helpgrowchange

Create something out of nothing

Are you an artist? Can you pick up a paint brush and whisk up a wonderful piece of work? Can you write up a song or story that will take our breath away? Don’t worry, neither can I. But you know what, you can create anything you want. It doesn’t matter how wonderful it is. It is something that you have taken out of your head and made it available for all to see.

What we tend to forget about ‘artists’, is that they live and breathe their art. Before the great works of art were created, they have practiced for years on end, moulding, sculpting, tweaking their skills to make them perfect. They worked endless hours making countless mistakes. Failed many times. Even now, they make mistakes and fail every time a new piece of work is created.

We are all naturally creative. Look around you. Who created your office workspace, who created your budget at home, who decides what paint colour to put on your child’s bedroom wall, who decides to lay out the lounge seating arrangement? It’s not all about a paintbrush or a song. It’s everything you do, every decision you make. You are injecting your own creativity, adding your own flair and imagination all the time.

Sure, it might not be the best, or look like something from a top designer. People might not buy it. But you know what? Who gives a crap? It’s yours. You created it. It came out of your fantastic mind. You created something out of nothing.

You took that thought, you acted on it, and you made it.

Creating your own stuff has a few side effects. Passion and Confidence. When you realise that you have actually created something, a sense of achievement can appear (at least for me, it does). The realisation that me – an average non-creative person – can create something from nothing. You feel inspired to do more, to test the limits of this new found creativity. You wake up each day excited to work on your project. Even once you’ve finished the project, you can’t wait to start on the next.

After a while you come to a further realisation that, actually, your creations are not actually that bad. You take the chance of sharing with a friend, and another, and another. Naturally, you become more confident as you practice. Confident to take on something bigger and better.

I pose a challenge to you.

I know for a fact that you enjoy doing something, everybody has something they have liked during their lifetime. Something that has piqued your interest. Explore that interest. Try something new. You might fail, you might discover that it’s not for you. The main point is that you tried. How do you know what your true creative outlet is until you actually try it? You might just be pleasantly surprised.

[Featured image: Jennifer Trovato]

Embrace the new chapters in your story

This month, my eldest son started ‘big school’. He turned the grand old age of five, and started a new chapter in his story by starting primary school. In the weeks leading up to him taking his first step in school, he didn’t display nervousness or sadness, but rather excitement. He would badger my wife and I about when it would be happening.

Every time we drove past the school, he would state that he was going to be going to that big school. There is a lesson we can all learn from the way in which he approached making the big change to ‘big school’.

Embrace change. Embrace it fully with no looking back.

When change is upon us, we should not resist it. Change brings new experiences, new challenges, new opportunities. It leads us down new paths that we may not have considered previously. While I agree that not all change is good, there is always something new to learn. Be aware, always learn – always want to learn.

It’s easy enough for me to tell you to ‘embrace change’ or ‘always learn’. I don’t know you, or your circumstances. What I do know, though, is that change is inevitable. You have two choices when change comes knocking on your door;

  1. Resist change. Fight it. Be angry. Complain, and bemoan how things used to be.
  2. Embrace change. Lean into it. Learn. Take up the challenge to get what you can out of the situation.

When we resist change, we create tension, stress, and negative emotions. When negativity runs through us, our minds are closed to learning and enjoyment. We tend to complain and reminisce about how things were. We protect any shred of what used to be.

Negativity is the road block to achieving anything new.

If my son had resisted his first day of school, he would have been crying, having tantrums, or clung to my wife or I until the last second we had to leave. Even then, there would have been more tears and drama. There would have been much wasted time with himself and the teacher in order to calm him down. Wasted time in order to actually get him to the state in which he would be receptive to reading or learning.

Instead, on the morning of his first day, he couldn’t get his school bag ready quick enough. He couldn’t wait to hang his bag on the hook outside his class. He showed us where he was sitting and the playground he would be playing at during break time. When the school bell rang signalling the start of the day, he went straight to the mat, said goodbye, and was immediately listening to the teacher. Ready and waiting to learn.

Starting school is a massive change in his short life, yet he has taken it on with arms wide open. With that openness, so too is his mind open to new information. He is going to soak up any new learnings like a sponge – because he has made himself ready for it.

We can do the same in order to make the best of change. Instead of closing up, fighting, and making our lives difficult, we must receive change with enough openness to learn as quickly as possible. Quickly enough to adjust to the new circumstances. Quickly enough to understand the new circumstances in order to instigate new change if the situation is worse than before.

It was an extremely proud moment for us, seeing him sit on the mat attentively waiting for his new teacher. This is the beginning of an epic journey for him. There is so much for him to learn, explore, and decide on a path of his own. I can’t wait to see how he adapts to these new challenges.

