helpgrowchange

Ask yourself these 3 questions before stepping into the unknown

Stepping into the unknown is extremely daunting. Every one of us, at some point in time, has hesitated when crossing the threshold into some unknown. It’s only natural for us to feel this way. What matters is how we react in these situations, and how we convince ourselves to continue moving forward.

This very blog was a daunting unknown for me. Before I started, I was deliberating whether I should even start it. I was afraid of being ridiculed. I wasn’t convinced anyone would want to know what I thought. My wife is working meticulously in building her business, yet just a few months ago she was also debating the merits of starting it – afraid of the complaints she might get, the quality of her goods, or even no buyers at all.

It constantly amazes me how we build these false illusions in our heads. Illusions which serve as barriers, obstructing us from taking risks (which aren’t really risks in the first place). It’s probably due to some ‘keep safe’ mechanism in our brains. We perceive a certain situation as ‘risky’ (such as starting a business or blog), and so our minds build these internal barriers in order for us to stay protected. We have to convince ourselves that it is ok, and the danger is not as apparent as it appears to be.

While trying to convince myself about starting a blog years ago, and discussing with my wife about starting her business, we asked a few questions of ourselves which considerably helped in giving us courage to cross the line.

We took our first steps into the unknown. And the rest, they say, is history.

The heart says one thing, the mind says another.

There are many conversations we have with ourselves when we’re determining the merits of taking risks. Different sides of our inner self want different things, and it’s quite funny how there can be such differing of opinions with oneself.

To battle through this and gain some sort of clarity, I’ve found these 3 questions will guide you forward (I’ve put in some handy answers too).

Question: What have you got to lose?
Answer: Almost always there is nothing to lose except a bit time and money

Question: In 6 months time, what would you be doing if you didn’t take this step now?
Answer: Probably the same thing you’re busy with now – no better than before. The time would be summed up as ‘All talk and no action’.

Question: Could this open other opportunities?
Answer: Almost always this is a resounding yes. Unless, of course, it’s a complete deadend. Even then, you’ve learnt from the experience and only lost a bit of time and money.

Move forward, no matter how slow.

Regardless of how small a step you might be taking – it is a movement in a forward direction. You are not where you were before. This is a powerful place to be.

What are you currently afraid to step into? Is it to publish your book, start a blog, learn a new skill? Ask yourself the questions above, contemplate some more ideas, and let’s see how you get on.

No matter our status, we are still human

Every day we deliver judgement on people in higher societal status positions such as Presidents, CEO’s, celebrities, even our managers. We expect them to be 100% correct all the time. We expect them to act perfect all day every day. We lambaste them when they falter.

What we fail to realise most of the time, is they are still human – just like you and me. They, too, love watching a good movie. They also enjoy the relaxation of a lazy Sunday afternoon, or the sweet success of finally completing a personal project.

And – again, just like you and I – they fail. Often.

Recently, I watched the first few episodes of a new T.V. series named Lip Sync Battle. It’s a show in which celebrities attempt to perform a live act on stage while lip syncing to a song of their choice. It’s hilarious.

What was more interesting to me, was the opportunity to see a little more of the people behind the celebrity faces. Dwayne Johnson letting off steam to The BeeGees, or Anne Hathaway pulling off Miley Cyrus. The banter they had going between sets added further personality and insight into who they are.

It’s about time we stopped putting celebrities and people of power on a pedestal. It’s time we stop perceiving them as unattainable, different, or better than us.

Because they are not any different to us. They are still human.

Next time you’re reading the gossip magazines, or news headlines about some mistake one of these people have made. Stop. Try put yourself in their shoes. Would you act the same way? What would you do in their situation? Have some empathy and compassion, as they are making the best decisions for them at any given point in time.

Bringing this closer to home, think about your managers, your friends, your family. What compassion can you show them when they have made a decision? What are they feeling when they make certain decisions? Sometimes, they certainly make bad decisions or a different one to you, but they made a decision all the same. How do you want people to treat you when you make a bad decision?

I’m guilty of being judgemental of others’ decisions. I have laughed at celebrities, or baulked at a politician’s personal response. I know I’m wrong, and I’m an ass for even thinking it. But I believe our world won’t get any better if we continue in this way.

