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Own Your Uniqueness

You have something unique – and immensely valuable – to bring to your workplace.

Even as a graduate starting out with huge learning ahead of them, the energy and passion that you bring to your team will determine how much your current environment will add to your personal growth. Yes, you spent four (or more) years just grinding those books but the learning isn’t over once you get that precious parchment. Your head full of knowledge on campus will need to be matched with your heart full of passion in the concrete jungle.

EVERY work environment is an opportunity to learn about how the world works, how to work with others and how to apply understanding within a practical context. The biggest tip I can give millennials entering the workplace is to learn how to apply inter-generational communication. The internet abounds with information on how to integrate successfully with diverse teams (here’s an interesting Ted Talk to get you started).

It may feel like you know more than previous generations because you’re more tech-savvy and street smart but there are countless times that I’ve been humbled by insights gained from older colleagues. There are ways to build synergy between the impatient-lets-get-this-done-already individuals and the lets-think-this-through-and-do-this-right people. Yes, it can be infuriating some days (remember that you might be that cause of irritation to your colleagues!)

You go to work to solve problems. So expecting challenges and difficulties helps your brain to deal with the complexities coming at you on a daily basis. You have something to add to your current company. Your ability to see a simple solution to a complex challenge might be just what is needed. Maybe your positive energy and humour boosts team morale more than they might let on.

Yes you’re still a work in progress – but you’re never going to achieve ‘perfection’. Bring all your messy brilliance to your job and the results might surprise you!

Work week reflection question: Are there creative solutions to our current challenges that I can share and build with my team?

The Secret to Personal Progress

I don’t know whether you’ve realised this yet – or whether you’re still learning this life truth: you can’t figure life out on your own.

I think I’ve always known this to some degree but I didn’t always know how to seek the help I needed in healthy ways.  I unfortunately developed a bad habit of listening to the wrong voices when I was younger (with disastrous consequences) so it’s taken me a while to understand how to identify the right kind of people to ask for help.

As an avid reader and knowledge seeker, if I have questions around a particular topic, I go into immediate research mode. Google searches help to some degree, but then I always find myself looking for videos on the topic instead. There is something about hearing a voice speak about a topic that I’m interested in, that serves as a warming illumination that melts away clouds of confusion.

We want to hear someone who has been through what we’re going through, who had the same questions we have and somehow found answers that took them forward. We want connection. I’ve discovered that the secret to personal progress is: finding the right voices, at the right time, will help you go in the right direction.

You can of course talk to the wrong people at the right time (right time meaning that you are at a crossroads of decision) and end up going down the wrong path. Getting lost because of bad advice often leads to frustration and resentment. It might make you feel like giving up because you feel like things are so far gone that they can’t be salvaged.

But that is not true. There is always a new opportunity to start again. So if that is where you are today (hopeless and despondent) – let my voice be the one that encourages you to get up from here and find your way back to your path of purpose.

A book of wisdom says: “Without advice plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Finding the right voices

 

 

You don’t have to learn from your own mistakes. You can learn from the experiences and mistakes of others. The experiences of others are able to serve as building blocks in your own understanding. Identifying the right voices doesn’t have to be an impossible quest. Here’s the guidelines I use when asking for advice:

1. They have a level of success in a particular area that you wish to attain.

The best advisers are people that are  currently doing the thing that you want to do. Or have experience in the field you want information about. It doesn’t have to be specifically related to your field, but if they are applying the skills that you need to apply, and doing so successfully, then that is something you can learn from. Recently, I was consulting with someone who has a retail company, as their social media presence on Instagram was better than mine. Even though the product differed, the marketing principles remained the same.

Talking to him helped me to connect the dots and suddenly I could see what my focus area has been for many years. There were many other factors that contributed to this moment of clarity but our conversations helped me refine my offering quicker than I could have done on my own.

2. They have your best interests at heart.

Do the people you’re talking to have your best interests at heart? If you know that there is someone in your personal network or friendship circles that might be harbouring a   “what’s in this for me” expectation, chances are they the advice they offer is going to be tainted with self-interest. Unfortunately, not everyone has pure intentions and the golden rule here is to trust your instinct. If you feel uncomfortable around the person, or unsure of their motives in helping you, then rather look for an alternate source of wisdom.