[Featured image: Coley Christine Catalano]

Productivity Tip #1 – Make Time To Manage Time

Your task list is piling high. You barely have enough time to finish what you are meant to do (or not finish at all). Your boss is breathing down your neck for that report you were meant to finish last week. And your team is waiting for you approve their leave request.

Eventually it gets too much. You throw up your arms in exasperation! You know you have to find a way to manage your workload. Surely there must be a better way in order to get through your tasks.

I hear you – I felt like this before. I was busy all day every day, but when I got home at night, I didn’t feel like I had achieved anything. There was so much I was busy with, I didn’t know my left hand from my right. Emails, Incidents, Requests, Projects, further pressure from my management, it just never seemed to end. Sometimes, I would even need to work late into the night (many nights actually) in order to simply stay afloat in an ocean of workload.

I knew I had to do something about this, as working like that is simply not healthy. I started to read anything I could about productivity and time management. There was a plethora of information and many great tips, but one thing got to me – I didn’t have time to implement any of the advice. I would ask myself questions like ‘How the hell am I supposed to do this stuff when I am so busy with everything else’, or ‘These people make it sound so easy, that will never work for me’.

These were just excuses, though. I was just too lazy to try something new. I was comfortable in what I knew, and it looked like way too much effort to try these new tips. I also felt that some of the advice seemed a bit too generic, and would never work for me.

Despite my doubts, I tried the suggestions. Some worked, most failed. I discovered that not all advice worked for me. I found that I had to combine many different techniques in order to find what worked. And so should you. Even this advice I’m giving you right now should be taken with a pinch of salt, as it might not even be right for what you are looking for. But what if it is – you have to try.

No matter what you try in order to be more productive, you have to make the time to change.

Something has to give in order for you to have a better tomorrow. You must sacrifice some task completion now in order to ensure the better management of all your tasks going forward. It is going to be hard. You will not get to be the super-productive-ninja overnight. There is no magic wand to clear all the tasks away. It takes a lot of time, consistency, and many boring repetitions.

Having no time is not an excuse to hamper your future productiveness.

If you want to manage your workload better, the first item on your to-do list is to schedule the time in order to form your new productive habit. That habit will require conscious effort in order to be maintained. And after a while you will be doing it on auto. At that point, you schedule time to improve the next thing.

Some tips I’ve learnt over the years are;

  1. Make time to implement a new productive habit (whatever habit works for you).
  2. Implement only one new habit at a time. Having too many new habits will not allow you to apply the amount of focus needed to effectively form the new habit.
  3. Be vigilant. Your new habit will not be in place one, two, or even ten days. It’s going to take a while. That ‘while’ varies for different people. I believe that when you are performing your habit on auto more times than you have to think about it, then it’s comfortable enough to form a new one.

Read up more about my productivity methods in the Productivity Section

Having some problems implementing your productivity habit? Ask me a question, and I will try my best to help out with it.

[Featured image: Sonja Langford]

Have the Audacity to Ask

While looking for a new webhost, I came across a site that had a few mistakes on it. I had an idea about asking if the owner would consider exchanging my editing services for hosting services. I thought it was preposterous and arrogant. But you know what happened? He accepted.

This got me thinking about other times we don’t get what we want (or anything at all) because we don’t ask. We are afraid of rejection, accusation, or the perception that we are arrogant.

When you have an idea that you feel will benefit both parties, why not go ahead and ask? So what if someone rejects you? You are no worse than where you started – and at least you know where you stand. You will know for sure that this path is closed to you for now. But as the old saying goes, ‘if one door closes, another opens’. This couldn’t be more true.

Think about those times where you have wanted to ask for something. Maybe it was a pay increase, or someone to look after your children so you could have a break, or even a discount at the furniture store. When I think about those times in my own life, I realise now what would’ve happened if I had simply asked…

Nothing.

The recipients of my question would simply have said ‘no’, and we would have carried on with our day. Or, they could have said ‘yes’, and a different outcome could have occurred.

Sometimes I get irritated and despondent with people that always seem to get the good deals, or always seem to have opportunities fall into their lap. I look on as they stroll away with not a care in the world, while I sit here sweating away trying to do what’s best for me and my family. How do these people get their opportunities? Why do good things always seem to come by there people?

They ask.

They don’t accept what they have, they see an opportunity, they say yes. They ask about a discount, or an exchange deal. They work smarter to get the best out of a deal or situation. That is what you and I need to do too. We need to take that bold step to ask for something we feel we deserve.

So next time you have an idea, ask the question. Challenge yourself, ask, and you might just be surprised by the answer.

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]

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]

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