MonthJanuary 2016

Is Social Media Making us Anti-Social?

Social Media ninja Gary Vaynerchuck says no…

Well of course he would. Social Media is the blood of his business and his personal brand. But I think he honestly believes it, and I agree with him.

Let’s first define Anti-Social – google brings up two definitions…

  1. contrary to the laws and customs of society, in a way that causes annoyance and disapproval in others.
  2. not sociable or wanting the company of others

It’s not hard to know that many people from older generations certainly follow the first definition when complaining about Social Media.

“Look at them on their phones. Whatever happened to talking to one another?”

Well, I hope the photo for this blog points out the slight hypocrisy of this….

That’s not to say I completely disagree with this opinion. If people are choosing to play games on their phone, rather than talk to other people, then they’re being anti-social by the second definition.

However, when it comes to Social Media, you aren’t acting alone. The whole purpose of Social Media is to interact with others. See what others are up to, let people know what you’ve done and talk with other people. Surely that’s the definition of being sociable?

In my opinion, the whole debate surrounding Social Media revolves around the first definition of anti-social… “customs of society”. Younger people who have grown up with Social Media don’t see it as much of an issue. The older generation who are becoming accustomed to it are more likely to despise its constant use. It can also be noted that those who use Social Media more, will be more likely to side with it due to them discovering more capabilities and opportunities of Social Media. I’ve met and become friends with a number of people through Social Media. These are people I now know in person, but the initial contact came from Social Media. To me, that’s being sociable. However, if your friends or followers are only a small group of people you see in person anyway, then you won’t necessarily see any added benefits.

So what’s the answer to this question? Should we use Social Media less? I think not. However, when we use it might need to change. If someone is sitting next to you wanting a conversation, don’t get your phone out. However, if you’re on a bus or train, you’re not expected to talk to a stranger, feel free to be on your phone talking to someone else.

What is your Release?

Hard work is the key to success right? If you want to succeed, you need to maximise your time and work as hard as you can. Work, eat, sleep, repeat.

Not only is that ridiculously hard, it’s probably really unhealthy. The first reason people have as to why this approach to each day is unhealthy, is the reality that people in this situation probably start to sleep less. Yes, this isn’t always the best idea, but not everyone needs 8 hours of sleep, some can function off 5. When it comes to sleep, it’s not always about how much you sleep, it’s about what you do in the day. If you are active and have a reason to be awake with energy, you’ll probably find it. So why is working hard and being ‘active’ all day a bad thing? Personally I believe it is just as important to ‘re-charge’ during the day by finding your release.

Before I get to my main point, I will mention the benefits of exercise. It’s proven that if you want to increase your energy, exercise helps! It gets blood flowing and your muscles moving. I won’t go into the science behind it (I’d be guessing anyway), however if you want to increase your energy levels, give exercise a go.

I believe, however, that as well as a physical aspect to get you moving and give you more energy, it is really important to get a mental re-charge. This is where your release comes in. Is there a hobby you have or sport you play where you find you can ‘lose yourself’? You lose any concerns, you either relax or fill with positive energy. I find these activities allow me to rest the part of my brain that I use to work. I might be thinking really hard on the activity, but it is a different form of mental energy.

For me, badminton is a big release. Playing for even an hour helps re-energise my mind, even if physically it has drained me. Another release for me currently is learning to play the guitar. I won’t lie, I’m rubbish, but I think that’s part of why I love it. I really enjoy spending five or ten minutes attempting to play a song. It’s a different challenge to that of my work. I have a friend that has taken up Salsa dancing and improv comedy as a form of release. Entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuck, travelled to watch every NY Jets game this season, despite constantly telling people they need to maximise their time. Why did he do it, in his words, it was the one ‘stupid’ thing he has in his life where he doesn’t need to worry. This is his release.

If you don’t have a release, try a few things out. It might really help!

Can Passion Get in the Way?

Passion is a word that has come up in a number of conversations I’ve had recently. Referred to by some of my friends as the ‘p-word’. It has surprised me how many people detest the word, how many people think it’s over used and how many people think it can actually be a barrier to success.

It’s often said that you should do something you love. If you don’t love what you do, keep looking. As summarised by Steve Jobs –

“You’ve got to find what you love. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

The conversations I’ve had, have centred on what exactly should you have passion for? And, at what point do you just need to go for something, even if it isn’t your biggest passion?

If you’d asked me a week ago what I thought on this. I probably would have produced some words similar to those from Jobs. If you ask me now, I’ll say the same, but I’ll add a bit more. Here’s what I’ll add:

“But remember, you have to keep looking! Not sitting around waiting”

You may know what you’re passionate about. You may not have a clue. You might think you know, but when you start exploring, you discover new passions.

You have to learn through doing and trying to discover what you enjoy. We aren’t born knowing what makes us happy. We learn that through experiences.

A lot of people will try and narrow or focus their search for work at a very young age to try and fit their passions. Yet, those passions could be different in 10, 20 or 30 years. You’re passions could lie in a field you don’t know exists. Meaning, trying different areas and getting a wide variety of experiences is important. It gives you the first-hand experience to make informed decisions.  

If you sit around and wait for your dream job to come around, you will always be waiting. You have to go and look – by doing and trying!