These people are human. Just like you and me. I can’t imagine the pressure of the world watching me 24/7. Watching, waiting, pouncing on every word I speak with a vengeance, and talking as if they know me.

So, I’m going to cut them a little slack. How about you?

How to make social media meaningful

We all interface with social media in one way or another. We like and share with our friends on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, or share our vintage photos on Instagram. There are a plethora of options for sharing ourselves and our views of the world on the Internet. But why is it that we still ‘do’ social media so wrong?

Because we don’t interact. We don’t engage enough. We don’t connect with another.

Think about when you have a face-to-face conversation with a friend. They’ve come over to your place for a cup of coffee (or tea if that’s your preference), and you two are chatting away.

Do you both talk at the same time – trying to shout over each other? I doubt it.
Do you just ignore a story of theirs, and carry on with your own? Nope.
Do you shout something at them, then get up and walk away without saying a word when they comment about it? Of course not!

Many of us are still coming to grips with how socia media is impacting our lives – and where it fits into our social spectrum. We still see these platforms as shouting boxes for people to see us and how awesome we are, but we don’t take the time to truly connect with others online.

Make connections

I’ve been on Facebook since 2007, and I’m only now beginning to understand how to use it as a medium to connect and grow the relationships – almost like another means to get to know and understand them better.

It’s about commenting on their status, showing empathy when it’s needed, tagging them where necessary, or simply liking their posts.

The more you interact, the more meaningful your social media experience will be.

I’ve built some real connections online over the past few years. Friendships that have formed purely online across continents, people such as Jay, Brandon, or Annie. We interact fairly often, and I anticipate meeting them in person one day.

And as for the people I have met in person already, social media is another tool I can use to strengthen these relationships further.

It’s all up to you

You need to think about why you want to be on social media. Do you just want to brag about your successes, shout out your opinion at anyone and everyone who might be interested? Are you online simply to spy on your family, friends, and acquaintances? (I really hope you’re not, that is just creepy and wrong)

Or do you want to be a better person. The person who wants to really connect with their friends and family in a meaningful way. Keep it simple. Treat your special connections with extra attention. Add some personality to your posts. They will remember it, remember you.

Today, while you are browsing your Facebook or Twitter feeds, why not reply on someone’s post and ask a question? Spark a conversation. You never know where it might lead.

It’s disappointing to not have made a difference

I recently took on a new role at my workplace. Through all my efforts in the previous role, I could not make the difference I wanted to.

For years, I tried. I attempted to organise movements, convince management, or influence certain decisions I knew would benefit the wider group. But I just couldn’t get to the point of making the intended difference. And it has killed me.

Sometimes it is better to accept we cannot change a situation. We must accept failure and come back another day. We must realise when it’s time to move on to something we can change.

It’s crap. It’s difficult. But it’s the hard truth. People will only change when they are ready for change.

No matter how hard we hit their wall of resistance and indifference, we will not (cannot) bring it down. We cannot control the outcomes of their decisions, or convince them of the damage they are causing around them.

What we can control is how we react to their whims. We can control how we make a positive difference to our own surroundings. Finally, we need to learn when to let go…

Sometimes holding on...

At the end of the day, we have to realise this is only business. Thankfully, we can take our influence, our skill, and our passion elsewhere. Somewhere where it might be better suited.

Don’t give up the fight, just focus your energy in the right place.

Ready to learn something new?

When I finished school, I thought I was done with education. Done with the textbooks, assignments, and tests. I was going to find my own way while I worked. Who needs studies anyway, right?

Wrong.

Experience is useful

Experience is useful, but it will only get you so far.

For the first 10 years of my career (as well as outside the office), I didn’t believe in ‘official’ training courses. I learnt how to fix a PC, build websites, and manage servers without the need to attend classes. At home, I didn’t need to go on a course to learn how to clean my pool, or mow the lawn.

Everything I learnt was through trial and error. I believed study and education had their place, and it wasn’t anywhere near me. I could find my own way.

It’s funny how life comes around and teaches you a lesson.

Real studying gets you further

When I moved into a leadership role, I realised something. I knew absolutely nothing about it. Actually, I knew absolutely nothing about a lot (I still don’t). This self-acknowledgement started my learning journey through a combination of short courses, online learning, and self-study.

