile at some or other inspirational picture, have a brief thought about "yeah that's nice", and then they do nothing.

Nothing at all.

The next day they're complaining about some crap in their lives that they wouldn't be complaining about if they followed their own advice – the advice they shared on social media just yesterday.

Stand by what you say and put it out to the world.

Take control of your life.

Decide to make the change and own it till it's done.
(Or at least own up when you change tact again, but that’s a whole other post.)

Life is passing you by, and you don’t even see it

As you sip your cup of tea this morning, while you get ready for another monotonous day, have a think about this; Your life is passing you by, and you don't even see it.

"What?!" You might say. Bear with me for the length of this article, and see if you have the same reaction when you reach the end.

How does your day look today?

During the work week, it might look something like;

  1. Wake up, get ready for work. Be groggy. Mope around the house while dreading the day ahead.
  2. Commute to work. At the same time every day, following the same (or similar) path.
  3. Perform said work. Deal with the same political crap each day. The same feeling of being overloaded and underpaid. Dream about how you would rather be home.
  4. Commute home. At the same time every day, following the same (or similar) path.
  5. Perform the same nightly chores. Make dinner, bath the kids. Watch mindless T.V., read a book. Ask yourself whether it's the weekend yet.
  6. Go to bed.

What about the weekend?

  1. Wake up.
  2. Feel too lazy to do anything productive, so go shopping instead.
  3. Feel guilty, do house chores anyway.
  4. Do an activity you enjoy like biking, hiking, sewing.
  5. Visit friends, watch a movie.
  6. Go to bed.

For some of you, that might seem ok. It's about taking life one day at a time, right? Doing what needs to be done, rather than what you want to do. It's the right thing to do…

I say bollocks to that!

Why? Why do we allow ourselves to be restricted like this. We are naturally curious beings. We love to create, to learn, to understand the world around us. Yet we have been trained and guided into submission.

You are living your life with a false sense of achievement. Take a few seconds and think back over the last 6 month to a year. Ask yourself what have you achieved?

Maybe you finished reading a book? Watched a season of Game of Thrones? Achieved level 100 in the game you're playing? What have you actually achieved? Ultimately, not much.

A whole year has gone by, and you're still in the same place you were before. Doing the same thing, with the same concerns, fears, and worries.

I used to be like this – I still am. I get lulled into a false sense of achievement when I have a slight change in schedule, performed an extra house task, or even wanting to buy a newer phone.

These are not achievements.

They still sit within your comfort zone. And before you know it, months have passed – years have passed. How often do you hear people say that the years are flying by? It is because we are stuck in a monotonous rut.

What happened to your dreams of the future? How have you tested and pushed yourself? Have you taken action on them? Or come up with excuses.

I performed this little exercise on myself. 2 years ago, it would have looked rather mediocre, with the only real difference being me starting this blog and doing some freelance writing.

In the last year, though, my life has changed. My family's life has changed. Our eyes have been opened to the possibility that we can break this mould we're in.

To give you some context, I've run 2 10km races, I've studied social psychology, Neuro-linguistic programming techniques, and social media marketing, I've changed my eating habits to cut out sugar (mostly), and spent more time with my boys than ever before. My wife and I are starting businesses (which is extremely new to us).

Although these are only small changes, I've had to push myself mentally and physically. It's surprising to see how far we can go when we step out of our comfort zone.

What is really interesting, though, is by experiencing all these new factors in my life, this past year has felt longer. I've enjoyed each day a lot more. I am paying more attention to what's in front of me, rather than waiting for a T.V. show tonight or the lazy weekend.

I urge you to change something in your schedule today. It could be the spark to break you out of the monotony you've been feeling for a while.

You are more than the chores you need to do, or the work you need to attend to. Take the plunge and do something you're not entirely comfortable with. You won't regret it.

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