“Once you believe you know what you’re passionate about, think about the actual context where it applies”

This is a particularly important one.

Why create a startup in the education industry if you aren’t passionate about education? Why want to invent a service that makes washing up obsolete if you aren’t passionate about having clean plates?

Because the passion can lie in the process!

Your passion may be to create a game changing product. Or you might love living a hustler’s life. The journey may be your enjoyment, no matter the direction that journey follows. If your passion is for the path, then you need to take any road you can onto that path.

What does this mean? If you’re passionate about creating art. Maybe there’s little difference to you between oil painting and graphic design. If you’re passionate about animals, maybe you’d enjoy being a vet just as much as being a zoo keeper.

 

I have always been a strong believer that you should always do things you enjoy. I also really like the word passion. It’s a word I use and is something I look for in others. Passion can be one of the most powerful drivers and a huge key to success. However, I can completely see how it can be a hindrance. Don’t let the thought “I’m not passionate about X and so I shouldn’t partake in Y because it incorporates X” stop you. Y could be the path that most suits you!

If you want to read more around the debate of passion, check out this (better) blog – Do you have to love what you do?

Imagine Going to University in North Korea

Imagine going to University and having no access to the internet. Imagine not being allowed to have a mobile phone. Imagine not being allowed to leave the campus. Imagine eating the same food day in day out and following the same routine every hour of every day. Imagine doing all of that willingly, because you know nothing different.

That is the life of the elite students in North Korea.

I recently read the book ‘Without You, There is no us’ by Suki Kim. Suki is a South-Korean born, American living, journalist. In 2011, she went undercover as a missionary teacher in North Korea to teach English to the elite students at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST).

Being the same age as the students she was teaching, I read this book with a view for comparison. At times I didn’t believe what I was reading as the level of awareness and willingness to try new things or hear new ideas from the students was almost zero. They couldn’t comprehend the idea of an essay. They used any chances they had to either boast about the Great Leader or to in some way abuse America. Yet as I read more, I felt more sympathy as in their environment, it was virtually impossible to know better.

I’ve tried to think about the main things I have learnt from this book to be able to put it in this post. However I don’t feel as though I can express in words or a list, what it is I’ve learnt. The book was an eye-opener – into the North Korean regime, the trapped world of a student but also the characteristics of human nature that we all share.

Suki has given a TED talk about the book. I encourage you to at least watch this, however I think the book is very powerful to help gain an understanding of the world we live in, so in my opinion, it should be read.

Don’t Set Your New Year’s Resolutions Just Yet

I admire anyone who has the will to improve themselves in some way. Whether it’s by losing weight, reading more or even smiling more often. Any improvement, big or small, is a step in the right direction. It is at this time of year that my social media feeds are full of posts stating such aims, I like to see the positivity, however it seems rather pointless if these aims aren’t being met in a month’s time. What’s going wrong?

Goal setting is a skill. You can set bad goals that you will fail to achieve. It isn’t always a matter of will power, sometimes people’s goals just don’t ‘tick the boxes’ we need to see them through.

Clarity

When it comes to setting a goal, clarity is key. You have to know what it is you want to achieve. “I want to lose weight”, isn’t clear enough. You’re mind doesn’t know exactly what it is trying to achieve, thus it doesn’t know how determined to be.

If you instead set a goal that said “I want to lose 3lbs this month.” You know what you want to achieve and by when. You are able to monitor your progress – if you’ve lost a pound after week one, you’re on track, if you haven’t lost anything after 2 weeks, you need to get a move on!

This approach also allows you to take advantage of guilt. If at the end of the month you haven’t met your target, you might feel guilty. Don’t feel bad about this. The guilt drive is powerful and can be used to push you even harder in month two.

If your goal is ambiguous, your feelings towards it will be as well. If your aims are clear, so is your focus.

Reason

Why do you want to achieve this goal? Sometimes a goal can be autotelic. However, often we set ourselves goals that are in place for some larger purpose, yet we rarely try to think what that purpose is. Why do you want to read more? Is it to learn more about a certain subject? Maybe you want to win your local pub quiz for once. Think about the wider picture and have a reason for why you are setting the goal. It gives you something separate from the work to aim for.

Think about an athlete running in the morning. Rarely do they get up early and go for a run just because they want to (unless they are a runner). Often it is because it is part of their training for their sport, they are doing it to achieve in their sport, not in the running itself, that part is just a stepping stone.

Commitment

Commitment means staying true to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left.

It is super easy to stand there at 11:55 on December 31st, probably with a drink in your hand and say that you will go to the gym 3 times a week in 2016. It’s not so easy when you wake up at 8am to try and do it.

Why? Because we don’t think consistently. We have different moods.

This is the main issue with New Year’s resolutions. They are set as part of the hype. ‘The New Year is coming and it’s going to see new determination in me’. The truth is, when the New Year starts, NOTHING CHANGES. You don’t change as a person just because the earth has finished an orbit around the sun and so how can you expect yourself to suddenly have new motivation?

This is why New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be set in the New Year. Turn around to yourself in the middle of March and set your goals. Do it in November as winter comes. Set your goals when you, yourself have decided you want to change. This way they are being set because there is motivation within you to improve, not because your mind is getting caught up in the New Year resolution’s fallacy.

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