What amazing things I have learnt since! I’ve gained vital knowledge in leadership, business strategy, social psychology, and neuro-linguistic programming. Next on the list is social media marketing.

Studying has taught me one thing – there is still so much more to learn. We have so much knowledge available to us, all we need to do is reach out and grab it.

The benefits I’ve gained far outweigh the negatives. Yes, it takes some time to study, and yes, it can be inconvenient (and some of it boring). But, I now understand the foundations of business strategy. I grasp the concepts of social psychology. I try to communicate with people better by identifying key behaviours.

My 3 easiest ways to start

The 3 training resources I’ve used so far are short courses, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and self-study.

A short course is a training course set up through a private individual or training company with dedicated lessons over a period of 7 to 30 days. These can sometimes cost a lot of money. However, if you look around enough you may stumble upon free (or really cheap) short courses. Some of my experiences include Ramit Sethi’s Earn1k course for free, and Paul Jarvis‘ free Write & sell your damn book course.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC‘s) are awesome. They are university driven intro-level courses provided for free. The topics are vast.

The only MOOC I’ve experienced so far is Coursera.org. But there are so many training providers available now, that even I’m a bit overwhelmed (here is a random top list I googled).

Self-help books are simply what they are. Books you read to gain further knowledge. They are helpful, and can contain important knowledge. I sometimes struggle with these though, as they sometimes feel like textbooks. Somewhere like Noisetrade is a good place to look.

Learn something new today

Are you keen on learning something new? Why not browse the available courses on Coursera, or dig out the self-help book you bought 2 years ago. Begin your learning journey, and be prepared to be amazed.

By the way, just because you start a particular learning experience does not mean you have to finish it. We learn better when we’re interested – and enjoy – a subject. Concentrate on those. There are plenty of times in the last few years where I’ve simply not finished my ‘studies’ due to loss of interest.

Climb out of your past to face your future

Sometimes we are stuck in the past. We go about our routines and habits because we have always done them this way. It’s safe, comfortable, and we don’t want to ‘break something that is not broken’ as some people say.

This is where the problem lies.

If we are stuck doing the same thing at the same level, we will never grow – you will never grow. There will be no improvement, no joy of discovering something new, nothing to stimulate your mind or soul. But you know what? You can change it. No matter what some of your naysayers might say, you can change all of what you can control – which is a lot more than you believe it is.

You have the power to change your own future, and it’s time you claimed your own life back.

This is so much easier said than done – I know. There are many things to worry about like finances, skills, life in general. The biggest hurdle of all, though, is you. You need to decide that you want to change your life. No-one can change it for you. Sure, they can offer you opportunities, but it all comes down to you wanting it and deciding to take action.

We all have dreams, yet so often that is how they remain – dreams. From when we were children, we may have dreamed of changing a person’s fate on the operating table, or testing the boundaries of human discovery in space. Let’s face it, some dreams are unrealistic (possible, but unrealistic).

For your own sanity and confidence, you need to be serious about what you want and what you can achieve. If you’re like me, a 30-ish person stuck in a desk job, the odds are we are not going to be an astronaut any time soon. We’re not going to be working on a critical procedure on the operating table, unless we are the patient. You might still want to achieve those dreams, but you have to let them go for now.

You need to focus on what you have right now, and what you can change for your future.

I still dream of being some hotshot owner of a popular technology company, but as the years roll on, I’m accepting the fact that I’ll probably not achieve it. So, I’m looking for alternatives. I might not be owner of something big, but I can be an owner of something that provides value. I’m looking at options in my current situation where I can help, grow, and change other peoples lives.

This blog is my first example of such a change. My wife is starting something of her own. There are a couple more things we’re working on as well. Our excitement is building about the future opportunities presenting themselves.

The changes you make don’t need to be drastic. Small ones here and there make massive differences further down the line. How about investigating the possibility of some free studies, such as Coursera or Codecademy? Start a blog about your expertise? Volunteer in your local community? As you make one small change, I promise you it will become easier to make more changes. Bigger changes that will truly change your life.

The past cannot be changed, but you can still prepare for your future. What will you change today?

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