helpgrowchange

Don’t Let Fear Hamper Your Growth

A few years back, I was offered the opportunity to lead a newly formed team in another part of the company I work for. I had proven myself to be competent at leading an on-site team, ensuring service was delivered to a customer. This new team, though, was different. It would challenge my leadership style and experience, as well as take me to the next level.

There was much uncertainty within me around leading this new team. Uncertainty into how it would run. Uncertainty into how the members of this team would react to me as a team leader (as I had worked with them as a peer before). And still further uncertainty into whether I was the right person for the job. I pondered on the decision to move to that team for a while. I let the fear hamper my ability to make a decision quickly.

I would think to myself, who am I to be leading these team members, who have so much more experience than I do? How would they react to me assigning tasks to them? Would they simply just disregard me – eventually leading our team to become a drifting boat without a sail?

Be nervous, but not too nervous

I finally decided I would take the opportunity, but it was a nervous start. I saw myself as a lesser, inferior person to my team members. They had many more years experience than I did. I stammered when I spoke, I was overwhelmed with the new workload, and I believe this lack of confidence could be seen by the team members, and filtered through into other aspects of the job. Every time I made a mistake, I would lambaste myself profusely.

Through the year, though, things changed. I grew as a leader, my confidence began to shine. The more confidence I had, the more I got to motivate my team. The more motivation there was, the more confidence they had to perform their jobs, initiate innovative ideas, and make a difference in our company.

As a team we lead the way in innovation, standard of work, and a team other people want to work with, and join. All this led to me being offered the opportunity to do this all again in another team…

Challenge yourself

When you are offered an opportunity that has an uncertain future, fear comes home to roost. Fear instils ‘what if’ scenarios that will attempt to turn you away from success and fulfilment.

Lean into that fear. Embrace it. Use it to build life experiences that will help you grow, make you stronger, and enable you to take on bigger challenges.

By all means, be nervous, be fearful, but don’t let it hamper you on your path to being the best you can be.

I didn’t hesitate in taking up this newer challenge. I am nervous again, but this time I know not to let that nervousness let me down.

[[Featured image: Paxson Woelber]

How Mindless TV Is Like Meditation

Update: I do not agree with my own views in this article. They have changed over time and that’s ok (read about it here).

There is some real crap on TV today. Reality shows, movies, and soapies are great examples of TV that suck us in and keep us watching. At the end of the hour, the show ends. We haven’t learnt anything, we haven’t been challenged, and we forget the show within the hour.

But sometimes we need this mindlessness.

We are all so busy all of the time. We are working, creating, socialising, being active. All of this is so much hard work. It’s hard to have to constantly think of new things to write, or maintain relationships, or workout every day. It’s even harder to go into the office and be focused for 9 hours straight (and then still create, maintain relationships, workout…).

That’s where mindless TV comes in. It’s a form of meditation (my form of meditation). Experts say we should meditate for a certain amount of time per day, but neither you or I have time for that. I have a full-time job, a long commute, a wife, children, and a passion for writing.

I do not have time to sit in silence doing absolutely nothing.

After arriving home, dealing with the whirlwind of dinner, the children, and their bedtime routine, I can finally relax on the couch with my wife and the T.V. on. Going away from my wife to another area of the house to meditate in sombre silence is not my cup of tea.

However, some nights I don’t feel like concentrating on browsing the web or social media. I don’t feel like having a deep, meaningful conversation with my wife. And I particularly don’t feel like using my brain to concentrate on an informative documentary (although these are immensely interesting and I watch them often).

So, watching mindless T.V. is an ‘online meditation’ of sorts.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am extremely motivated. I push myself at the office, and test the boundaries of my comfort zone by writing articles such as these. I just can’t seem to find any benefit for me in meditation – without having to sacrifice some further time with my family and wife.

Meditation may work for you, it may even work extremely well. But for me and my wife, our relaxation is each other’s company, with mindless T.V. in the background.

Is there anything you do that relaxes you and tunes you out of the hectic day?

[Featured image: Stephane Betin]

Working in the pressure cooker

It’s been a week of hard deadlines. Half your team has been on holiday or off sick. You’ve taken up a new role in a completely new side of the business. And, to top it all off, it’s the time of month where people go crazy – billing time. That sums up my week, and probably a large proportion of yours too.

I had pressure to perform from my management, pressure to make an immediate impact in my new team, and ultimately pressure from the clients to know what I was talking about in order to provide them the best service possible. There was pressure, still, to perform the tasks from my previous role.

This got me thinking about pressure. How we react, and perform under intense pressure. Some people run and hide at the first sign of it, others will stick it out for a while and eventually crumble, while others still continue to work and push through to the end.

This is my completely scientific and methodical findings on pressure. (not really)

Reaction types

I am always amazed at how people work under pressure. In my mind there are two types of pressure; once-off, quick-developing situations (imagine services failing), and longer term sustained pressure (imagine too much work, too few people).