3. They are happy to see you succeed.

Good counsellors (another word for wise people) are those who are not jealous of you, neither do they see you as a threat. They genuinely believe in you and want to see you succeed. A friend of mine has developed a possible business solution in the form of big data. He is super intelligent and has a good character – he just doesn’t have all the practical business experience yet because he is still completing his masters degree. I set up a meeting with a business owner who operates in the IT field and after a brief discussion, my friend realised where he needed to focus his development efforts.

He could have wasted a lot of time, energy, effort and money developing something that went bust. Because He was open to learning, it didn’t matter that he didn’t even know the person that helped to steer him in the right direction until I introduced them. So the lesson here is that if you know that there is a group of people who believe you, don’t be afraid to ask for help because they could connect you to the right person that will direct you along the right path. I found this great post on LinkedIn that will help you understand the power of “indirect networking: http://bit.ly/2sJAg1e

4. They are willing to assist where they can.

When you’re asking someone for help, you will need to fit into their schedule. When is the most convenient time for them to squeeze in a coffee with you?

Be grateful for the time someone gives you. If you can afford it, pay for their coffee or lunch. They will feel honoured that you value their time and their input (John Maxwell has made this a staple of his personal development).

You don’t want to come across as naggy or needy. Ask once, remind them again but if they are too busy and haven’t been able to make time to see you, then it might be better to move on to someone else who has more time. There might be an opportunity at a later stage to hone in on their wisdom.

5. They are making progress in their own endeavours.

Remember that while people aren’t perfect, there is a lot than you can learn from them. Asking for advise from someone doesn’t mean that they have it all together – but you are gleaning from their expertise and progress in a particular aspect of their lives. Someone might be a fitness freak – but they aren’t great at building successful relationships. Just because you’ve received positive input from them in one area of personal growth, doesn’t mean that you should follow everything that they do.

The golden rule with personal development is that you are ultimately responsible for your own life choices. Asking for advise is valuable. The way that you apply the knowledge that you’ve received is what leads to wisdom manifested in your own life. So keep moving forward, keep the hunger alive and seek out the right advice to help you go in the right direction.

 

 

 

7 Leadership Traits We Can All Learn

Leaders are not born.

They are made by the choices they constantly make.

Every person has the ability to learn to become a leader. We have to lead our own lives, otherwise we will be led by others. Servant leadership is a style of leadership that places the benefits of others over benefits to self. Here are seven servant leadership traits we can all learn.

1. Willingness to embrace discomfort: taking the lead on projects and in organisations is not comfortable. You will have to deal with different types of people, you will come up against various obstacles and you will face the precipice of perceived limitations.

People who choose to embrace the discomfort that change brings are the ones that are able to bring about change.

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Are You An Ageless Student?

The youngest person in my English Honours class is probably 21.

The only student with a wedding ring, I am more than a decade older than the talented and promising post-graduates that I share a learning space with. And I am privileged to be there. I have tried this before, and I have failed before. And I’m giving it another go. Let’s hope ‘third time lucky’ holds true.

When life offers you a delicious opportunity, you take a luscious bite.

No one forced me to choose to pursue my dream (again) of finally getting my Honours. Yes its scary and uncomfortable to challenge yourself, to break the borders of what you thought you are able to achieve. But if you don’t champion your life, who is going to do it?  Here’s the three-step process of progress that I try to apply to my own life:

1. Find what you really want.

It’s easy to talk ourselves out of the things we don’t really have a passion for. Sometimes when it feels like things are going against the grain, its because Life is sending you an important message. Something doesn’t quite fit, something’s not quite right.

Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. I almost succeeded in enrolling for Psychology Honours – until I hit the Research module which was stashed with unfair maths and stats. Tickets for a non-numerical, decidedly word-person like me.

Then I tried doing an Honours in Applied Linguistics, which would have been great if I was still working in Publishing, expect that my career had taken a perpendicular path.

Now I am doing English Honours courses – which I absolutely love and it challenges me in ways that fuels a passion long dormant. Sometimes it takes a while to dig down to your core passion – but don’t stop digging. You will finally strike the raw gold of your passion.

