MonthApril 2016

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled

“500 years ago no-one died of stress: we invented this concept and now we let it rule us. We might have evolved to be able to miraculously balance on seven-inch heels, but as far as our emotional development is concerned we’re still swimming with the pond scum. If we don’t advance our more human qualities then we’re doomed evolution-wise to become cyborgs, with an imprint of an ‘Apple’ where our hearts used to be.” In her book, Ruby Wax shows us a scientific solution to these modern problems: mindfulness – and yes this is the actress Ruby Wax.

Ruby proclaims to have suffered from depression almost her whole life. At almost any time she can suddenly slump into a phase of depression, getting out of it takes time and energy. After studying at Oxford for a masters in Mindfulness she learnt about the power and ability of being self-aware and self-conscious about our mental health. We take time to build our physical strength, so why do we ignore the mental aspect. She argues that this is one of the biggest mistakes of our species.

What is Mindfulness?

“The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”

When you bring it up, people will instantly think of meditation and the conscious effort to focus on breathing, but that is only one small aspect (that may not even be important to you).

The aim of mindfulness is to be aware of your emotions and surrounding. Why do you feel angry? What’s causing the anger? Can I proceed in a calm way? Ruby believes that we can choose to not feel some emotions and by recognising when they may appear, we can block them out.

What’s the benefit?

Being aware of your emotion allows you to act in the way that you truly want to. You may want to get really angry and yell out loud, but don’t you remember the times that you calmed down, wondering just why you got so heated? If your emotion controls you, then you can be unpredictable.

In the book, Ruby also explains how her awareness can help her understand when she is depressed. She can’t stop it, but she knows what’s wrong and why, meaning her road to recovery is that bit easier.

How can it be implemented?

Well in the book Ruby talks about how she went on a 7 day meditation retreat. Full days spent meditating. Did it help her? She says so! Do you have to do that? Nope!

For full information, give the book a read, but in summary, the best way to incorporate mindfulness is to force yourself to be aware of your surroundings. How does your food taste? Why didn’t you finish your work? How will you react if this or that happens? Making yourself aware and ‘in the moment’ is the best way to take control of your emotions.

The Business of Sport

I recently read an article that spoke about the automatic qualifications rules for large sporting events. By that I mean the varied stages at which football clubs enter the FA cup, the set up in snooker where the top 16 players in the world automatically qualify whilst the other 16 places are filled from qualification, and many more.

The article raised the question ‘why do some athletes get special treatment whilst others don’t?’ Would it not make sense for all 32 spaces in a world championships to be filled automatically or fill none and have everyone go through qualification?

It argued that many sporting bodies are only adding an element of qualification, or allowing top athletes an easier route to the final, to increase revenue. If there are qualification stages, there are more chances for TV coverage, advertisement etc. and allowing top players or teams to progress further in a competition increases the chances of large matches with top teams going head-to-head, hopefully attracting larger crowds, increasing the excitement of the sport and thus increasing TV coverage, sponsorship and advertisement.

I don’t think you can disagree that sporting bodies have to look for ways in which to increase revenue. Public sector cuts are almost killing various sports in some countries. If the bodies can self-fund, they have the security they need to build for the future.

But is the article right to point the finger at these qualification rules? In my opinion, absolutely not!

Firstly, who says they’re making any money from qualification? Qualifying rounds in the majority of sports are going to attract smaller crowds, less likely to have TV coverage yet will carry similar costs to the main draw – venue, officials etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if some sports make a loss from this stage of a tournament.

As for the main draw, does it not make more sense to reward the top players? Imagine if no players were given automatic entry into a world championships and all players must first qualify, that takes away the incentive of playing the circuit tournaments throughout the year which are essentially the qualification stages. If you’re one or two places away from automatic entry you will play the extra tournament to get the ranking points, when athletes play more that’s when you can get the sport to grow.

Thirdly, I think this argument falls down when you consider that the automatic qualification rules are in play for many, many junior events. These are very rarely televised, little sponsorship and advertisement. They are there for player development, not as a main revenue stream, therefore if automatic qualification was intended for anything other than fairness and as a positive incentive for athletes, it wouldn’t be used for junior events.