When the crap hits the fan, it’s always interesting to see who skulks into the corner, or who dives in to sort it out. I believe there are three types of people when it comes to this; The Vanisher, The Punisher, The Follower.

The Vanisher
The Vanisher is nowhere to be found when the going gets tough in the once off pressure situations. When pressure mounts, and more intense pressure is mounting by the hour (or minute), the Vanisher is the one making excuses, dodging decisions, and making their way to the exit.

They fair a lot better under sustained pressure, as they can perform their tasks during ‘normal work hours’. They will deal with the workload they can, having an excuse to get out of the extra work. Finding new employees is not in their job description.

The Punisher
The Punisher is a resilient beast. One that has courage to get stuck in and put in the all-night stints to get shit sorted. As the Vanisher begins to fade into the background, so the Punisher begins to lead the resolution of a once-off situation.

The Follower
The Follower has the same resilience as the Punisher. They are willing to put in the hard yards when trouble comes around. They may not be as gung-ho as the Punisher, or as skittish as the Vanisher, but the Follower adjusts their handling of pressure situations accordingly. Sometimes, when the Punisher is not around, the Follower will gladly take up the challenge to lead the resolution. I fall into this group

Going the distance

All three of the reaction types are capable of performing the work required, the difference is when a little thing called pressure enters the game. Which of these types of people go the distance?

The first to fall
The first to fall when there is sustained pressure is the Punisher. Why? Because they are like lions, completely awesome, but in short bursts of activity. They wear themselves out so quickly (from being awesome), that they are good for the real high pressure one-off situations.

The second to succumb
The second pin to drop is the Vanisher. Although the Vanisher will disappear when a once-off pressure situation develops, they can still perform under the longer term sustained pressure. However, this ongoing pressure eventually gets to them. They begin to think they shouldn’t have to have this constant pressure and that it’s unfair on them. They crumble, they complain, and they leave (again).

The third to (maybe) trip
The Follower understands their capability and how to pace themselves. They know when to fade into the background, and when to step up and when to put in the hard graft. The Follower can maintain the pressure in short bursts and for the long term. They relish the pressure, as they know it teaches them how to adapt, solve problems, gain vital experience.

Which one are you

There are benefits to each of these types of reactors. The world needs the Vanisher to be there for the day to day stuff. They’ll be sorting out issues, being innovative, and just as hard-working as the next guy. But only on their terms and within their job description.

The Punisher is needed as the go to person when tight deadlines need to be met, when intense situations arise, or simply to finish off something that needs to be done now.

Last, but not least, is the Follower. We are needed to be the bridge between the Vanisher and the Punisher, able to switch to high gear at any time.

Which type are you?

[Featured image: Daniel Go]

Do one thing today

When you wake up in the morning, once the grogginess of sleep has left you, there is a thought that appears in your mind. A thought of something that you would love to achieve that day. One thing that you’re excited about and will make your day feel like an achievement. It could be painting a picture, tinkering with the bike engine in the garage, adding a feature to your website, or even washing the car.

But then the day begins. We get bogged down by tasks that have to be completed, or emergencies that must be dealt with now. The children demand food and attention, the boss wants his report by tomorrow, or we need to buy bread on the way home.

And as we lie in bed that night, we commiserate that we never did that one thing we really wanted to do. We lambast ourselves for not being good enough, we bemoan that life is tough, and that it sucks not having the chance to do the things we want to. Why does life have to get in the way?

Think

Life will always get in the way. It will never cease to hamper our plans, throw curve balls in our direction, and crush our aspirations. We cannot let ‘life’ run our lives (ironic, I know). We have to be smart about it, devious even. We cannot wait for life to make time for us, we have to make our own time, shove a wedge in there to create space in order for us to do the things we want to do.

The only way we will be able to achieve that is to change the way we think and the way we go through our day.

Make time

When you wake up the next morning, and you think of that one thing you want to do, make it your purpose of the day to actually do it. Find the time inbetween the children and the boss’s report. Squeeze just that little bit of extra time to do what you want to do.

It’s hard, there will be sacrifices you will need to make, but you need to do it for you. I know you want to help everyone, making sure they are all tucked in to bed at night, but it is all no use if you can’t look after you. If you’re burned out, angry, and depressed, nobody will be able to benefit from your compassion.

Do it

So, instead of doing the umpteenth thing that absolutely has to be done today, scrap it and do one thing that you want to do. You don’t even have to complete it, but if you worked on it, you will get excited, elated, and feel that you’ve done something you wanted to do. Life won’t feel so bad, and you will have confidence when you get up the next morning. Confidence that will be vital to tackle the hardships of the next day, but remember…

Do one thing you want to do.

[Featured image: Alexander Shustov]

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]

All articles