2. Work out what it will cost you.

I have no social life (for a few months). I banned myself from Facebook. I spend the weekends studying and working on assignments. I know that all this self-sacrifice means saying to invitations  from my beautiful friends “no for now, but not forever.”

Developing your dream is going to cost you something. It will probably will cost you a lot. More than your comfortable self-talk is willing to pay. Determine whether you are willing to pay the full price of achieving your goals.

3. Choose to pay the price everyday.

It has to be a daily decision.

You will have to exercise the power of either talking yourself into taking the next step – or talking yourself out of it. Each day that you move one step closer is a victory worthy of being celebrated.

The entirety of our lives are determined by how we spend our days. Choose well. Choose wisely. Choose you.

 

 

 

Overcoming The Sting Of Failure

What is it about starting a new year that fills one with a complex mixture of optimism and secret despondency?

Maybe it’s because we have such good memories.

I was telling my husband the other day that my goals for the past five years haven’t changed:

  • Get closer to God
  • Lose weight
  • Write more
  • Travel more
  • Finally get my honours degree

Something along that vein.

In every promise of something new and beautiful, hides the possibility of failure. We want to try again – but we remember the sharp sting of failure lash across our resolve. Like a beautiful walk along the sea shore suddenly marred by stepping on a jelly fish (or ‘blue bottle’ as it is commonly known).

So we shrink back. Become more cautious.

I love John Maxwell’s take on the “sometimes you win, sometimes you lose” truism. His twist on it is: “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

In my personal life, I feel like I have only now been ‘awakened’ to the reality of my life. The preceding 33 years feel like a prelude to the real story of my life. I have often felt like my attempts at overcoming a mountain of defeat has been ‘wasted’.

But maybe I have arrived at this precipice of personal growth precisely because whenever I felt like I could not take one more step; God gave me the strength to keep moving forward.

So I make the decision again to keep walking, to keep trusting, to keep learning. And if I get stung again by the pain of mistakes (which will most likely be the case), I will document the lesson and chalk it up to experience.

In walking the pathway of purpose,  my character is refined and I grow into the true person God made me to be.

Isn’t that the journey?

 

 

 

 

 

Dying To Be Reborn

I am an idealist.

I see in pictures. My life is full of metaphors and meanings – often resulting in the tell-tale eye glazing reaction of the person I am trying to channel all this passionate towards. Which is why I love writing. The white space just absorbs all the feeling and fear and clarity and confusion and I feel a sense of peace and tranquility at having expressed my creative energy.

What that essentially means is that I too often get hung up on ideas. I could brainstorm the iron off a tea kettle and then some. Trouble is – reality doesn’t often (read: hardly ever) – line up to reality. And that is the sum total of my ‘emotional’ disasters.

The most painful experiences in my life have centered on the death of a cherished idea.

Granted, they were disguised in all sorts of experiences: facing the end of a friendship, having to accept when  the idea of a relationship was greater than the actual reality and even just being faced with the same situation time and time again and feeling the maddening frustration that things are not changing.

I am not the same person I was a decade ago (thank God for that!). And as I have learnt important life lessons over the years, the push for growth necessitated that I leave certain places, things and people. Knowing full well that my cherished idea (of the relationship, place or thing) was dying a ghastly death, I held on for dear life, not wanting to part with this-is-the-truth-I-know feeling of certainty for the now-what-the-heck-am-I-supposed-to-believe confusion.

But there you have it.

As much as I have fought – to the death – time and time again against the loss of my cherished ideas, I have had to surrender to the thing that would not live under my choking control. And it’s a humiliatingly humbling process to have to endure – over and over again as the cycles and seasons churn and change beyond the horizon of our understanding.

Still, as I revisit the gravesite of my soul – reflecting on the times and situations that I thought would be the death of me – I am surprised to discover that they have actually transformed into signposts marking my moments of poignant growth and transformation. I see now that the level of my growth has been determined by the extent of my willingness to let old things die and allow new things to be born.

I am finally learning one of the greatest lessons: in our lifetime, we die a million deaths. Only to be reborn each time.