Does all this mean that sport is clean from corruption? Are sporting bodies always acting in the best interest of the athletes? Well we know that’s not true, looks at the likes of FIFA and their current situation.

What’s more concerning for me is the danger that athletes are beginning to compete for the money and not just for the passion. Match fixing, betting on their own results, even through to drug use to gain an advantage. If athletes look for ways to make more money, rather than prove how good they are, then sports can fall down. Sadly it is happening more often and I believe a large number of sporting bodies are hiding the truth from fans as it would destroy the sport’s reputation. Think about it… what incentive does a large sporting body have to expose the world number 1 for steroid use for example… if they do then the sport loses credibility, fans are unhappy, there is negative media. If they don’t, the athlete keeps winning, increasing popularity within their home country and attracting larger sponsors. Perhaps only once they’ve retired will the truth be exposed – look at Lance Armstrong.

 

It’s no secret that sports and athletes need money to survive, but let’s hope it happens in a fair way that allows us to continue having the spectacle we love.

 

#AskGaryVee

#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness.

The new book by entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuck, #AskGaryVee is an extension of his YouTube show, The #AskGaryVee Show (or shoooooooooooooooooow to avid watchers). In the show he answers questions sent in by viewers, usually based around business, social media and his values, with the odd wine or sport question thrown in to mix it up. For a number of people these shows have become a way for aspiring entrepreneurs and general business enthusiasts to learn from someone who’s been there and done that. For the book, the questions and answers from the shows are mixed with new questions to add additional value from the YouTube shows. In the audio book all the questions are read by a variety of Gary’s celebrity friends and answered by him personally. He always jokes that when recording an audiobook he goes off script so much it almost becomes a different book from the written version, plus his crazy enthusiasm and energy makes it easy to listen to the 11 and a half hours of Q&A.

11 and a half hours of Q&A?!?!?! How many questions are needed to fill that time? Does it not get repetitive? Does he really have something new and interesting to say throughout the book?

“Well, yes and no, let me explain” (a phrase used many, many times when he answers).

Each chapter focuses on a different topic, from self-awareness to family business, each chapter offers a unique insight into his beliefs, rules, thought processes and experiences. However a lot of underlying rules are repeated – by that I mean his approach to building anything; go online, create content, engage, talk, create more content etc.

However I feel as though this book could be cut by 25% as a minimum and bring even more value! At times it felt like content overload, too many questions in a chapter leading to similar answers. The beauty of the Q&A format is that it allows listeners to pick up key insights for certain topics, rather than having to apply the theory to practice. However, the answers fell on very similar groundings and a shorter book pointing out the common trends in a clear way would have been better in my opinion.

Is the book worth it if he posts everything on YouTube?

This depends on whether you are a Gary fan.

If you aren’t or don’t know who he is, or you just want to know what he’s learnt then the book is great! It will cover pretty much everything you want. It could be treated as a bible for some areas of business. Have a question, see if he’s answered it!

If you are a Gary fan, then I’d say no to the book and yes to a YouTube marathon. The majority of questions (or similar) can be found on YouTube, either as part of his #AskGaryVee Show or on his second channel ‘Entrepreneurship Answered’ in short, snappy clips. Why do I prefer these? Well, you get to see him react to the questions, react to the people around him, all in his businesses environment. He knows his best medium is video and I agree, so if you’re willing to watch all the videos to experience his vibe and energy rather than just to hear his answers, then the videos are for you!

Starting a Blog

“I want to start a blog/company/about me page – I want a website.

But I need to know how to code, right? Sure there are free sites out there I can use, but I can’t customise it to suit what I want!

What about hosting? That’s expensive isn’t it? And I’m no IT technician, what if something goes wrong?

I can’t do it all myself, can I?!”

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of me creating my blog (I hadn’t started writing blogs yet though…) and this is why this week’s blog is a day late; my hosting expired!

Renewing the hosting package and looking around for better deals has reminded me of when I first thought about blogging and all the questions and concerns I had. I began to learn HTML coding to help me build a site, I didn’t know how to go about buying a domain or how to host it. In reality, it is EASY and so for this post, I’ll give you a checklist of what you need (or what I use) to run my blog.

