MonthApril 2015

The Idol Illusion

First published on Chasing ED

Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mo Farah, your parents, maybe even your teacher… The list of idols in our lives is endless. People who have been there and done that, people who live the life you want to live. Whatever the key to success is, they know it and they live it – don’t they?

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are.” – Kurt Cobain

“Role models and idols are important in life because they help to guide us. We can learn from what they have done and hope to recreate their success.” That is probably the expected answer if you ask someone why they have an idol. I agree it is extremely important to have an idol to look up to, to study and learn from. However, they are often taken too seriously.

Perfection is not attainable

If Bill Gates dropped out of university then to be successful I must, right? Ok, I am exaggerating. I doubt many people have dropped out of education purely because their idol did, however the principle is still in play in lots of situations.

It is easy to assume that the path your hero took is the ‘perfect path’. However in reality it may be the worst path for you, there are lots of different factors that need to be taken into account when making career decisions. It is up to you to work out what the best move is in your situation. That may include seeking advice or considering what others have done, however when considering an option also think about the number of people who didn’t succeed from that choice, they are almost always overlooked.

Question your idol

A common trait of successful people is the ability to constantly question and be curious, not being afraid to act differently and implement new methods. Consider this; no matter who you idol is, they could be smarter, funnier, stronger, improved in some way. They didn’t make all the correct choices, they haven’t always had the best outcome.

Challenge yourself to study successful people in your chosen career and look to see how they could improve, what they could have done better. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

“Give a man a fish..”

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The principal behind this well-known quote holds true here; perhaps re-wording it may make it more applicable:

“Act as another has and you follow in their shadow; act as you decide and you’re open to the sun.”

When you are faced with a decision to make, you are forced to learn about your current position; environment, people around you, future prospect etc. This teaches you about your strengths and what needs changing. Only then will you be open to where you want to go and how to get there. Don’t get me wrong, having the sun in your eyes can be uncomfortable but without sunlight nothing will grow!

Metaphors aside; the future belongs to us individually and we must decide ourselves where we want to go, learning as much as we can on the way.

Plan to Act

First published on Chasing ED

I entered the ‘world of entrepreneurship’ within my first few weeks at university, although it wasn’t necessarily an intention of mine before starting.

Like most students I joined my fair share of societies, however, unlike a lot of people I was eager to join an executive (the executive board of a society gets an involvement in how the society is ran) at the first chance! It didn’t take long and within a few weeks I was looking at an application for the Entrepreneurs Society. An interview and a vote later and I was in!

A few weeks into the term and I had attended a handful of talks, however I still hadn’t quite been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. It took 54 hours at Lancaster Startup Weekend for that to happen. After seeing a speaker from a previous talk pitch his idea, I decided to approach him with the hope of somehow joining his team. Within the next couple of hours I found myself sitting in a common room surrounded by 3rd year students and a recent graduate, talking about business models, brand identities and marketing strategies. It is safe to say I felt a lot like the small fish in a big pond.

Fast-forward a month and I am now helping plan events for the Entrepreneurs Society, working for a company start-up and writing an article about the entrepreneurial dream – something I didn’t have a few months back. So where did it go right for me? I believe it is because I had a plan on how I wanted to behave in each situation.

They don’t know me

By starting university I was entering a new community of people; people who didn’t know my name, my interests or even which year I was in. In honesty, approaching new people is a weakness of mine. However, knowing that people have no knowledge of who you are, not even a rumour, is quite exciting to me as it means I can create my own image instantly. At Startup Weekend I knew hardly anyone and so I would end up on a team full of new faces. I was determined to make sure I gave myself the best chance to end up working with people who I could really learn from!

Listen, listen and listen some more

I love to talk, share ideas, suggest alternative methods and be involved. However during discussions at Startup Weekend I was conscious that I had less experience and generally knew a lot less than others, however I was still eager to contribute. I had to fight my own temptation to jump in too soon with an opinion, only to be told a different point that I hadn’t considered which would cancel out my opinion.

Listening is a great way to learn, but also a great way to evaluate. By listening to people’s points fully it meant I understood them fully. Then by listening to counter points it allowed me to consider different angles. I found that by taking the time to listen during a discussion I could create a more detailed picture of people’s thoughts. Then, if I had noticed something that had been overlooked or had a second opinion on something, I spoke.

Yes please!

With anything I have been doing this year, I have wanted to get stuck in! I enjoy working and challenging myself and so having a target or something to work on is important for me. Whilst I have worked hard to surround myself with people who know more than me, that leaves one down side; you are not first choice for a task. I had to understand that this would be the case, it meant I had to not be picky and if anything was offered to me, to say yes! Say yes, do the work to the best of your ability, stay busy, learn more and then more and more tasks will be offered to you. I knew it would be unreasonable for me to demand to do certain tasks and so staying busy and learning seemed far more appealing than hanging on for a better role.

I don’t believe that there is one approach that will work for everyone and although these behaviours worked for me, they may contradict another person’s personality completely. I am a strong believer that it is very important for people to decide how they act, however each person must decide for themselves.

Take some time before entering any environment and decide for yourself what you want to do.



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