1 – A domain

I’d always liked the idea of having a myname.com and I was fortunate enough to find adamianstewart.com available when domain shopping.

Firstly, think about your domain name, keep it easy to remember and spell! The last thing you want is for people to attempt to find your site, but fail as they misspell it.

Once you have your name, you have to check its availability. This is easy, I personally use GoDaddy to buy my domains, but there are many alternatives out there. You simply search for the domain, if it’s available, you add to cart, if not you need to look for a variation or a different ending e.g. .co.uk, .org, .net, even .ninja

2 – Hosting

Again, this is simple for a simple site. GoDaddy hosting can be adding to cart at checkout when buying a domain, personally, I went with BlueHost. When looking for a hosting, I look for a company with a strong reputation and good support. As long as I am sure they will keep my site up and running and help me with any issues, I’m happy!

There are many varieties of hosting services that will allow for more visitors, extra storage, and priority if the server crashes etc. Usually the basic package is fine for a blog!

Once again, find a package and checkout.

Make sure when doing all of these and creating accounts you make a note of your username and passwords!! I’ve had lots of problems forgetting mine….

3 – The website

If you really, really wanted to you could learn how to code and build a site from scratch. But that’s pointless nowadays. There are thousands of templates waiting to be used.

I go for WordPress every time! It’s easy to use and has lots of customisation when the right theme is applied. Essentially WordPress is the backbone of your site, you then look for a WordPress theme that creates the structure, layout and functionality of your site. There are themes for every purpose and taste and so you will have no issues finding one you like!

Again, I like to go with one that is built by a company with good support and a good reputation. On a number of occasions I’ve contacted the creators of my theme to help with a line of code that will alter the appearance of some text or functionality of a button.

For me, YouTube is also a saviour for WordPress, I know very little code but I do know how to follow a tutorial on YouTube for WordPress hints and tips!

 

Once you have all these set up, you need to do some technical work to connect them all, ensure it is all up and running, however as with anything there are people that will show you how for free!

Want to do it all in 15 minutes? Here’s the video I used from the fantastic Caleb Storkey – http://storkeymedia.com/how-to-set-up-a-wordpress-website-and-blog/

 

Useless Skills

I’m self-taught to juggle, yo-yo, perform magic tricks and now I’m learning the guitar.

I’m far from accomplished in any of these, yet I’ve reached a stage where I’m happy to move onto the next challenge. Once I’ve learnt how to juggle or play a song on a guitar, what do I do with the skill? Apart from attempting to entertain family and friends, not much. So why do I continue to learn new skills?

Well, I’d be lost if I didn’t!

Learning these skills helps me in two ways…

1 – It’s a challenge!

I love overcoming any sort of challenge, and these skills are perfect for that. Take juggling, until you can juggle, every attempt ends as a failure – you drop the balls. It took time and lots and lots and lots of practice, but once it clicked, juggling became second nature. Once the act of juggling essentially became unconscious, being completed through muscle memory, it was time for the next challenge.

I hate to leave something incomplete. I hate not giving something 100%. So when a yo-yo flies out my hand and breaks on the ground, I instantly go on amazon and buy a replacement. I have to learn how to complete the basics, I enjoy not getting it right because I know eventually I will. These skills take time, not some raw talent that only a select few have.

2 – It gives me a break!

This part might sound a little contradictory…

I love learning new skills because they test and push me. They make me not want to quit when failing. That can be pretty tough mentally, I can’t tell you have much will power it takes to build up the finger dexterity to perform one handed card cuts in magic (not actually that much).

So how can they give me a break? Well, it’s a different mental challenge from anything else I might be doing. It’s a bit like working out, it’s not easy but it can reenergise you, give you a break from working. What I love about these skills though, is that a break only needs to last maybe 10 minutes. Close my laptop, pick up my guitar, fail to play Hozier’s song Cherry Wine, put down guitar, pick up laptop and carry on. Sometimes there is nothing I enjoy more, it’s fun, it’s silly, it doesn’t really mean anything or matter whether I do it well or not and so it lets me refresh my mind.

 

So when you next feel stressed or bored, pick up three tennis balls and have a go at juggling, just don’t stand next to anything valuable!!

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